I just discovered all of these messages from fans on Facebook that I somehow didn’t realize were there. Call me an old man. All of your notes are so awesome and supportive and kind, I can’t thank you enough!
I got one in particular from a girl named “Fleur”. She wrote the following and when I went to reply, it said I can’t reply back.
I am a 13yo girl. I just wanted to message you to say how grateful I am to you for making me laugh when I don’t feel like it. I love collegehumor, and the videos you write/direct/act in are the funniest.
Sometimes when my life is feeling hard - when my dad is hurting me or when the people in my class are laughing at me - I like to grab my laptop, go to the library, put my earphones in and watch collegehumor until things pass over.
Thank you for making this possible. I know that if I weren’t so nervous and dysfunctional around people I would be funny like you and probably grow up to be a comedian. I might have even worked in collegehumor.
In the words of Moriarty from BBC Sherlock, ‘you were the best distraction’.
ps Please reply. You’re probably more of a asshole than I want you to be in real life, but still please acknowledge the fact that I respect you.”
Fleur, if you’re out there, here is my very delayed message back to you:
HI THANK YOU FOR YOUR MESSAGE! Is a year too late to be fashionable?
I can’t thank you enough for writing! To be called the ‘best distraction’ is probably the best compliment I’ve received as of late. So thank you thank you thank you.
I don’t know much about your home life more than what you said in your message - that kind of throw away about your dad hurting you. Well, whether its physical or mental, know that you’re not alone and that if it’s serious, there’s a lot of ways to get help. Wherever you are in the country you can always reach out to my friends at this place called Family. They help thousands of people like you who are feeling hurt and even feeling like there’s no one to turn to. They’re ALWAYS there if you need them (especially when I can’t be, k?) so give them a shout: http://familyofwoodstockinc.org
You said that if you weren’t so “nervous and dysfunctional around people” that you’d probably be a comedian. That’s cool! One of the best qualities about being a comedian is being observational, and beyond that, being self-aware. Well guess what? You recognizing those qualities in yourself is one of the integral superhuman traits of being a great comedian. Not everyone has the ability to recognize and articulate their own characteristics and you did it in two paragraphs to me. So bravo, you qualify!
Some of the biggest comedians in history are nervous and dysfunctional. You’re not alone. One of the most famous of all time was a really dysfunctional dude named Richard Pryor who made his nervous dysfunction part of his standup and he made millions of dollars and will be adored by fans forever and ever. He also did a bunch of drugs and had some bad habits which you can do without and still get the adoration, but you just gotta work at it. You called yourself “nervous and dysfunctional” and that kind of honesty in your jokes does SO much - that kind of honesty makes people laugh because it’s impactful. In a funny way, that will make even a nervous one like you brave in the eyes of others. Not a lot of people can be upfront like that and you’re doing it without even realizing it. If you want to be a comedian, hone in on what you think makes you imperfect and make light of it. You’re one of the special ones, with the ability to speak up for those of us who are nervous and dysfunctional and have no one to identify with. That relatability will make people guffaw hard and go “OH MY GOD she’s going there!” That kind of boldness is exactly what makes a great comedian and I bet you have what it takes to get there…
One of my all-time comedic heroes, Robin Williams, said that what we often perceive as imperfections are a “Buddhist gift.” In other words, it’s a blessing in disguise you are the way you are. Challenge yourself to see the good, miss!
Good luck with everything and I hope you get this message.
PS - Hope we get to meet in real life someday so you can give me the final word on the whole “asshole” thing!
I no longer have patience for certain things, not because I’ve become arrogant, but simply because I reached a point in my life where I do not want to waste more time with what displeases me or hurts me. I have no patience for cynicism, excessive criticism and demands of any nature. I lost the will to please those who do not like me, to love those who do not love me and to smile at those who do not want to smile at me. I no longer spend a single minute on those who lie or want to manipulate. I decided not to coexist anymore with pretense, hypocrisy, dishonesty and cheap praise. I do not tolerate selective erudition nor academic arrogance. I do not adjust either to popular gossiping. I hate conflict and comparisons. I believe in a world of opposites and that’s why I avoid people with rigid and inflexible personalities. In friendship I dislike the lack of loyalty and betrayal. I do not get along with those who do not know how to give a compliment or a word of encouragement. Exaggerations bore me and I have difficulty accepting those who do not like animals. And on top of everything I have no patience for anyone who does not deserve my patience.
