Death of a Funny Man


robin-williams-deadOnce, when I was thirteen years old, I snuck downstairs to watch a softcore Cinemax flick. They had recently gained my attention and drew me downstairs most nights, and I would sit and ogle boobs and imagine all the things I could do to get them near me once I got to college. This night, however, I stumbled upon Robin Williams: A Night at the Met.

I didn’t know anything about cocaine, marijuana or alcohol. President Reagan was some distant guy who spoke like he was constipated and talked to us about the Challenger disaster. Dr. Roof made a little sense to me as I had begun listening to her radio show in search of sexual tidbits. All I knew was that this random manic guy in a Hawaiian shirt had stymied my obsessive search for boobs. And I could not stop laughing.

Thus began my fascination with comedy.

Like most people, I was stunned and upset to hear of his death. More horrified still as the details became known. And then, like many people, I remembered my admiration for the man and felt sadness at his early departure from Earth. And right after that I thought: Shit, I’ll never meet him for a Frappuccino.

I have developed a series of highly unlikely and disturbingly detailed fantasies about meeting famous people. To be clear, there is never sex involved and they will never happen outside of an astronomically improbable airport meeting or a kidnapping. But there are beers with George Clooney, badminton games with Christopher Moore, and a midnight ghost story session with Cormac McCarthy. There is also a drinking session with Tina Fey and an inexplicable rafting trip with Anna Kendrick.

And there is a Frappuccino with Robin Williams. Well, there was.

If you think I’m being flippant or silly, I am not. I am terribly upset by his death and by the fact that he killed himself. I guess I’m just being a little selfish.

But then, so are a lot of people.

While much of the reaction was supportive and loving, I was surprised to read some negative comments about Robin Williams on Facebook and some news outlets. Words like “coward” and “disappointment” were flung around. I don’t understand why one would think that they are capable of judging another person’s life (or death) choices. Is it just because that person is a celebrity?

Maybe. I mean, we judge celebrities for getting divorced, for cheating, and for gaining weight. So why not judge one who has killed himself? There are entire newspapers and websites whose sole purpose is to judge celebrities. So I shouldn’t have been so surprised.

But then I wondered if some people reacted more harshly because he was a comedian.

Perhaps a comedian’s death or suicide is more upsetting to the public because they are funny people, the people we go to for laughs. Chris Farley was the fat guy in the little coat, but his drug overdose is an ugly asterisk to his comedy. Richard Jeni was one of the greatest standup comedians of the 1990s, and yet I can’t watch his comedy routines now without picturing him with a gun in his mouth.

So while I find it ridiculous that people think they have a right to judge someone else for choosing to commit suicide, I am not completely amazed by their disappointment or anger. But is that Robin Williams’ problem or is it ours?

Would he be judged so harshly if he were deeper and darker in some way or if his demons had been more transparent? And does that mean that Robin Williams should have quelled his demons in order to make us all feel safer and more comfortable? No. It was part of his personal life, something we’re all entitled to. Perhaps we should keep this in mind when we hear talk about disappointment and cowardice.

On a far smaller scale, the funny person deals with this sort of thing often. I usually walk into my office making jokes, laughing, and being the overall attention getter I have always been. But there are certainly days when I don’t feel like joking; I don’t feel well, I’m glum, busy, distracted, hungry, horny, or tired. Any number of reasons someone else might not feel like chatting. And on those days I get this:

What’s wrong with you?

What’s bothering you?

Why are you in such a bad mood?

It’s times like these I feel that I’m not allowed my demons, bad days, or simply a different mood just because I’m a funny person. And that’s when I learn how to say ‘fuck off’ in Swahili or write bad Viking pornography starring those who have displeased me.

And then I make people laugh, because I’m funny.

I guess the positive out of Robin Williams’ suicide, if there is one, is that it’s spurred a discussion on depression related topics. Meanwhile, there has reportedly been a rise in the number of people calling suicide hotlines and therefore more people might get help for their issues.

I don’t need to point out the negative. Nevertheless, the situation doesn’t need additional negativity in the form of sanctimonious judgment.

So, just meet me for a Frappuccino. We’ll find some boobs on TV or write some Viking porn. Or we can share our deranged celebrity fantasies.

Or we can watch a comic genius rip it up at the Met.

  1. #1 by Allison on August 19, 2014 - 5:38 am

    Amen.

    No decent frappuccinos where I am, but if you want to road trip it to lake erie I’ll buy you a beer and arrange a sailboat excursion 😉

    • #2 by Damien Galeone on August 19, 2014 - 8:28 pm

      Oh! Too late! I leave Friday, but I am sad I can’t get boozed up with you! Boooo

      • #3 by Allison on August 19, 2014 - 8:35 pm

        🙁
        well maybe next year…

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