Our Northwest

Robin Williams: more than mere goofball

Tuesday, August 12, 2014by  Jon Osterberg

Many in the Northwest feel an aching void today following the death of comic Robin Williams.
   Williams wasn’t ours. He grew up in the Bay Area and died Monday at his Marin County home. But he visited here many times, whether to perform or simply show up at comedy clubs, bike shops, or Dale Chihuly’s studio.
   And Williams knew Seattle well enough to tailor jokes lampooning us during his shows at the Paramount and Showbox.
   Former Seattle Mariners broadcaster Ken Levine wrote a poignant tribute to Williams today. He used the humor he figured Williams himself would have tapped had he been able to write his own eulogy.
   I’m saddened by Williams’ death and the way he died. I can’t begin to fathom the black despair that must have consumed such a comedic genius.
   But more than my own lost laughter, what I’ll miss is watching how Williams tickled others.
   I can picture my young kids giggling nonstop through Mrs. Doubtfire (“It was a run-by fruiting!”) until their gleeful faces turned glum (“There are all sorts of different families, Katie….”).
   Five years later my kids, then teenagers, were touched by Williams’ fantasy drama What Dreams May Come, and later the sentimental sci-fi fantasy Bicentennial Man. He also creeped out the whole family in Insomnia and One Hour Photo.
   My mom had a healthy funny bone, and the year before she died of leukemia I took her to see Patch Adams. As he was keenly able to do, Williams managed to make her both laugh and cry in the span of minutes.
   My first glimpse of Williams’ dramatic talent came after I’d pigeon-holed him as a mere goofball from his years on Mork & Mindy. Williams guest-starred in a powerful appearance on Homicide: Life on the Streets, for which he won a Primetime Emmy Award.
   It will be tough to watch Williams on film in the future, recalling the sad circumstances of his death. Yet I suspect someday we’ll drag out a classic – perhaps even RV, panned by critics in 2006 – and giggle at his antics. “Yo, my mobile-homeboys, what’s trippin’ in the wood?”

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