When laughter dies: Robin Williams’ tragic end belies his amazing gift

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Most people mourning the death of comedian Robin Williams after his apparent suicide Monday have never met him. Yet millions felt a profound connection to the 63-year-old Oscar-winning actor since he jumped from television screens as the free-associating space alien on “Mork & Mindy” in 1978.

Though Mr. Williams was a gifted comic who seemed to possess boundless energy, a razor-sharp gift for absurdist and unscripted repartee, mimicry and an empathetic sense of humor that was never mean-spirited, he was as acclaimed for his dramatic roles as his comic riffs.

“Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a ... Peter Pan, and everything in between,” President Barack Obama said in a tribute shortly after learning of Mr. Williams’ death. “But he was one of a kind. He arrived in our lives as an alien — but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit. He made us laugh. He made us cry. He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most — from our troops stationed abroad to the marginalized on our own streets.”

Despite nearly four decades of making the world laugh from platforms provided by Hollywood, television, comedy clubs and stages, Mr. Williams reportedly was haunted by depression. Years of sobriety eventually gave way. In his final days, one of today’s greatest and best-known entertainers apparently succumbed to despair.

He will be remembered not for the pain of his demise, but for the gift of laughter he imparted to the world. There will be tears for Robin Williams the clown, but let them be tears of joy and gratitude for his immense talent.

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