When I got up in the middle of the night, as I usually do, I learned the sad news that Robin Williams is dead. Each of us, I am sure, has his or her favorite Robin Williams roles, or shticks, or moments. It says a good deal about the strength of his appeal that when Susie saw a preview of the latest Night at the Museum stinker, she said she wanted to go just because Williams is in it [he plays a statue of Theodore Roosevelt who comes alive at night, for those of you who have not seen the first or second iterations.] From the instant obits, it is easy to see that he led a tortured life, from whose shambles he crafted great art. Surely he was the greatest improvisational artist who has ever lived. I saw Nichols and May back in the day when they were an improv team on the nightclub circuit. Quick and hilarious though they were, they could not come close to Williams' speed and imagination. As a stolid monoglot, I struggle with even the most prosaic French or German. I sometimes think the ultimate test of a command of English would be the ability to follow one of Williams' riffs.
Williams' portrayal of the psychiatrist in Good Will Hunting remains in my memory as a powerfully moving piece of acting, in part I am sure because the film is one of my all-time favorites. He did something similar in Awakenings.
There is no point in reaching for some deeper meaning in this untimely death, unless to take it as one more evidence, as if we needed more, that there is no God.