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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Pause for Laughs

So Robin Williams euphemismed himself. (Beat.)

He offed himself. (Pause for laughs. Hold jovial expression.)

Hey, there are worse ways to go. Think about Catherine the Great, and the poor guy who was employed as her equestrian trainer. "I'm sorry, Paul I. All she said was she wanted to go out for a ride. If I'd only known..." (Hold the expression. Give them time. Pause for laughs.)

There are better ways to go, too. Aeschylus died when a bird mistook his bald pate for a rock and dropped a turtle on his head in an attempt to break open the turtle's shell. The turtle didn't break, but Aeschylus' head sure did. Lesson learned: toupees are protective wear. (Cough. Sweat. Funny gesture to indicate a turtle landing on head. Pause for laughs.)

You know, dying from laughter is an actual thing. It even has its own entry on Wikipedia. What a way to go, amiright? Much better than going from shitting too much, which also happens. I expect death by shitting happens far more than death by laughter. Hell, according to Wikipedia, most deaths by laughter involve pants-shitting. (Squat on stage. Mime laughter. Mime shitting. Fall over and mime death. Pause for laughs.) Not even pants-shitting--toga-shitting. Now they call it 'CBS Monday night'. Back in the day, it was just known as the 'haha/caca'. (Open arms wide. Hold expectant expression. Pause for laughs. Spin bowtie if required. Do NOT deploy the dickey yet.)

So, as I was saying, Robin Williams killed himself. Offed. Removed himself. There's nothing funny about that, folks. We're just lucky Bicentennial Man is not being mentioned much in his obits. (No pause here--keep talking as the audience lightly chuckles.) Cadillac Man? I didn't see that mentioned anywhere. Which is a shame, because I remember my father taking me to see it, and I remember laughing so hard I thought a turtle had landed on my head. (Pause. No laughter.)

True story: Bergman famously did a film about the three smiles of a summer night. It was turned into a musical by Sondheim, then a terrible movie featuring the three sizes of Elizabeth Taylor. In my youth, I had three smiles of Robin Williams. (Wait for uncomfortable shifting from audience.)

The first smile of Robin Williams: The World According to Garp.  I was eleven when I saw the film on HBO, and became obsessed. Read the book it was based on, became a huge fan of John Irving.

The second smile of Robin Williams: Dead Poets' Society. I saw it first while on a trip with an aunt and uncle. The film made me cry, and also taught me I held the key. Literally. We spent hours after the movie searching for the key to our hotel room, only to discover it had been in my shoe the entire time.  (Pause for laughs.) The key had turned green by the time we found it. A few more hours and it would've dissolved.

The third smile of Robin Williams: Aladdin. Hey, we've all been there--go on a ski trip with a straight guy you're in love with, make a constant ass of yourself trying to impress him, spend 10 hours in the only movie theatre in a ski-resort town watching one movie over and over. 'Never had a friend like me' could never be so poignant. (Waggle eyebrows. Pause for laughs.)

Oh. Then there's this:

(Wait for applause.)

(Pretend there's applause. Set mic aside to indicate 'real talk' moment.)

Here's the thing about the tweet sent out by the Academy people: It's offensive. But it isn't. It is, but it isn't.

Truly, there were several people upset by the implication, which, for those just joining us, is that suicide is a form of freedom. "Suicide is a permanent solution to short-term problems," it has been said. There's something to be said for permanence! It's what Americans love most! It is what most amazes me as an American: we strive for both permanence and progress. We are all for freedom, but only if it doesn't disrupt our lives. (#Ferguson here.)

"Genie, you're free" is a.... thing. The truth is Robin Williams never got freedom. We would like to think so--we want to feel he progressed to the afterlife, or something. That his suicide released his soul, as if choking the vessel to death released the tortured, contained spirit within, and that spirit is now free to romp and roam about the galaxy, a prankster for eternity, occasionally doing a maudlin surprise attack.

"Genie, you're free" says more about us than about Robin Williams. We thought of him as the genie, which makes this Academy tweet offensive. He was our dancing monkey, our court jester, expected to be funny at all times, in all appearances.

Which, honestly, is what makes this Academy tweet so very heartbreaking. This tweet is an apology from all of Williams' fans to Williams: We didn't know. We're sorry we couldn't help. We're sorry we just waited for you to be funny, and didn't let you go into obscurity for a while to seek real help.

We'll never know why Robin Williams euphemismed himself. There are several people I know who suffer from depression, and it's a tough disease to master. The American view of progress comes off as an insult, the perception of freedom even more a tomb. In America, we pretend to search for freedom and progress, but all we want is routine--we want our comedians funny, our baristas obedient, our roads clear, and our Robin Williamses not trying to slash their wrists before wrapping belts around their necks and strangling themselves. We want our oceans clean and our cars running. We want our beer cold, our TV loud, and our homosexuals flaming.

(Pause for laughs.) 

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