Friday, 15 August 2014

Not The Robin Williams You're Looking For

Culture Magazine, The Sunday Times, 2004

Unfortunately throughout every month of every year an iconic musician or actor passes away and you wake up to the news instantly on your phone, or someone informs you of their death. Sometimes it’s old age and other times it’s more tragic, but it’s not like you dwell on it for too long, that’s life, and it will happen again next month. I’m adverse to posting about such instances because I know enough people will acknowledge that person, hundreds of articles will be written about them, there’s no need for me to add to the tributes even if it’s only to a small audience. While I did do a short piece on James Gandolfini’s death at the start of the summer, I think it had more to do with the fact that I’d just finished watching the entire 6 seasons of The Sopranos back to back more than anything else.

I did briefly think about writing something about Robin Williams but dismissed the idea almost as quickly, to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t one of those people who felt they ‘grew up’ with Robin Williams. I remember Mork and Mindy re-runs when I was a child in the 80’s, but all I remember was his weird clothes and animated facial expressions, I was more perturbed than entertained, granted I was only about 4-years-old. Later on I recall seeing The Dead Poets Society, and even at the age of 9 I loved it, without fully comprehending the message or just how great a film it was. Then I saw Hook in the cinema and I thought it was absolutely shit, I didn’t like Mrs.Doubtfire the first time I saw it and then it seemed to me that Williams went on a run of really weird kids films like Jumanji, Flubber, Patch Adams etc. and I just thought he was some kind of freak who was obsessed with entertaining children. When I was older I saw Awakenings, which for me, alongside Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting was one of his best films, I even enjoyed One Hour Photo and the child obsessed freak’s reputation was somewhat restored in my eyes. In summary Robin Williams was a bit of a curio to me in terms of acting, I went from not quite trusting him to liking him, without ever feeling strongly about him either way. 

'We need to get a new agent'

So where am I going? The other night I was going down through my Facebook feed and I saw a video of a very young Jim Carrey (below) doing an impression of Robin Williams in Mork & Mindy (I think from 1982). Anyone who has known me for quite a while will know that Carrey is one of my favourite actors, yes, he has been in absolutely terrible films over the last decade (and before then), however, my favourite film, in a guilty pleasure sense is The Cable Guy, panned by critics and at the box office, but I could watch it anytime, anywhere, and at one stage could almost quote the entire film, I wish I was exaggerating. Seeing that 50 second clip of a young Carrey impersonating Williams pulled on something, because I recalled an interview with Carrey over 10 years ago in The Sunday Times where he discussed his own struggle with depression. I remember reading it in disbelief (I still have the clipping), how could someone who is seemingly happy 24/7 feel so down that they can’t even get out of bed? How could this man who makes a living from making people laugh, and does it bloody brilliantly at times, plunge into a dark, deep pit inside himself?

Jim Carrey Impersonates Robin Williams

While I can’t back it up scientifically right here in this post, there does seem to be some truth to the common idea that those who suffer from depression, or take their own lives, are not what the rest of us would consider as people who we would ‘expect’ to do so, without sounding too crass. ‘No one had a clue’, ‘There was never any sign they were unhappy’, ‘I only met him / her last week and they were grand.’ On a personal note depression and suicide are two things I feel very strong about, thankfully I’ve never suffered from the illness, and the only reason I haven’t is because I got lucky. I hate the stigma that is attached to it, like so many things in Ireland, on a broader level culturally we are a nation of people who do not talk about ‘shameful’ things, or ‘weaknesses’, which is extremely unhealthy both physically and mentally. There is an onus on all of us to educate ourselves about depression and suicide, and not just because it’s a worthy cause, there are lots of different worthy causes out there, but because the odds are very highly stacked that there is someone close to each of us, in our family, among our circle of friends, someone at work, a neighbour who is struggling desperately, suffering from this awful disease, and we are completely oblivious to it, and the signs. 

The CSO released figures in 2010 that showed that 1 in 10 Irish people suffer from depression, the most likely age group to commit suicide was in the 20-24 age bracket and of the 495 recorded suicides in Ireland that year, 82% were men, shocking statistics, and probably conservative figures given the aforementioned stigma. So one small, good thing that came out of Robin Williams’ untimely death this week for me was that it’s reminded me to educate myself more on the topics of depression and suicide, and that I must watch Awakenings again. Thanks Robin.

Awakenings, Trailer


  1. Great article Remy!

    1. Thank you very much! I really appreciate that