A Run-By Fruiting

Photo credit: Eva Rinaldi, Wikimedia Common

Photo credit: Eva Rinaldi, Wikimedia Common

I’ve never been enticed by the cult of celebrity. Becoming famous is frequently a matter of being in the right place at the right time to get noticed. Interviews with stars inevitably come across as lacking in substance. Some of the funniest people I’ve known have worked in camera shops, administrative offices, and IT departments. Still, the suicide of Robin Williams a week ago has impacted a wide swath of the nation. We hate to see a funny man die. It is such a truism as to be trite that those who are clowns often host inner demons. Laughter, Reader’s Digest proclaims monthly, is the best medicine. Who better to heal than those who know what it’s like to have been wounded? Yet we want the funny to keep on making us laugh until we move on to the next diversion.

For this past week I’ve been pondering how one man’s tragic death has jolted a nation into a reflective moment of silence. I can’t say I was Robin Williams’ biggest fan, but I’d seen a number of his movies, and I was devoted to Mork and Mindy growing up (aliens have a way of getting prime-time exposure that has never really been explained). I thought he was good at what he did. He was famous and had money, but it wasn’t enough to buy off the demons. Suicides hit me hard since I’ve known a few and have struggled with depression myself. There are times, truth be told, when no direction is up. It is at those times, however, that others tend to ignore you, lest you bring them down. People like to laugh.

There is something profoundly religious about the idea of a wounded healer. Anthropologists as well as theologians have noticed it. They need have only looked as far as the Bible to find examples. Yet the Christian tradition treats suicide as a great sin against God and the plan is that we all live to die either at the hands of nature or of someone else, so the guilt doesn’t cling to us. Death always leads to a remorse that entails such guilt. And yet it is inevitable. As a nation we are used to seeing comedians overdose or live reckless lives that end tragically. Deliberate action, however, feels the most horrendous of all. We’ll ask “why?” for a while, and we’ll make tributes and tearful speeches. And meanwhile some of the funniest people we can claim will be sweeping our floors or asking “would you like fries with that?”

2 thoughts on “A Run-By Fruiting

  1. M.K.

    I don’t think Robin Williams ever made me laugh out loud, actually. Maybe I’m a minority, but while I certainly was amazed at his sharp genius, each time I saw him I saw mainly the man himself outshining his own craft. It was like, “I’m brilliant now, so here ya go…” And it was good stuff, but to me, it was always Robin Williams performing instead of performance by a guy named Robin Williams. That’s probably clear as mud. Suffice it to say that when I heard about his death, it seemed entirely coherent rather than some sort of surprising contrast. Nevertheless, it did make me a little sad — but for a different reason than I hear from a lot of my friends. So, I think the kind of comedians you observe in the everyday are actually funnier.

    I need to catch up with your blog. Been gone for the last few weeks of summer. Na noo, na noo!


    • I’ve missed your comments, M.K. For what it’s worth, I think I know what you mean about Robin Williams. There are people that manage to outshine their characters (in both good and bad ways). It’s always, for example, Charlton Heston and never really Moses. I mean to imply no comparison between Williams and Heston…


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