Monday, August 11, 2014

what Robin Williams taught me

July 21, 1951 ~ August 11, 2014

I am not a professional stand-up, but I am a funny fellow.  I know that's my lot in life is to laugh and make others laugh.  If I am not doing that, and in the dumps, I know that I am not doing what God meant me to do.  My purpose is joy, and the fight in my life is to keep the devil from stealing it.  I'm serious.

I was saddened to hear of Robin Williams death today.  I am purposely not going to linger on the tragedy of what they are saying is a suicide.  Instead I will linger on all the laughter in my life that he's directly responsible for.  I am going to thank God for that joy that shot out of his being like a fire hose.  I am sorry Robin, that you left before the end of the show. 
What an awesome fellow.
Robin Williams had a big influence on me down through the years.  I didn't care for all his movies, but the guy was fluent in comedy.  He was the greatest ad-libber of his generation, and perhaps anyone who has gone before.  Like Robin, I was influenced by his early influence, Jonathan Winters.  Both possessed the same comedic genius, as if they were father and son. 

I watched the Wacky World of Jonathan Winters as a kid from '72 - '74.  It was Winter's show that I started exercising that brand of wacky improvisational wit.  When Robin landed as Mork in '77, I enjoyed watching a younger and zanier version of Winters.  Like I started this post, I am not a stand-up, but I've always related and learned from those two nuts.

There was a time in the mid-eighties that I picked up some bad advise.  You see, ad-lib requires to be spontaneous and work without a net.  With this brand of comedy, you associate everything, pull funny out of nowhere, not knowing where you find the next bit.  It's all free association humor, and it's often not pretty.  The problem is, I was told by someone I loved and respected dearly that I should think through everything I say before I say it and say only the funny stuff.  I tried doing this for about three years and it made me feel as if I was tripping over myself ~ and I was!  A lot of the joy had gone from me, and I just wasn't myself.

In the early nineties, after I was married and living in Bowling Green, I was watching an interview with Robin Williams.  In his interview he expressed that he made mistakes all the time.  He said he works out his act while doing his act.  He said that he did have prepared material that he used only as a springboard, and just dives into the unknown.  The success of his act is that he was pulling the stuff out of nowhere with just a little memorized material.  He was like a wild and uninhibited comedic Tarzan swinging from vine to vine, with an oblivious hope of where the next line would be.

You'll never know what it meant for me to hear that conversation.  This fellow wasn't filtering every word, but the freedom came from just jumping in there and having fun with it.  It was God whispering in my ear to go out there and break a leg ~ have fun, bring the spirit of Joy with you...and don't look down.  

I also learned through that interview that I can have fun without necessarily being funny.  I've had plenty of moments when people have said, "That's not funny!"  I reply, "So?"   I fail less often these days, I don't apologize when I do.  I just get back up, laugh at myself and keep pitching.  The only failure is to lose the joy.

Robin, thank you! 

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