Robin Williams

We discuss the life and legacy of actor and comedian Robin Williams, who died Monday at age 63 of an apparent suicide at his home in Tiburon.

Leonard Maltin, film critic, historian and best-selling author
Bob Sarlatte, actor and comedian, longtime field announcer for the San Francisco 49ers and friend of Robin Williams
Geoff Bolt, writer, comedian and friend of Robin Williams
Willa Paskin, television critic for Slate
James Dunn, founder of the College of Marin's drama department, which he chaired from 1964-2003; Robin Williams was his student

  • thucy

    Robin Williams is in a tradition of great humanists. There was not a mean or ungenerous bone in his comedy.

    The comedian Marc Maron did an incredible interview (link below) with Williams a few years back. Williams sounded utterly serene, speaking frankly of his experiences, including his substance abuse problems and subsequent cardiac issues.

    In the interview’s final ten minutes, Williams does a hysterical monologue describing how, even at his worst moments, he never seriously considered suicide. And somewhere in the first half of the interview, he re-creates a Richard Pryor bit, one which Pryor performed only once. It is breathtaking.

    I can’t help but wonder whether our biases about suicide preclude us from considering whether this might have been a rational choice. We do not know his medical prognosis, we cannot see what he saw. In any event, it was his choice and despite the devastation his friends and family feel, I can’t judge him for it. I am just grateful for his work.

    • ES Trader

      As far as I know, in nature, we are the sole species that commits suicide,with perhaps whale beaching. Both are highly advanced brains.

      Animals fight for life regardless of the circumstances presented it.

      Choosing suicide is a statement of complete alienation, unless he had a terminal illness, his choice to exit is a very sad end a tormented life.

      • thucy

        “Choosing suicide is a statement of complete alienation, unless he had a terminal illness, his choice to exit is a very sad end a tormented life.”

        It’s possible that yours is the kind of blanket statement that Williams’ manic and brilliant comedy could never accept. The thing is, we just don’t know what he was facing, so facile statements like that are not really relevant.

        I don’t think the equally thoughtful and heroic Dieter Dengler was making a statement of “complete alienation” when he ended his life. His medical prognosis played a role, but so did his desire to live with a full range of motion and his desire not to be a burden.
        Don’t forget that our American perception of suicide is not universal. Throughtout East Asia it has traditionally been viewed differently. Even in Ancient Rome, the long-dead Athenian Socrates’ by-then-legendary suicide was viewed as heroic and literally exemplary.

        As for the whale beaching, Joshua Horowitz has taken the time to investigate the US Navy experiments that caused it.

        • ES Trader

          As usual one can always count on you for your narrow, rigid views on everything… are you Ms Wikipedia in the flesh? Hope your companion,partner appreciates your linear babbles

        • ES Trader

          As usual one can always count on you for your rigid, narrow views on every topic that you feel qualified to comment on….are you in fact Ms Wikipedia in the flesh?

          Hope your companion/partner in life appreciates you, if they are human that is. You are exactly the person Robin Williams abhored and escaped from

          • thucy

            I’m simply pointing out thst judging the suicide of another is perhaps unfair. I’m sorry that you took my comment so personally. (In response to your inquiry, I do feel appreciated by my partner, who is in fact human.)

            I guess in this culture, suicide (and death itself) are topics that people have problems discussing?

          • ES Trader

            No problem at all, we all depart one way or another and if one chooses the time to go it’s one’s choice and I support it fully. But to choose that method, to me. is the ultimate good-bye and closing the door which is simply the realization by the suicide that the company of his fellow man is no longer desired.

          • thucy

            I understand your view, and am sympathetic to it. But it’s a narrow view because it elides the possibility that it has nothing to do with losing one’s desire for his fellow man. It may simply be fatigue from struggling with a life-long illness or failing. And even in Western culture, it has often been a means to lessen the burden on one’s children.

            As the baby boomers age, we are seeing more suicide, and to dismiss all of those individual choices in a narrow way seems – especially on a clinical basis – mistaken.

          • ES Trader

            My impression is you really understand only one thing, which is to express your view and nothing else except that you seek attention probably because of your insecurity and lack of self-esteem.

            Your understanding of mortality sounds too academic and intellectual day-dreaming as opposed to having confronted demise personally

    • Selostaja

      I agree – I’ve had that conversation with my darker self. I have a cheerful persona but those who scratch the surface know of my chronic melancholia. My decision to stick around was primarily due to my curiosity: what might happen beyond my current point of view? There is no right or wrong about suicide except perhaps to those left behind. We can never know the justifications or last thoughts that run through a successful suicidal mind. Hopefully, we don’t loose our humanity as a society. We all need to pull our attention out of our smart phones and pay attention to those messy organic units with whom we share our planet.

