Russell Brand: Robin Williams' Divine Madness Will No Longer Disrupt the Sadness of the World
Russell Brand: Robin Williams' Divine Madness Will No Longer Disrupt the Sadness of the World
By Russell Brand / theguardian.com

Is it melancholy to think that a world that Robin Williams can’t live in must be broken? To tie this sad event to the overarching misery of our times?

I’d been thinking about Robin Williams a bit recently. His manager Larry Bresner told me that when Robin was asked by a German journalist on a press junket why the Germans had a reputation for humourlessness that Williams replied, “Because you killed all the funny people.”

Robin Williams was exciting to me because he seemed to be sat upon a geyser of comedy. Like he didn’t manufacture it laboriously within but had only to open a valve and it would come bursting through in effervescent jets. He was plugged into the mains of comedy.

I was aware too that this burbling and manic man-child that I watched on the box on my Nan’s front room floor with a Mork action figure (I wish I still had that, he came in a plastic egg) struggled with mental illness and addiction. The chaotic clarity that lashed like an electric cable, that razzed and sparked with amoral, puckish wonder was in fact harvested madness. A refinement of an energy that could turn as easily to destruction as creativity.

He spoke candidly about his mental illness and addiction, how he felt often on a precipice of self-destruction, whether through substance misuse or some act of more certain finality. I thought that this articulate acknowledgement amounted to a kind of vaccine against the return of such diseased thinking, which has proven to be hopelessly naive.

When someone gets to 63 I imagined, hoped, I suppose, that maturity would grant an immunity to adolescent notions of suicide but today I read that suicide isn’t exclusively a young man’s game. Robin Williams at 63 still hadn’t come to terms with being Robin Williams.

Now I am incapable of looking back at my fleeting meeting with him with any kind of objectivity, I am bound to apply, with hindsight, some special significance to his fragility, meekness and humility. Hidden behind his beard and kindness and compliments was a kind of awkwardness, like he was in the wrong context or element, a fallen bird on a hard floor.

Robin Williams
Robin Williams in 2011. Photograph: Walter McBride/Corbis

It seems that Robin Williams could not find a context. Is that what drug use is? An attempt to anaesthetise against a reality that constantly knocks against your nerves, like tinfoil on an old school filling, the pang an urgent message to a dormant, truer you.

Is it melancholy to think that a world that Robin Williams can’t live in must be broken? To tie this sad event to the overarching misery of our times? No academic would co-sign a theory in which the tumult of our fractured and unhappy planet is causing the inherently hilarious to end their lives, though I did read that suicide among the middle-aged increased inexplicably in 1999 and has been rising ever since. Is it a condition of our era?

Poor Robin Williams, briefly enduring that lonely moment of morbid certainty where it didn’t matter how funny he was or who loved him or how many lachrymose obituaries would be written. I feel bad now that I was unduly and unbefittingly snooty about that handful of his films that were adjudged unsophisticated and sentimental. He obviously dealt with a pain that was impossible to render and ultimately insurmountable, the sentimentality perhaps an accompaniment to his childlike brilliance.

We sort of accept that the price for that free-flowing, fast-paced, inexplicable comic genius is a counterweight of solitary misery. That there is an invisible inner economy that demands a high price for breathtaking talent. For me genius is defined by that irrationality; how can he talk like that? Play like that? Kick a ball like that? A talent that was not sculpted and schooled, educated and polished but bursts through the portal, raw and vulgar. Always mischievous, always on the brink of going wrong, dangerous and fun, like drugs.

Robin Williams could have tapped anyone in the western world on the shoulder and told them he felt down and they would have told him not to worry, that he was great, that they loved him. He must have known that. He must have known his wife and kids loved him, that his mates all thought he was great, that millions of strangers the world over held him in their hearts, a hilarious stranger that we could rely on to anarchically interrupt, the all-encompassing sadness of the world. Today Robin Williams is part of the sad narrative that we used to turn to him to disrupt.

What platitudes then can we fling along with the listless, insufficient wreaths at the stillness that was once so animated and wired, the silence where the laughter was? That fame and accolades are no defence against mental illness and addiction? That we live in a world that has become so negligent of human values that our brightest lights are extinguishing themselves? That we must be more vigilant, more aware, more grateful, more mindful? That we can’t tarnish this tiny slice of awareness that we share on this sphere amidst the infinite blackness with conflict and hate?

That we must reach inward and outward to the light that is inside all of us? That all around us people are suffering behind masks less interesting than the one Robin Williams wore? Do you have time to tune in to Fox News, to cement your angry views to calcify the certain misery?

