Friday, August 15, 2014

Nanu Nanu

It’s hard to try to write something funny while the world is still reeling from the suicide of Robin Williams, for several reasons:
  1. It seems too soon.
  2. Robin Williams was the consummate funny man. Anything funny written about him just invites comparison.
  3. If you try to be funny, a slew of armchair therapists will conclude that your humor is a cover for your basic self-loathing and suicidal depression.
Ignoring the fact that psychotherapy is basically an armchair sport anyway, let’s consider the man’s work. A few months ago, the annual Tony Award presentation show included a clip from the Broadway incarnation of Disney’s Aladdin. Unfortunately, that excerpt really only emphasized why some movies should not be adapted for the stage. Apart from missing the magical quality of Disney’s animation, the performance of the song “Friend Like Me” really suffered without the frenzied craziness of Williams’ rendition. Genie was, in some ways, the perfect Robin Williams role. The fact that he improvised much of it demonstrates this.

A few years ago, we saw Williams in the title role of A Bengal Tiger in a Baghdad Zoo on Broadway. Williams had certainly played non-comedic roles before, but this one, on stage, seemed like a major shift. And in my experience, actors who take on roles way outside their usual spheres are trying to prove something.

Consider Marilyn Monroe in The Prince and the Showgirl or The Misfits. Or Tom Hanks in … well, almost anything since Bosom Buddies. Or Mickey Mouse in Mickey’s Christmas Carol. These actors were all trying to demonstrate their versatility ... to show that they had more than sex appeal or silliness or whatever Mickey Mouse has.

Well, here I am, trying to be an armchair therapist. And it’s too soon. This is not funny. Bad Tech Curmudgeon! Bad!

1 comment:

Bill Costa said...

"Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem." is a common platitude on the subject. My guess is that if somebody said this to Robin, his reply would be that the problem was far from temporary.