One Is Glad To Be Of Service

I haven’t felt much like being funny since I heard of Robin Williams’ passing. Beyond his massive talent as an actor and comedian, he was a mainstay of the world I have always lived in. Until this week, I have never been a resident of a planet that wasn’t blessed with his frenetic, insightful and joyous energy. He was a constant, and now that he’s gone I feel his absence in a way that I had not anticipated. Robin Williams was like a song that everyone you’ve ever met knew and loved. He was a unifying force for happiness in an all too often harsh and confusing world. The fact that he was unable to find his own happiness in the very world he made so much brighter is so fantastically unfair.

There are only a handful of movies that honestly changed my life; that made me a different person than I was before I saw them. When I read about Robin’s death, I started to list them off and realized, of that handful, four were his films. I posted this list and these quick, gut reaction thoughts on Twitter and Facebook within moments of reading the news, and I want to share it with you here now.

Dead Poet’s Society, Bicentennial Man, What Dreams May Come, & The Birdcage were all films that changed my life forever, for the better. 

Dead Poets Society was the first time I thought about being true to yourself over doing what was expected of you.

Bicentennial Man was the 1st time I thought about what makes a person a person. The parts we’re born with or the impact we have on the world?

What Dreams May Come was the 1st time I questioned the concept of an afterlife that I had been raised to believe in. It took on a far more profound meaning for me after I became a father. Reduces me to a sniveling mess every time.

Seeing The Birdcage at 15 was the very first time I even considered that gay people were… people, and not monsters like I’d been taught. It was the first time I’d been presented with a positive view of homosexual love and saw how similar/same it was to what I knew.

There are maybe 12 movies that make me cry EVERY SINGLE TIME and these are 4 of them. Thank you, Robin Williams.

Our lives are ours to do with as we choose. Robin chose to do a great deal of good with his. He made the entire world smile, he made much of the world think and he was notoriously generous with his time. He gave and gave until he gave in to the depression that was assaulting his mind and the Parkinson’s that had begun to assault his body, and then he chose to stop being alive. That’s one choice I wish he had made differently.

I almost changed the title of this comic at the last minute for two reasons. One: The original quote from Bicentennial Man was last said by Andrew Martin (played by Williams) when he felt defeated and reduced to something less than human by the world he lived in. I thought this might mirror the circumstances of Robin’s death too closely. And, Two: I did not want to imply that Robin was, indeed, glad at the end of his life. I don’t know how he felt. Then I rethought what, “One is glad to be of service,” meant throughout  the film, not just at the end. At the beginning of the film, Andrew said this to the Martins because he was programmed to. Later, after becoming self aware, he said this because he loved his family and he genuinely was glad to serve them; to make their lives better. From everything I’ve read from Robin’s family, his loved ones, and those that knew him professionally, he was happiest when he was making us laugh. The world was his family, and he loved us and, at least when he was performing, he WAS glad to be of service. I thank you for that service, Robin. Now I’m going to go make sure I have Hook and Jumanji to show my daughter, because she isn’t quite old enough for the existential explorations of the films illustrated above. Rest assured that, when the time comes, I will share those with her as well. Robin Williams’ light may be extinguished, but his service to all of us continues.



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    • I'd have to add "Death to Smoochy" and "Toys" to the list, because they reflect my sense of humor and the noir way in which I see most of the world.

      And thank you for posting this as well…you articulated in an artful way why his death has been/is/will be bothering me so much.

  1. Thank you for putting into words feelings that I've had difficulty expressing since hearing of Robin Williams' death. It was while reading your post that what was flitting at the edge of my mind hit me – Robin was genuinely the world's Court Jester, in that ancient profession's truest form. Jesters often commented on the current political/societal environment through satire while also relieving sadness with straight comedy. Robin did this for us everyday. He successfully made us all aware of the world's beauty and it's ugliness. He made us think about our place and responsibilities in society. He made us smile no matter how far down we felt. His magnificent, unique gift of humor will be sorely missed and never be equalled.

  2. Well said, Joel. Thank you.

    People die. It's a sad fact, but people that we love, both those we know personally and those we only know from a distance, die all to often, and I'm beginning to get to the age when looking at my wedding photos is beginning to be depressing, because so many of the people in them aren't with me anymore.

