Don’t fret. I’m not talking about the terrible 1995 movie with Denzel Washington. I’m actually referring to the concept of having great skill in a particular art, usually music, but also any other art that is performed with unparalleled mastery or expertise.
When I see virtuosity in action, my heart sings, especially because for most of my life, I’ve considered myself somewhat of a Jack of all trades – and being a master of one was this elusive brass ring I could never quite grasp.
I wanted to write about this because I’m filled with sorrow over the death of a master…of comedy. I needed to see something of Robin Williams Monday night that would allow me to forget for a few minutes that he committed suicide, and while Mork and Mindy was an option (and one that we exercised last night for a few), we took out my copy of Live on Broadway from 2002 and popped that in the DVD player instead.
I wanted to see it because it was raw, manic and brilliant, as many people probably remember him to be, and how I wanted to remember him…because for as many multidimensional, award-winning performances he’s given in movies, ultimately he was playing a character written by someone else. His stand-up allowed him to show us what an expert he was in being himself – wickedly funny, acutely observant of the world around him, and able to communicate that to others…if only on stage. It’s often the ones who excel there, that have the hardest time as soon as they step off of it.
I wasn’t completely surprised at his death, perhaps only by the timing. I had known of his previous addictions and mental health issues, and many people so afflicted, despite making concerted efforts at getting the help they need, fight a losing battle. I know many people say it is a selfish act to do what he did, and while I can see that point of view, if you’ve never been in the depths, you’ll never understand what a struggle it can be to climb out of the hole, that all the support in the world may not be enough to help. It’s a crapshoot really, to find something that will cut into the darkness to allow in the light, without also cutting into you. And what works today, may not 10 years from now – you have to be vigilant. And it’s hard to be vigilant for some after 63 years – I imagine he was exhausted. And for that, I am the most sorry.
Thank you Robin, rest in peace, Robin – and most of all, namaste.
Here is a clip of him grabbing the brass ring…