The passing of Robin Williams has shocked and saddened everyone who has every enjoyed any one of his movies or stand-up routines. The fact that such a beloved, hilarious, and memorable icon in our culture has passed on at his own will – by suicide – is incomprehensible by many. How is it possible for anyone to reach the depths of the darkest places our human mind and souls can descend to is beyond me. With Robin Williams, these questions are magnified. The man who brought so much laughter and joy was trapped in his own self-doubt and misery. Like it says in Proverbs 14:13, “Even in laughter the heart may ache, and joy may end in grief.” (Thank you Mr. DeVore for pointing out this verse).
Often the passing of a loved one or revered one allows us to celebrate that one’s life, even in the midst of sorrow and grief. Something that I have really enjoyed hearing in the last few days from all those who were close to Robin Williams was that he was a man who deeply and truly cared for those around him. British actor Giles Matthey, who worked with Williams in ‘Boulevard’, to be released later this year, talked with the BBC about the selflessness and kindness of the veteran actor. Williams wrote the letter of recommendation to help get Matthey is US green card. Matthey explained elsewhere of how Williams would come to him, a self-proclaimed rookie actor, to work on Williams’ lines with him. These are just a few examples of many from the people who knew Williams best. No matter what Williams was struggling with, he expressed care for everyone around him. He put others first.
Hearing and learning about this gentle and caring side of Robin Williams made me think of a certain episode of the Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! show. Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim’s 12-minutes of absurdity filmed in PSA-quality taping episodes often features celebrity look-a-likes (also alongside real actors like Zach Galifianakis, Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly).
A Season 2 episode titled ‘Robin’ had, you guessed it, a Robin Williams look-a-like (played by David Born). In the episode, Eric – feeling his comedy just hasn’t been up to par and has been hampering Tim’s comedic prowess – gives Tim the gift of (a) Robin Williams. Tim has a show scheduled in a few days, but he finds his off-the-wall and over-exuberant Robin is too much to handle. The two, it appears, cannot work together. Come show time, Robin is nowhere to be found, leaving Tim helpless in front of a packed and disappointed full house. However, Tim realises that he didn’t need Robin in the first place, but rather his friend Eric. A humbled Eric joins Tim on stage and the show goes on splendidly (in a Tim and Eric-sort of way).
Towards the end of the episode, Robin appears in the back corner of the theatre. Eric sees him and he realises what Robin has done for him. He mouths “thank you” with sincerity. Robin smiles back. “You’re welcome,” he says. Robin’s work is complete.
If you watch the episode (the link is below), you will see that I may have over-dramatized it considering, well, it’s a Tim and Eric episode. And trying to find deeper meaning from a 12-minute Adult Swim show may be a cause for concern for some of you. But I think there is some value behind this episode. Whether Heidecker and Wareheim and the Robin impersonator Born intended it, the episode characterized the genuine care and the want to be a helping hand to others that the real Robin Williams was to so many. It would have been disappointing, knowing what I know now of the real Robin Williams, if the Tim and Eric episode went with a different route with the character of Robin.
Robin William’s impact on the people around him and within the industry must have been profound. So profound, in fact, that a Tim and Eric episode starring a Robin impersonator was able to capture the warmth, exuberance, and fatherly care the real Robin had.
So, Tim and Eric, great job. I always knew I could extract truth from your show.
I encourage you to watch the Robin episode here on Adult Swim. If you wish to skip to the Robin bits only*, fast forward to 1:04-2:11, 4:30-to end of first segment, then 3:39 in the second segment till the end of the episode.
*I do not want to be liable for any consequences that may happen to the un-initiated of Tim and Eric’s humour.