By Roger Currie
Robin Williams is credited with saying, “If you can remember the 60’s, you probably weren’t even there.” It was a brilliant funny line from a man who could spit them out faster than almost anyone who ever lived.
It turns out his turbulent life was more aptly described by the song lyric, “laughing on the outside, crying on the inside.” Robin took his own life at the age of 63 — barely ‘mid-career’ for someone with his gifts. His death has generated renewed discussion about mental health, and about suicide. Here’s hoping it lasts more than a couple of news cycles.
Not all that long ago, it was a criminal offence in Canada and other countries to try to kill yourself, although the case didn’t go any further if you succeeded. The news of his death had barely broken when a Fox News anchor named Shepard Smith called him a coward for choosing to end it all when he had children and others who loved him. Mr. Smith quickly apologized, but I still see him as a prime candidate for the Terminal Dumbness Award.
If you haven’t walked a mile in someone’s shoes, and developed a feeling for what their demons might be, then silence is probably a much better option.
Robin’s work told us so much about who he was and what he was feeling inside. Leave out the madcap comedies like “Mork and Mindy” and “The Birdcage” for a moment. Take a look at movies like “The Fisher King” or “Insomnia” and you’ll see a man who was hurting in a way that was almost too believable.
All of his performances had a deep humanity about them, like “Patch Adams” or the English teacher in “Dead Poets Society.” He refused to ‘phone it in’ or go through the motions when the cameras were turned on.
Good night, sweet prince, and thanks for the memories.
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Roger Currie is a writer, storyteller, voice for hire, observer of life on the Canadian prairies, and can be heard on CJNU 93.7FM in Winnipeg.