      • thucy

        Really glad you stuck around. We live in a strange time! It’s challenging. I was really bowled over by the intimacy and honesty of the Marc Maron interview with Robin Williams. The weird thing is that Maron infamously started that podcast show as a means to distract himself from committing suicide.

        There are so many really resonant bits in that hour-long interview. Not just about Robin Williams himself, but about how we all experience life, sadness, joy, etc. I hope you’ll give it a listen. His re-creation of the Richard Pryor joke is just beautiful.

        I don’t think his suicide negates any of the serenity he possesses in that interview.

  • Nicholas Zebrowski


  • ES Trader

    Watching “Mork & Mindy”,Robin Williams unique personality and talent was obvious.

    I always considered people like Einstein, Newton,Feynman, Michaelangelo, DaVinci, Copernicus, and Hawking as “genius” and I don’t know if artistic creativity is on the same level.

    Nevertheless the Van Gogh’s, Picasso’s, Beethoven’s, Mozart’s and Lennon’s in human history were very special and cherished for their uniqueness.

    As John Nash was portrayed in “A Beautiful Mind”, perhaps the same forces that produce exceptional intellect has a side effect that is dark, lonely and frightening for all special ones.

    One of the newscasts yesterday mentioned one of his last tweets regarding the isolation he felt.

    The first thing I thought at the news was Edward Arlington Robinson’s ” Richard Cory”

    R.I.P. , may your spirit join the spirits of Jonathan Winters and others that you belong to.

  • erictremont

    While certainly a great comedian, I enjoyed his infrequent dramatic roles even more. His appearance in the somewhat obscure 1986 “Seize the Day” made-for-TV movie (based on Saul Bellow novel) was a stunning performance.

    • thucy

      In a Saul Bellow adaptation? Wow. Gotta see it. He still makes me cry and smile in “Moscow on the Hudson”.

      • erictremont

        Might not be easy to find on DVD, but it is definitely worth watching.

  • Åke Olsson

    We lived in San Francisco for a bit over six years and on occasion met Robin Williams in stores – like talking to my sun on which video games to choose – or when out on the hiking trails seeing him on his bike. For such a celebrity to be so “everyday ordinary” and part of the community is extraordinary. All of a sudden the world is so much more ordinary.

  • 1PeterDuMont2STARALLIANCE8

    Robin Williams was a force of nature. We all owe him a debt, which perhaps we can pay by showing compassion, caring, and concrete support, where possible, for those struggling with depression and addictions of various stripes.

  • Whamadoodle

    Such a shame! Really shocking. We saw him show up and do a standup set in San Francisco a few years back. He had us, and the host, Michael Pritchard, in stitches. What a tragedy this is.

  • Selostaja

    We all knew to head to Robin William’s house on Halloween in the Sea Cliff – he always had the best ‘treats’ like comic books and glow sticks! No pencils from him!

    • ES Trader

      Lucky to have crossed paths hope it brought him joy to do that. Just curious, if you lived in the neighborhood, whether friends and neighbors reciprocated his generosity ?

      I recall an incident years ago, I wasn’t present, but a very close friend of mine losing it in a coffee shop at a few of our other friends over his generosity and their habitual accepting without reciprocation.

      My friend felt taken for granted and walked out

  • moi

    Second hand story: A small shop owner in Sonoma had Robin come into the store, so he told him how Dead Poet’s Society inspired him to leave his corporate job to open the store and support jewelry makers and other artists in the area. The next day Robin came back with a leather jacket from the movie to gift the store owner. Carpe diem

  • James R

    The line The
    Day the Music Died from the Don McLean song “American Pie” refers to the plane
    crash deaths of rock and roll musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. “The
    Big Bopper” Richardson on February 3, 1959. August 11, 2014 is The Day the Laughter

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    Robin’s routine was to use cocaine and booze then take an annual two month break at the Betty. His current wife and ex-wife Marcia Garces can attest to his behavior. It certainly contributed to his depression and his family knew of it, but could not stop him. It strikes me as disingenuous to trumpet his wonderfulness when he was so addicted and depressed. Nobody needs to be told Robin was hugely talented… For a great lesser seen Robin performance, watch the Louie show, Season 3, episode 6 — the whole ep focuses on how little Robin and Louie CK really knew about a ‘frenemy’—clip here:

  • King

    Like everyone I’m devastated at the lost of one of my heros Robin Williams. I’ve been watching all his movies and stand up to remember how amazing he was, one thing I can’t find is his robin williams @ interviews. They were a series of interviews he did with celebrities and they were amazing. But they have been down from audible for a long time, does anyone have any idea where/if they can be found. Thanks /r/ Bangarang!

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