What I might do is watch Mrs Doubtfire. Or Dead Poets Society or Good Will Hunting and I might be nice to people, mindful today how fragile we all are, how delicate we are, even when fizzing with divine madness that seems like it will never expire.

4.6 ·
8
What's Next
Trending Today
Why People Cling to Old Beliefs
1 min · 10,294 views today · Cognitive psychologist and neuroscientist at McGill University, Daniel Levitin, explains why people can be so stubborn when it comes to false beliefs. This behavior is...
Stunning Summary of US Imperialism and Native Resistance... on MSNBC!
4 min · 9,191 views today · On The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC, Lawrence explains why a protest by Native Americans in North Dakota reminds us of the history American always tries to forget.
Veterans at Standing Rock Ask Forgiveness for War Crimes Against Tribal Nations
Jen Hayden · 8,546 views today · Jon Eagle Sr., Tribal Historic Preservation Officer at Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has reported something wholly unexpected happened at the Standing Rock Reservation today. The...
The Myth of Positivity: Why Your Pain Holds a Mighty Purpose
umair haque · 8,155 views today · Of all the great myths of contemporary life, one of the most toxic is positivity. It says: there are negative and positive emotions, and only the positive ones are worth...
Standing Rock Wisdom: How Sacred, Nonviolent Activism Has the Power to Succeed
Charles Eisenstein · 7,777 views today · I am told by Native American friends active at Standing Rock that the elders are counseling the Water Protectors to undertake each action prayerfully and to stay off the...
Solar is Already Producing More Energy Than Oil, Says Major Scientific Review
Nafeez Ahmed · 4,932 views today · And is twice as powerful than previously thought
13 Crises That We All Must Face
George Monbiot · 4,912 views today · We face (at least) 13 major crises, some of which are immediate. It’s time for some hard thinking about how we confront them.
Sky Roosevelt-Morris: The Secret of Indigenous Resiliency
2 min · 2,946 views today · Activist Sky Roosevelt-Morris is of the Shawnee and White Mountain Apache Nations. She is a member of the Leadership Council of the American Indian Movement of Colorado. In...
The Other Way of Knowing
Lilian Na’ia Alessa · 2,209 views today · Western science and Indigenous worldviews are often seen as incompatible, with the Indigenous view usually being far less valued by society at large. But an inside look at...
Australian Government Promotes Crap with Adani Carmichael Coal Mine
2 min · 1,946 views today · The Australian Government just released this advert about the proposed Carmichael Coal Mine and it's surprisingly honest and informative. 6 WAYS YOU CAN HELP STOP CCRAP: 1...
15 Films Inspiring and Illuminating the 'New Story' Revolution
Tim Hjersted · 1,666 views today · Charles Eisenstein is one of the first people I heard talk about the "new story," synthesizing a diverse movement that has been emerging for the last several decades. When I go...
Andy Goes In - Working Undercover in a Factory Farm
10 min · 1,653 views today · He's a $10/hr farmhand, and his name isn't Andy. Andy Goes In is a compelling 10-minute documentary short about a Mercy For Animals undercover investigator. The vast majority...
DREAM: A Spoken Word Meditation For When Life Is Kicking Your Ass
4 min · 1,630 views today · If life is kicking your ass and the general un-coolness of everybody on planet erf is making you want to off yourself, TALK to someone: 800-273-8255 (national suicide...
How Mindfulness Empowers Us
2 min · 1,615 views today · Many traditions speak of the opposing forces within us, vying for our attention. Native American stories speak of two wolves, the angry wolf and the loving wolf, who both live...
Incredible Stories From 5 Inspirational Farms
12 min · 1,604 views today · In this series of 5 short films we visit five farms where incredible things sprout. From growing massive, 100-pound vegetables to giving injured animals another chance, these...
Mary Lyons Describes 'The We'
29 min · 1,561 views today · Beautiful. Listen to this. 
The Trouble With Equality: Feminism and the Forgotten Places of Power
Adebayo Akomolafe · 1,517 views today · "...Patriarchy is not the rule of men over women, it's the rule of the binary - the insistence that there really are sides, and that each is a pre-existing category unto...
Dear Activists, Maybe It's Time to Admit That We've Got It All Wrong
Mickey Z. · 1,433 views today · “The first step in the revolution is eye contact.” - Alicen Grey
All the News Is Fake!
3 min · 1,409 views today · Jonathan Pie finds nothing new in the idea of fake news.
How a White Supremacist Became a Civil Rights Activist
Araz Hachadourian · 1,085 views today · The story of a KKK leader’s transformation shows us that we need not live forever with the kind of violence we saw in Charleston this month.
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Russell Brand: Robin Williams' Divine Madness Will No Longer Disrupt the Sadness of the World