When my daughter texted me on Monday evening with the words "Robin Williams!" I thought she had just seen him on the street. Eve moved into Manhattan a couple of weeks ago, and that's the kind of thing that happens there.
What had actually happened was unthinkable.
I will not claim to be a friend of Robin Williams; the fact of the matter is we never communicated in any way, not even the way one occasionally interacts with a celebrity's assistant on Twitter. We never met. I never so much as wrote him a letter to tell him how much I admired what he could do.
But if you don't think Robin Williams was important to me, you don't know me. Or Robin Williams.
Right now on social media people are debating what the best Robin Williams movie was, whether he was funnier on his breakthrough sitcom Mork and Mindy or in film. They're missing the point.
The finest performances that man ever gave were in his original medium, as a standup comic who could operate like none other who ever lived. See if you can find his perfomance at the Metropolitan Opera (originally on HBO) on YouTube now. Check out any other performance of his, on the amazing Comic Relief specials with his accomplices Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg. Early bits on improv specials or later opportunities to play on Whose Line Is It Anyway.
Take a look at the riff he could do with a scarf, unprepared on Inside the Actor's Studio.
Robin Williams was a genius, and like too many geniuses, he was his own worst enemy. He had well-documented substance abuse problems, and now we know he was battling depression, a battle he finally lost.
I'm terribly sad tonight, and so is my daughter. And so are my wife and son. We were all fans. We all saw the honesty in the man and the willingness to share himself with us. And we are very, very sorry we will never see that again.
But I'm angry, too. At the disease that took him, just as surely as if it had been cancer. He was sick and he fought for a long time, but the disease was stronger, and that makes me mad. The world should not be deprived of a quick, childlike, brilliant mind like that prematurely, and now that has happened and there is nothing that can reverse it.
I've always believed that depression needed to be better understood and that it needed to be brought into the open to be conquered. Maybe now that will happen and that will be his final legacy.
Unfortunately, I'm too sad to think about that tonight. And even putting on a Robin Williams DVD won't make that better.
Rest in peace, sir. If only you had found some in your life.