My pleasure, thank you <3
My family has always been private about our time spent together. It was our way of keeping one thing that was ours, with a man we shared with an entire world. But now that’s gone, and I feel stripped bare. My last day with him was his birthday, and I will be forever grateful that my brothers and I got to spend that time alone with him, sharing gifts and laughter. He was always warm, even in his darkest moments. While I’ll never, ever understand how he could be loved so deeply and not find it in his heart to stay, there’s minor comfort in knowing our grief and loss, in some small way, is shared with millions. It doesn’t help the pain, but at least it’s a burden countless others now know we carry, and so many have offered to help lighten the load. Thank you for that.
To those he touched who are sending kind words, know that one of his favorite things in the world was to make you all laugh. As for those who are sending negativity, know that some small, giggling part of him is sending a flock of pigeons to your house to poop on your car. Right after you’ve had it washed. After all, he loved to laugh too…
Dad was, is and always will be one of the kindest, most generous, gentlest souls I’ve ever known, and while there are few things I know for certain right now, one of them is that not just my world, but the entire world is forever a little darker, less colorful and less full of laughter in his absence. We’ll just have to work twice as hard to fill it back up again.
I was a weird kid - pale and pudgy, wearing sweatsuits of various colors (thanks mom), always making strange noises and talking to myself in the mirror, both by myself and in the company of my action figures.
During these - lets call them “formative years” - I was sitting in Keyboarding class (that was a thing), typing something about the sly brown fox and in leaned a fellow seventh grader who took a deep sniff of my purple sweatshirt and goes, way too audibly, “You smell like pepper!” Every kid within earshot laughed, of course. Looking back, I laugh at what a weird combination of things I was: a peppery, pimpled pudge in purple. At the time, I shrugged off this virtually innocent comment, pretending not to be embarrassed as my round face went from white to red. At the time, I marched to the beat of my own drum and I was made fun of for it; bullied by guys like Rory Cash and Dan Ford and some kid named Ernie who didn’t seem to appreciate my weird jokes, funny voices, odd sounds and impromptu character work. At the time, I just let it go. I didn’t know how to respond to such a moment, defensively or otherwise.
I can’t pinpoint exactly when I discovered my role model, Robin Williams, but I have a hunch it was the one-two punch of Hook, then Mrs. Doubtfire a couple years after that. I had never seen an adult act like a kid - not since Tom Hanks in Big, anyway (and I adored Tom Hanks for a whole bunch of other reasons, but THIS was different). Robin was joy embodied; a mischievous, but sensitive superhuman with a dab of anti-authority. Between those two films I stopped, re-watched and sort of went well, THAT is what I want to do! Once adolescence hit, shit really shifted gears.
In junior high, not long after the “pepper” comment, I bonded with my mom over a last minute trip to see The Birdcage at the Hudson Valley Mall. I really liked the Mike Nichols flick (though I distinctly remember asking my mom to explain “palimony” and, really all of the park bench scene). Most of all, I remember being impressed that the man who played Peter in Hook, who was also the man who jumped around, jumped up jumped up and got down, Daniel Hillard, could also turn on the stillness (this word didn’t exist in my vocabulary but I knew what it meant) and tune the piano to play an entirely different acting note. The combination of the aforementioned with consistent, obsessive viewings of Live at the Roxy and listenings of Live at the Met are what solidified it: Robin Williams is my role model!
This was 1996, and I began to appreciate Robin for being more than a funny actor. He could do drama, comedy, cartoons, even LIVE one-man shows. My interest in this multi-talented man transitioned from intrigue to super fandom. I ordered a copy of Richard Matheson’s What Dreams May Come after losing my MIND seeing that trailer (on a side note, I’ll never forget shouting the title upstairs to my mom only for her to respond, “Wet Dreams and Cum?!” and I go “NO! WHAT. DREAMS. MAY. COME! Jesus!” She responds, “Ohhh..”). Opening day, I was first in line at the Orpheum Theatre in Saugerties, NY to see my comedic role model try his hand at a dramatic, romantic fantasy and regardless of what the critics thought, I loved every second of it.
