Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Things That Remain Painful / Bengal Tiger At The Baghdad Zoo

"Stand-up is how comedians process things that are painful."
-- Billy Crystal, quoted by interviewer during an interview with Robin Williams in 2011.

Robin Williams' early comedy didn't bring me much laughter.  I was severely depressed during those years. What was evoked for me then was the pain that prompted his sense of humor. Although I've found much peace as a sober alcoholic, I sometimes find myself on the depressive side of things.  My gratitude goes out to Robin Williams for the ways he used drama to help himself and us process war and suicides, grief and loss.  There are some things that I can't process through laughter. Depression and active alcoholism are two of them.  

In the interview above, he tells this story:

"Years ago I was reading a story to my daughter.  I was doing voices and everything, and she turned to me and said, "Just read the story."

I'm with his daughter.

In the order that I saw them, these are Robin Williams movies which made a lasting impression on me, helping me to know that I was not alone:

1982 -- The World According to Garp (after watching that movie at age 34, I decided that I did want to have children, but my husband decided that he didn't, and we divorced soon after.  I never did have children)

1989 -- Dead Poets Society (although I remember only speechless anger at the way the movie ended)

1991 -- The Fisher King (wanting to see it again, I looked in vain for this movie in the drama section of a video store and was bewildered to find that this great drama was filed in the comedy section. "Parry is also continually haunted by a hallucinatory Red Knight, who terrifies him whenever he shows any confidence." The quote is from a Wiki article on The Fisher King)

1991 -- Hook (I loved that it wasn't about Peter Pan at all.  It was about Hook.  Robin Williams could just as easily have played Hook)

1997 -- Good Will Hunting

What I'd like to see now is "Bengal Tiger At The Baghdad Zoo." It took Robin Williams' suicide for me to become aware of it.  

"Some nights people come expecting me to riff, and I'm not going to do it. I can't."
(Robin Williams, in the above interview with Charlie Rose in 2011)

I'm feeling all off-balance today.  It's been difficult to determine what I want to say to express my unexpected flood of feelings of grief and loss. I do see a connection between Virginia Woolf's suicide at the beginning of World War II and Robin Williams' suicide in the context of the United States conducting air strikes in Northern Iraq and the recent events in Gaza.

"Ring them bells for those of us who are left."
(Bob Dylan, 1989)

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