Robin Williams made me cry. Like his mentor, the late Jonathan Winters, Williams, who committed suicide Monday, made me laugh so intensely tears would come to my eyes.
Williams' death made headlines and led TV newscasts. His comedic genius diverted us from stories about terrorism and other sadness in the world. That's what comedy does. It makes us forget our troubles -- national, international and personal -- and for a moment, embrace happiness.
Williams, who seemed full of joy on the outside, was apparently tormented on the inside. He suffered from clinical depression. An estimated 19 million Americans suffer from depression, according to the Mayo Clinicwebsite. He may have tried to conquer it in the '70s and '80s by self-medicating with cocaine, but the drug, while creating an intense high, is often followed quickly by "intense depression," according to the Foundation for a Drug-Free World.
Many people misunderstand clinical depression. They think because someone has wealth and fame, or circumstances better than others, they should be happy, or at least content.
Robin Williams wasn't normal. While he made others laugh -- and in his serious roles, such as that of Sean Maguire in "Good Will Hunting," for which he won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, conveyed profound and timeless virtues -- he was deeply troubled. Ironically, his part in this film was that of a psychologist.
President Obama referred to Williams' numerous and diverse film roles: "Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny ... and everything in between. But he was one of a kind." Indeed.
Rolling Stone magazine reported; "Last month, Williams checked himself into a rehab facility to 'fine-tune and focus on his continued commitment, of which he remains extremely proud,' his rep said at the time."
I asked Dave Berg, the former co-producer of "The Tonight Show," for his greatest memory of Williams, who appeared on the show many times with Jay Leno. He sent this email:
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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