With so many parts of the world in crisis, why should the death of an entertainer affect so many of us? Perhaps because during his 40-year career Robin Williams’ performances helped us forget the cruel world we live in.
Apart his many hit films, he was a sensational stand-up comedian. In the early 80’s he topped the bill on a Prince’s Trust Charity Performance, fresh from his TV series Mork and Mindy for which he was mainly known here. He struggled at first, sweating and looking panicky. But once the audience had attuned themselves to his manic, stream-of-consciousness delivery...boom! He got his first huge laugh and was off and running, improvising and riffing, like a veteran jazz musician.
He was also a terrific actor in straight roles - playing memorably sinister characters in both One Hour Photo and Insomnia - and his voice performance as the animated Genie in Aladdin has entertained generations.
And now he’s gone.
Looking at his career and his genius ability to create laughter, it’s almost impossible to believe that he suffered from terrible depression. But there is a small clue in his own description of comedy...“comedy is acting-out optimism”.