    And there are celebrity deaths that can affect us very deeply as well, people whose works and creations brought joy or meaning or *something* that was important, or became important to us into our lives, and I've lost too many of them too, and we're only going to lose more as time goes on. I remember where I was when I heard that Gene Roddenberry died. I remember how devastated I was when Vincent Price died, how shocked and saddened I was when I heard about Andreas Katsulas, and Richard Biggs, and DeForest Kelly, and Issac Asimov, and probably more that time has faded from my immediate memory. And the world was diminished slightly for me, became slightly emptier, slightly greyer, each time. I have found new creators whose works I love, but while that is an addition, it is not a replacement.

    But, do you know, I don't think any of them have hit me quite as hard as Robin Williams, and I think that may be true for us as a society. I don't know of any single death within my lifetime that united us so strongly in our grief, with the possible exception of John Lennon, and I was just a kid when that happened and only remember stumbling upon one newscast about it. Maybe it's because the Internet now allows us to share that conversation and keep it going, but I think I can honestly say that his death may have impacted our generation more than any other.

    It's a testament to his work, and his person, and the joy that he brought to us that as these last few days have gone by, rather than the story fading into obscurity as new ones replace it, we seem to collectively be realizing more and more just what he meant to us all, and just how very, very much we will miss having him here in the world with us.

    I'm sorry you're gone, Robin.

    • Thank you. For FANEURYSM comics I usually only use one accent color, but I thought this one deserved a wider palette.

  3. Joel, what an incredibly moving and beautiful tribute, thank you for sharing. I suspect that our collective mourning is not only for the loss of this man who had already given us so much, but the realization that we have lost out on what his future creativity would have wrought. The last thing he will have given us, though, is an opening into a dialogue about the realities of depression, how it does not discriminate, and is in fact so powerful that as you said, someone who brought the world such happiness was unable to find his own in that same world.

    I wanted to share with you likewise. While I cannot even now articulate why his death is hitting me so hard, here was my Monday night, knee-jerk reaction to hearing the news:

    Here’s to one of the last of The Crazy Ones,
    A Bicentennial Man for all ages.
    Maybe he wasn’t Man of the Year, or The World’s Greatest Dad,
    But I’ll bet Zelda would give her own two Happy Feet
    For just one more Father’s Day with him.
    While we try to Patch Adams this hole left in our fabric,
    And ache for even just one wish from Aladdin to set things right,
    We may find comfort that his suffering has ended,
    That finally he knows respite in What Dreams May Come
    And can take succor that he has joined an elite Dead Poets Society.
    May we, and The Survivors living with depression, learn to Seize the Day
    So that Club Paradise will feel like a reward for Happy Days well spent
    And not like some Hook to act as a reprieve from our sadness.
    Do not Doubtfire for a moment that he was strong;
    Every day’s Awakenings were a struggle which he bore.
    And when we think of him From Time to Time
    Let us give thanks that he taught us so well what Being Human really means.
    RIP Robin Williams

  4. As much of a loss as this is for the english speaking world, knowing about the demons that often drive great comics, and how manic his live performances were, I have to say that I am impressed and thankful that he held on as long as he did.

  5. I rarely post comments anywhere, but this was lovely, Joel. I cried so hard– SO HARD when I heard the news.

    And Bicentennial Man… it's the first movie that popped into my head when thinking of his films. I love that movie, even if others knock it.

    Thank you, Mr. Watson.

  6. The weirdest feeling I have about all this, is that I'm going to end up seeing Night at the Museum 2… just because it's the last time we're going to get a chance to see him in the theater. :/

    And I certainly don't want to start a flame war, but coming from a family where there was a suicide, I am not angry, or sad for his passing, other than the sadness of losing the works he might have done in the future. My grandmother had lupus, and was in pain all the time. Now I struggle with it myself, and I understand how a person could get to a point where they didn't want to not-live anymore. (Yes, I said that right.) There are times when, when you have a disease as bad as this, you aren't actually living. You're just existing, hoping that it will ease up, so you can live a little bit, later. He had heart disease, depression, and Parkinson's. I imagine he had gotten to the point where it didn't seem like he'd ever actually live again. I think you have to struggle with something like this personally, to know what I mean. I know I didn't understand when my grandmother killed herself, but now I do. It is sad that it happened to him so soon, but on the other hand, I don't blame him a bit, and hope it offered him some dignity, not to have to die much later, in a lot of pain, suffering, and completely helpless. He didn't deserve a death like that, so in a way, I'm kind of glad.

    Don't get me wrong. I'm still tearing up almost on a daily basis, as I read these things. He touched me immeasurably. But you know, silver linings.

  7. Well this is strange. I seem to have gotten something in my eyes. What it is? It's feels. All the feels!
    Jokes aside, thank you for a sincere show of emotions to damn rare on the interwebs where everyone ties to be a hardass. Sappy dads unite!

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