There are certain performers who walk into a spot light alone. They are not part of a group, they do not play music. They do not sing and they do not dance. Some use props or costumes, others enter with nothing more than their own quick wit. Stand up comics, magicians, clowns, ventriloquists, mimes and jugglers face a crowd of strangers alone. The ability or talent to over come this basic human fear of facing a crowd often comes in a bipolar package.
Robin Williams was such a performer. Driven into the spotlight to escape the demons of the darkness. A San Francisco street mime/comic who became an Academy Award Winning Actor. A man who worked best alone because he was too fast for anyone else to keep up.
I once watched a sign language interpreter try and sign Robin Williams' stand up routine at a Comedy Store Benefit. It became a manic improv of concepts and words that would stump the interpreter. They both received a rare mid-set standing ovation from the audience. Robin, should we have laughed harder, clapped louder, stood up quicker, done more as an audience to make you think one second longer about the joy you can bring before ending your life?
Only a few seconds after I heard the news of Robin Williams death my phone rang. It was my best friend. He too is a solo performer. I was actually attempting to dial his number at that very moment. The news had reached us at the same moment.
My friend began his career as a San Francisco street performer and had known Robin since those days. I did not know Robin well but we both had the same reactive feelings. A heavy loss that seemed to out weigh the amount of time either of us had spent in his company. But, he was our our age, our generation, a fellow solo performer. We were all bond together in that loneliness of the spotlight; and suddenly he is not only dead but dead by his own hand. There is a demon that stalks the clown.
We had a moment of recollection on the last time we saw Robin and the best story we had about him. We came around to this conclusion. Of the famous solo performers we could think of from our generation, Robin was the most likely to die by his own hand. We both assumed it would be by overdose. He was a candle burning at both ends, but he made a lovely light. He fought the bipolar demon for a long time but finally lost Monday, August 11, 2014.
The psychiatrist says to the man on his couch. "You are very lonely and depressed. I suggest you go to the comedy club here in town tonight and laugh. There is a comic performing there that will make you forget all your troubles."
The man on the couch says, "I am that comic."
As it was before,