Most people who are mourning the death of comedian Robin Williams after his apparent suicide on Monday never met him. Yet millions felt a profound connection to the 63-year-old Oscar-winning actor since he leapt from television screens as the free-associating space alien on Mork & Mindy in the late 1970s.
Mr. Williams was a gifted comic who seemed to possess boundless energy, a razor-sharp gift for absurdist and unscripted repartee and mimicry, and an empathetic sense of humor that was never mean-spirited. He was as acclaimed for his dramatic roles as his comic riffs.
“Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a ... Peter Pan, and everything in between,” President Obama said. “But he was one of a kind. He arrived in our lives as an alien — but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit.
“He made us laugh. He made us cry. He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most — from our troops stationed abroad to the marginalized on our own streets.”
For nearly four decades, Mr. Williams made the world laugh from platforms provided by Hollywood, television, comedy clubs, and stages. Yet he reportedly was haunted by depression. Years of sobriety eventually gave way.
In his final days, he apparently succumbed to despair. Still, he will be remembered not for the pain of his demise, but rather for the gift of laughter he imparted to the world. There will be tears for Robin Williams, but let them be tears of joy and gratitude for his immense talent.