In 9th grade, I read Andy Dougan’s biography of Robin front to back in less than 2 days. I saw myself in this man and this man in myself. I identified with Robin as a self conscious teenager, armed not with looks but with funny voices and a sense of humor. I saw this stout, hairy guy as confident, as handsome, as charming, scary, deeply emotional. This funny guy has many sides to him - sounds kind of like me! - and I took immense pride in what I thought (read) we had in common. I even dressed like Patch Adams for the better part of freshman year, down to the cargo pants and Hawaiian shirts. I wore rings like he did. I made the ::elephant sound:: and went Down Simba! all. the. time. Like him, I was a mediocre student but kind and deeply sensitive. Our moms even shared a religion. I didn’t know much about Christian Science beyond the fact that mom liked to read the lessons every month, she did take mediation and there existed in my town a Christian Science reading room, whatever that is. But I did know that he jokingly referred to his mother as a “Christian Dior Scientist.” I sent him fan mail and received a signed photograph from Dead Poets Society. I even gave my girlfriend the Pablo Neruda poem he recites in Patch Adams. “I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz, or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off. I love you as certain dark things are to be loved, in secret, between the shadow and the soul…”
Of course, every time Comedy Central would air his live specials, I would watch, only to go to school the next day and recite lines in my best Robin impression, which became my favorite to do (later, my other hero Phil Hoffman would join the repertoire until his own tragic demise.. what the fuck?). Anyway, at school, since I didn’t make friends by tossing the football around or get girls by leaning against the locker and doing Jason Priestly eyebrows, I’d say things like “The moon, like a testicle, hangs low in the sky!” and (also in reference to my dick!) “It’s kind of like an anaconda pressed up against a plate glass window, going ::help::” I made kids laugh and made friends and heard a rumor so-and-so liked me. I was self conscious about the early appearance of body hair on my arms, back and pits til kids started to compare me to Robin Williams which, I of course, took as a compliment. As a kid who struggled with weight, to hear this successful, multi-talented superhuman make jokes like, in reference to him being born: God was like, ‘what the heck, give him tits.’ I dropped my shoulders and thought to myself, Okay, it’s fine! He’s killing it, I can kill it it too! With tits!
For my 15th birthday, I got VHS copies of Good Will Hunting and The World According To Garp, which I watched probably 50 times because I was angsty and in love and I so identified with the romantic, manic mama’s boy, Garp. This was around when I started to get a jawline and grow a pair. I remember not long after, a bully approached my lunch table while sitting with the “not popular kids” and started ripping into me about my shitty haircut. Several fantasies of witty retaliation came to mind. I thought of John Leguizamo impersonating the less savory people in his life, about how cathartic that must me. I thought of the scene in Roxanne when Steve Martin gave it to the asshole in the bar for making fun of his nose. But what stuck was the image of Robin. I thought of Live at the Roxy. I thought Live at the Met. I thought Carpe Diem and I gave it right back to the kid, confidently making fun, not maliciously (Robin doesn’t go for the throat, he goes for the balls!). I jabbed the bully with a joke about his hair and a reference to Dennis Rodman (luckily Double Team just came out and everyone got the reference). Preparing myself to get punched in my oily face, the kid turned and walked the other way, speechless, as my friends laughed. Robin was the first to arm me with humor, and for that I am forever and ever grateful.
In 2002, less than a year into an acting program I was attending in NYC, I spent $120 I didn’t have on a front row seat to Robin’s one man show at BAM. I don’t remember laughing as much as I do just watching my hero on stage, in the flesh, moving and joking at the speed of light. I was just fucking enthralled. He had the whole room in the palm of his hand, from the Orthodox Jews to the young girls to the elderly New Yawkers. Everyone was dying. In the last moments of the show - this was just under a year after 9/11, Robin bows, exits the stage, and returns wearing an FDNY sweatshirt. He shook everyone’s hand in the front row, including mine. I went on to describe to everyone and their mother that shaking his hand felt like this (*cue me, grabbing your hand and tugging at my arm hair* His hand had this much hair on it!). When the lights came up, Bob Marley’s “One Love” came on as if we fans couldn’t leave the theatre happy enough. I put that song on my iPod that night and listened to it again and again.
I’m sitting here, sad out of my mind not just because the world lost a great actor, but because from thousands of miles and movies away, Robin taught me confidence and that it’s okay to be myself. He taught me to be generous and not to take shit too seriously. I looked up to Robin, as did my parents, as did my Italian Nana, as did my baby cousin, Dan - as did all of us - and now he’s gone. I’m heartbroken not just because he was my role model - he was my Hero.
Robin, thank you for helping me find confidence, for reassuring all of us to do no less than put it all out on the table - to be unafraid.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride.
One of the earliest things my son noticed—he said, “I want to be Spiderman and I want to be light skinned so I can do all the things Spiderman does.” I was in shock. I immediately started googling things for him to see, other super heroes. And Black Panther was one of those for me, which is why I was happy to voice the character in the “Black Panther” animation for BET.
Because representation matters. If a little boy sees nothing but white heroes, if a little girl sees nothing but men coming to rescue women, it affects how they see the world and themselves.
and if you hear stories like this and still complain about “forced diversity" or "enforced diversity" or write it all off as "political correctness" you are willfully ignoring the reality of people with less privilege than yourself. And that’s awful.