Saturday, 16 August 2014

Robin Williams – the profound clown

I am seldom moved when cultural celebrities die. It’s always sad when someone passes away, sure, but it’s not as if I knew the celebrities in question.

Still, there are some exceptions. Robin Williams’ passing away the other day was one. “Dead Poets Society” was my coming of age film, and I have a deep-seated respect for individuals who are mature enough to be childish. 

Individuals who can laugh at farts whilst contemplating the eternal (un)bearability of being. Individuals who can be profound and infantile, two qualities that have much more in common than people think – together constituting a synthesis rather than polar opposites.

It takes guts and maturity to express such a complex and intelligent persona. A persona that seems in Williams’ case to have been the embodiment of the clown. Laughing whilst crying, tragic whilst jolly. 

If the clown is the appropriate metaphor, to me Williams came across as a most endearing and sage one. A profound humanistic spirit, interlaced with sublime childish humour, lachrymose Greek tragedy and sophisticated British wit. 

Like an amalgamation of Peter Pan and Abraham Lincoln, part of an exceptional and highly exclusive school of actors including the likes of Peter Sellers and Graham Chapman. 

Be it Williams’ acting in Good Morning, Vietnam or Dead Poets Society, Good Will Hunting or Hook (Peter Pan) – all those qualities shone through.

And so, Williams was someone who could say this: 

”No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world." 

As well as this:

”Never pick a fight with an ugly person, they've got nothing to lose."
”You're only given one little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it."

As well as this:

”Cricket is basically baseball on valium." 

Rest in peace, o’ Captain, my Captain. You gave us much to laugh to, much to cry at, and much to contemplate. Why, you even managed to satirize your own drug abuse in a tragically humorous way. As you put it:

”Cocaine is God's way of saying you're making too much money." 

Combined with the classic:

”Reality is just a crutch for people who can't cope with drugs."

Heaven’s just become a wittier, warmer and wiser place – and a tad more tragic.