On Robin Williams; On Depression

1. You who know Robin Williams only from Mrs. Doubtfire and Aladdin onward will never understand how liberating and cathartic his early, unhinged stand-up comedy was, how political and anarchic he could be (and still was, even in his recent stand-up), like Jonathan Winters and Richard Pryor had a baby that dropped acid. One of the Rude Pundit's favorite memories from his teenage years is sitting at home and watching An Evening with Robin Williams on HBO with his buddy-to-this-day, Tony.  He annoyed Tony for weeks after quoting lines from it. Hell, everyone was quoting lines from it or from his movies or "Nano-nano"-ing everyone with spread-fingers. Williams was that ubiquitous, that universal, that beloved, in a way that few, if any, performers are now.

2. The Rude Pundit just watched The Fisher King, his favorite Williams film performance, his most successful merging of chaotic humor and pathos into something genuinely Chaplinesque. It's terrific, weird, and emotional.  Other great roles no one will talk about: The Best of Times, as a repressed husband and son-in-law in a working class town; Seize the Day, an adaptation of Saul Bellow's novella, probably his best, least-known dramatic work; and, post-2000, in his faded superstar/indy era, One Hour Photo and World's Greatest Dad, both films where he was consciously wrecking his cuddly, kid-friendly image.

2a. The Rude Pundit never got to see him do stand-up live, but he did see Williams on stage in Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo on Broadway, giving a fully-embodied performance as the title character, first alive, then dead, wandering around a post-"liberation" Iraq, commenting on the ludicrous world he saw around him.  He was quite, quite moving and, as ever, quite, quite funny.

3. Everyone suffers depression differently. Williams had wrestled with it as privately as possible, although he did not hide his alcohol and drug abuse, all of which made it into his comedy. But as someone who has, fortunately, through the power of scrips, conquered a somewhat milder case of depression, the Rude Pundit has learned that something he felt was felt by others who have or are going through it: You sense that a darkness has opened and the floor is tilting you toward that darkness, and you can feel yourself physically sliding into it. You want to stop. You want to climb out. But you can't. It's an awful, helpless feeling. You have to fall in and stay until the floor tilts you back into the light.

The Rude Pundit believes he leveled the floor. He doesn't know what would have happened if he hadn't been able to.

4. This one hurts.