Here are a few of my favorite things: Nintendo, Penny Arcade, The Legend of Zelda, Mario, Pokemon, Harvest Moon, Fallout, Dungeons and Dragons, books, dice, Professor Layton, Shadow of the Colossus, Minecraft, and so much more. I'm going to talk a lot about video games, I sincerely hope you don't mind.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Tribute to Robin Williams

How do you begin to eulogize someone who you've never met?  It's a conundrum I'm currently facing, but I can't shake the feeling that I have to put into words how I feel about the loss of someone whose presence I've never been in.  On August 11, 2014, humanity as a whole lost one of the most beautiful examples of a human being that there ever will be.  Robin Williams was a man unlike any other in terms of comedic wit, acting ability, and more heart than anyone could handle.

I've grown up with Mr. Williams.  Not in the sense that we grow up with siblings, cousins, or friends, but Robin was always relevant through film, so much that he was a household name for many people.  Through his work, he taught many lessons, made us laugh, made us cry, and caused us to ponder things we may never have considered before.  It was almost like having an uncle who you'd never met, yet he was accessible at all times through your VHS.

Whether it was any of the 52 (as counted by James Lipton) exuberant Genie personas in Aladdin, the playful alien Mork in Happy Days, or the courageous Peter Banning in Hook, each role was played with such finesse, and his comedy executed with such blinding speed that the rest of us could never hope to keep up.  Robin Williams had such a wide spectrum of ability that he could make any role his own.

There are many of his works that are endlessly important to me.  It seems that every one I think of, there was always something I could learn from and use somehow in my life.  Mrs. Doubtfire was an impactful movie for me, having had parents who had gone through a divorce myself.  Interestingly enough, the movie came out before my parents separated, so watching the movie both before and after yielded different results.  If this makes sense, before the split, I could feel sympathy for the children in the movie, whereas after the divorce, it was more of an empathy, being able to identify with the characters.  One thing was for sure, Robin's character, Daniel Hillard, was the kind of man I took my father for; someone who would do absolutely anything for his kids, even if it meant donning drag.

In Patch Adams, he enlightened people about compassion, and the power that laughter has to heal.  Jack shows us that life is short enough as it is, you need to live it to the fullest.  The Birdcage brought to light the struggles of the (at the time) non-conventional family, and the importance of acceptance.  Good Will Hunting taught us about embracing potential and accepting loss.  Jumanji taught us to never trust a board game.

His appearance on Inside the Actor's Studio was one of the most renowned events in television history, and is heralded as one of the greatest episodes in the series because of his honesty, passion, and improvisation.  This and his appearance on the PBS series In the Wild where he hosted an episode about dolphins were two of the most prominent appearances of his that my father and I have bonded over and discussed multiple times.  Each are fantastic in their own ways, but you get to see Robin Williams in his element, firing off jokes as if it were nothing.  No one else in the world has ever demonstrated such natural ability.

I could sit here and list things that Robin had taught me, but one of the most important roles he brought to life was John Keating in Dead Poets Society.  Mr. Keating shook up a private school by encouraging his class to embrace poetry, pursue greatness, and to seize the day.  To act outside of your comfort zone, shatter boundaries, and make statements.  His performance was one of the reasons I chose to pursue teaching as a career.  The feeling I got after viewing that movie, being given that knowledge of language and how to break away from the norm, these were things that I wanted to give to others.

When I heard the news, it was like the wind had gotten knocked out of me.  I was devastated, half-convinced that it had to be some sort of hoax.  A quick bout of research confirmed my fears.  I always felt that one of the saddest days would be when Robin left this world, and I can confidently say that my intuition was spot on.  The first thing I did was call my dad, as Robin and his performances were things we bonded over regularly.  I got him on the phone at work and said "Did you hear the news?  This is bad."  When I told him, he was silent for what felt like forever.  "Are you kidding me!?"  He was just as thrown as I was, and it has been a rough couple of days for the both of us.

Everyone grieves in their own way, and I have never felt like I do it right.  While it might seem silly to most people to grieve over a celebrity, I honestly feel like I've lost a mentor, friend, and family member.  It is stunning how hard it is hitting me.  The coping process has me on a marathon of his performances, and there is plenty of material I haven't seen yet that should keep me going for quite some time.  Where most of us the world over may feel the same way, there can be no comparison to what his family is going through.  My positive thoughts go out to them.

There is no shortage of wisdom he could impart on us.  Though the words he spoke may not have been entirely his, it was he that delivered them, and he that added his own personal emotion and flavor to every word.  The world is a little bit darker without him.

Rest in peace, Robin.  There will never be another quite like you.


If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, please reach out.  There are many resources available to help you get through this, and it is absolutely worth it to keep living.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255


What a touching tribute. A wonder man and huge talent that we've lost too soon.

Thank you, Zach, for such a well expressed and thoughtful eulogy. Many people have the same or similar feelings of loss with the passing of such an incredible human as Robin Williams was. He will be greatly missed for a very long time tocome.

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