Here is something true: If it weren’t for the work of Robin Williams and Steve Martin, I’d most likely not have taken the stage. I loved music as a listener and like the idea of making it personally, but what Robin Williams did from stage moved people. His comedy captured listeners and his stories inspired. Very early on in my life, watching his “Live At The Met” performance, I decided I wanted to do the same.
Here is something that seems true: If Robin Williams had seen the outpouring of gratitude and appreciation following his death, he might have had second thoughts. But he’d lived in that glow for many years and, as is the case with so many brilliant women and men, there is simply no telling what kind of actual impact the celebration of their work has on them. If it is true (as it seems to be) that he was wresting with depression, then there also no telling what would have pulled him out. It’s awful, depression is. Depression often means forgetting everything of value in, around and about us – we lose connection with life.
At the tail end of that 1986 performance at The Met, Williams does a short bit on the future – whether or not it’ll end when some decrepit world leader mistakenly hits a nuclear launch button or it’ll go on in technological wonder for years to come. The whole thing is frantic and silly and hilarious… and then he turns a corner, talking about his son.
“Sometimes,” he says “my son looks at me and gives me that look in the eyes like ‘Well? What’s it gonna be?’” Williams responds to his son (in the imaginary dialogue he’s having), saying “Hey, Zach, it’s um.., I dunno. But maybe along the way, you take my hand and we’ll tell few jokes and have some fun.”
And everything he’d done in the past hour and a half on stage took on a different tone.
Because comedy, like all great art, is about connection – The connection between cultures and races, between family members and neighbors, or even between myself and my own life. When we can laugh at our disconnect and discrepancies our failures and follies, we can receive ourselves and one another as human. Robin Williams’ work did that as well as anyones and better than most.
Depression seems to have stolen from him the kind of vision and connection he helped to create for fans of his like me.
May you and I never lose that vision or connection. May we always take the hand of some Great Love in our lives, the way he asked his son to take his – with little assurance of what the future holds but an invitation to face it together.
*WARNING: The linked clip contains foul language… cuz… it’s Robin Williams)