I had a few moments of reprieve from the grief that so many of us felt last night. I turned on “Bachelor In Paradise,” to make myself laugh. I chatted with my girlfriend and helped pack and organize for our upcoming backpacking trip. But these were just moments. The sadness weighs constantly and heavily on my heart, and hasn’t left since I heard the news of Robin Williams’ passing. I found out as I was leaving work, and I waited until I was down the block before sobbing in my car on the entire 40 minute drive to my sponsor’s house for a meeting. I can see on Facebook that I’m not the only one who feels such a personal loss for a man I never actually met in person. Some people are shocked at how this one hits so close to home, but I’m not. It’s like someone who has always just been there my whole life is suddenly gone.
When I was a kid, around 8 or 9, I would watch his standup and put on “comedy shows” for friends and family using his material (Along with Ellen Degeneres’ and jokes from the “Roseanne” sitcom) that I had memorized. Sometimes I had no idea what the jokes meant, but I figured out which ones to use based on how loud and hard Robin’s TV audience laughed. I wanted to make people laugh like he did. Laughter can be an intimate affair. Receiving it can make you feel good all over, and sometimes it touches you in places you had hidden away under stress, sadness, or anger. Giving it can fill you up, and give you a connection with another human unlike anything else. When it came to making people laugh, Robin Williams was like a lover you will never forget. He was just so GOOD.
As a comedian and a recovering alcoholic myself, the loss of this great man brutalizes my heart on many levels.
I know the pain of being “so funny” and entertaining to the people in your life and hating yourself anyway. I know the fear that what you do will never be good enough, despite what everyone says. I know what it is like to make dark jokes to bring some light to the darkness inside. The emptiness, the hopelessness, the God shaped hole inside that I put everything BUT God into, I know it. And that was just my alcoholism. Combine these feelings with clinical depression, which I don’t suffer from, and I can’t even begin to imagine what kind of pain he was in. These two diseases can be so ugly. They separate us from the things we love, and the things that love us. They get us alone, fill our heads with lies and then take our life.
To be in so much anguish that even if the whole world loved you it wouldn’t matter? That is suffering beyond my comprehension, and it breaks my heart that one of my favorite men had to live like that.
To be honest, I haven’t done standup in a while. I had one bad night months ago and decided that I wasn’t good at it anymore. I have new material, some things I’ve been throwing around. I think it’s time for me to take a chance and get back to being that kid who didn’t give a shit about anything but making them laugh, because that’s what I saw the greats doing, the great ones like Robin. I will go back on stage with the knowledge that I can be funny, because he showed me how. Though, nothing I do will ever compare to one of my favorite moments in Robin’s standup, where he talks about a night of too much drinking and says, “I got so drunk, when woke up in the morning I discovered that someone had shit my pants!”
Thank you, Robin. Thank you for helping us touch our own souls with laughter. I hope you have found peace beyond this stage. I hope that now you can feel how much we all love you, and it matters.