Because he was far more than simply a brilliantly funny man, because he was also a gifted actor, intelligent, compassionate, unpretentious and kind, the loss of Robin Williams has created an almost incomprehensible hole in our cultural universe.
To many of their fans, Robin Williams and Jonathan Winters were the Everest and K2 of comedy, top-of-the-world talents with personal demons to match, both charged with a creative energy their bodies seemed almost unable to contain. When Winters died last year, Williams posted the following message on his Facebook page: “First he was my idol, then he was my mentor and amazing friend. I’ll miss him huge. He was my Comedy Buddha. Long live the Buddha.”
Many of us, even if we didn’t know him, have similar feelings about Williams, especially in the Sonoma Valley, where he sometimes lived, where many of us encountered him just being a normal, thoughtful and very sweet, everyday guy, albeit an insanely funny, impossibly fast, ricocheting rocket ship of humor.
And because he was comfortably, if unpredictably, among us, the loss seems all the harder to comprehend.
Anyone who was in the Sebastiani Theatre during the 2010 Sonoma International Film Festival when Robin Williams rescued emcee Kevin McNeely from a conversational cul de sac and hijacked the onstage interview of tribute honoree Lauren Hutton, witnessed Williams at the height of his spontaneous, manic, unscripted and breathlessly brilliant self, juggling the conversation, a microphone and Wavy Gravy’s clown nose while Hutton and the audience laughed so hard they could barely breathe.