Tears of a Clown

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My brother-in-law Dave Rudolf is a funny guy. Since he is a professional entertainer, this quality is a definite asset. One of the biggest compliments I ever gave Dave was that he reminded me of Robin Williams. Both performers had that zany, stream-of-consciousness style that never quit.

Like many fans, I was saddened by the news that Robin Williams had died of an apparent suicide. Like many fans, I have been spending time reading accounts of his life and watching his brilliance on You Tube clips from many of his stand up performances and talk show appearances.

I am a little puzzled, however, by people’s shock that such a funny comedian would take his own life. First of all, the performer is not the person. The personas Williams created were acts of the imagination and had little connection with his personal life. Secondly, there have been many troubled comedians over the years – John Belushi, Richard Pryor, and Lenny Bruce, to name a few.

I would even venture to guess that many performers seek out the role of comedian because of a darkness in their own hearts. When you think about it, the source of most humor is dark. We laugh at human weaknesses and foibles, embarrassments and misfortunes. Rodney Dangerfield recites a litany of examples of how he “gets no respect.” Steve Martin makes us laugh by getting kneed in the testicles. Many comedians make their livings mocking politicians and celebrities. Williams himself was a master at accents and used them to paint various ethnic groups with humorous yet stereotypical strokes.

Whatever personal demons led Robin Williams to his death, I feel sorrow for a life cut short, for family and friends who will feel his loss for the rest of their lives. But I hope they can take solace in the fact that he gave so much enjoyment and did so much for others in his short life.

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