Robin Williams, the comic genius with a tortured soul who entertained countless people over his four decades in show business, succumbed to his angst in August 2014 and committed suicide at the age of 63. The comedian was an undeniable and unique talent, who delighted audiences with his keen observations, rapid-fire wit, and contagious energy. In the aftermath of the comedian’s death, there are questions that remain unanswered and a wave of sensationalism that has surrounded his death, as well as provided insight into the comic genius and tortured soul of the late actor.
Robin McLaurin Williams was born on July 21, 1951, in Chicago, Illinois. His family was from a political background, which included governors and senators. He got his showbiz start in comedy clubs and via TV guest roles in the 1970s. The guest role that would ultimately launch his career and made him a star came in the form of Mork from Ork on Happy Days in 1978. This role lead to the hugely successful spin-off series, Mork & Mindy, which ran for 4 seasons (1978-1982). Williams made a name for himself in movies with the 1982 seminal film The World According to Garp, in which he starred opposite Glenn Close (Jagged Edge). The film was based on the John Irving novel of the same name and Williams played the titular role of T.S. Garp.
Williams’ comic genius came in the form of improvisation. He followed in the footsteps of his idols, comedians like Jonathan Winters, who played his son, Mearth, on Mork & Mindy, and Richard Pryor, who inspired his stand-up work. Williams was also a talented and accomplished dramatic actor, who received an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in Good Will Hunting (1997).
On August 11, 2014, Robin Williams succumbed to the tortured soul that underlined his comic genius when he hung himself at his home in California. His longtime friend and personal assistant found his body and alerted authorities. The sensationalism that followed the comedian’s suicide was graphic and extreme to say the least.
It is well-known that the talented actor and comedian had long suffered from substance abuse and mental health issues. He had overcome a drug and alcohol addiction in the 1980s. Then, the actor checked himself into rehab to be treated for alcoholism in 2006. At the time of his death, many wondered whether or not Williams had relapsed. However, after his death, Williams’ family confirmed his continued sobriety and revealed that the comedian was in the early stages of Parkinson’s Disease at the time of his death. His Parkinson’s diagnosis was something the comedian struggled with and was not ready to share with the world, according to his wife.
Williams was involved in a number of projects at the time of death. These projects included a third Night at the Museum film, in which he played the 26th President of the United States, Teddy Roosevelt. as well as A Merry Friggin’ Christmas, which is a holiday-themed movie in post-production. Some of these projects were not labors of love for the comedian, who had admittedly taken roles in movies and TV due to financial setbacks in recent years. Williams was even candid about his financial struggles in recent interviews he did for his now-defunct CBS comedy The Crazy Ones with Sarah Michelle Gellar (I Know What You Did Last Summer). When the series was subsequently cancelled, the comedian was reportedly devastated and blamed himself for the show’s failure. With Williams’ death, the fate of his completed projects are in limbo.
Robin Williams may have succumbed to the tortured soul that underlined his comic genius, as well as the tragic circumstances surrounding his final months. However, his legacy lives on in his storied 40-year career of stand-up comedy, TV, and film work. The comedian also inspired generations of fans and followers. When people reflect on Williams, they should remember the laughter and energy he brought to his performances on stage, screen, and film. He lived to entertain others and it showed. His quick wit and energy were infectious, and he was able to touch so many lives with his spirit and work.
By Leigh Haugh