The Genie of the Lamp: Goodbye, Robin Williams

I’m watching “Good Morning Vietnam,” for the first time.


I just saw the scene where Robin’s character, Adrian Cronauer, read the “unofficial” news that his supervisor had ordered him to disregard. It was something actual, disturbing. He himself had been there– at a bombing– he could validate it first-hand. But his supervisor didn’t think the people of Vietnam needed to know– a bit too real. Better stick with what’s approved, safe.

Could there be a better parallel to how we, as Robin’s adoring audience, feel right now? Nothing’s confirmed, until the autopsy. But it’s a possible suicide. Robin Williams will never laugh again.

Just like Adrian’s broadcast– dead air. No new material. Just like Adrian, he got to go home.

Many people don’t believe in God, much less Heaven.

But doesn’t losing a man like this, one whose passion in life was giving JOY– doesn’t it make you WANT to believe that he’s somewhere better? I do.

Indeed, the man we have come to associate interchangeably with levity died with a heavy heart.

He suffered from depression. Also alcoholism and cocaine addiction. That makes him human.

I get so angry when people call the dead “selfish” or say they “no sympathy” for “addicts.”

He wasn’t an addict. I HATE that demoralizing, useless pejorative. You can’t reduce a life to someone’s momentary weakness. He was a man who struggled, like all of us. I hope this brings new awareness to just how much of a lifelong WAR it is– just to be human, especially in the spotlight. I hope less people dehumanize and judge those who struggle with substances now, because of Robin.

He was public in struggle. That takes tremendous humility and courage.

Many others have died in this fight. People made horrible character judgments about Philip Seymour Hoffman, a master actor, only in February. And this man won an Oscar. Yet all these ordinary people hiding behind the Internet feel entitled to comment on his life, on his “selfishness.” They did it with Whitney Houston, who is often the butt of a joke because of her turbulent love affair with singer Bobby Brown. She also struggled with addiction, but people find it so easy to discount her lifetime achievements and exploit her lowest moments– why, because she’s famous?

And some soulless people will make the same jokes about Robin Williams– but I guess that the number will be fewer. Why? Because he was a comedian. Because his personal life wasn’t tabloid fodder. Because we associate him with more levity– though a tremendous dramatic actor with versatility to even do horror films, most people associate Robin with stand-up and comedy.

This is Mrs. Doubtfire we’re mourning. This is the GEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEENNNNNIE OF THE LAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMP! He was the star of my favorite Disney film, “Aladdin.” He was Peter Pan, in “Hook.”

There’s something especially tragic about losing a comedian. I have some wonderful friends who are naturally gifted in this area. They possess an imagination and a gall that allows them to be provocative and get away with it– to make jokes that if anyone else tried it, I would probably punch them or hang up the phone. But these comedian friends of mine are also some of the most deeply feeling, empathic, sensitive people I know. They often makes jokes to take the conversation away from themselves– as a defense mechanism. They often want praise and acceptance desperately. They play the jester because it’s easier than admitting that they’re hurting, because people like someone who makes them forget about reality.

Comedians are really just people with very big emotions who want to feel important. To be taken seriously. To be “good” at something– making others happy, even if they aren’t themselves. They sacrifice their personal lives as material to bring some meaning to what haunts them.

We love Robin Williams because he DID NOT live a “safe” life. He lived in his imagination.

And I believe that now, he doesn’t have to perform anymore. He can rest.

He doesn’t have to grant any more wishes, although he did for all of us. He was magic.

The Genie is free now, although he is dearly beloved and missed.

Goodnight, dear Genie.


4 comments on “The Genie of the Lamp: Goodbye, Robin Williams

  1. Jenny says:

    Beautifully put. 🙂

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