Like most of the world, we were shocked to hear of the passing of Robin Williams last night. It’s hard to crystallize all of the emotions that come when a beloved personality passes away. Shock gives way to grief and then finally reflection. There are countless tributes and eulogies celebrating Williams’ life and career all over the internet. Here, we’re going to remember the roles and memories that have touched our lives and will continue to bring joy and laughter to generations to come.
People may not have realized, but Robin Williams was a certified nerd. He was a nerd before it was cool to be a nerd in Hollywood. In fact, he had lobbied on multiple occasions to be in a Batman film (and nearly was cast several times). He also frequented the Forbidden Planet comics shop whenever he was in New York and was an avid gamer. He even starred in this Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time ad with his daughter, also named Zelda.
Recently, my wife and I had just started, rather organically, introducing our daughter to the films of Robin Williams. We didn’t plan on it, but it just kind of happened. She was already familiar with Aladdin, of course, but after a recent visit to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, we decided to look for Night at the Museum on Netflix. It wasn’t there, unfortunately, so we decided to stream Jumanji instead. A week later, we introduced her to the fantasy land of Hook.
Watching her discover these movies for the first time reminded me of my own childhood and watching Williams in Mork & Mindy and Popeye. I remember thinking, just the other day while she was watching Hook and asking if she’d recognized Peter from Jumanji (to which she replied, “duh, of course Dad!”). She said he was funny and was looking forward to watching more of his movies.
Fortunately, she’s only getting started. For her, there is a treasure trove of great films waiting to be discovered. For the rest of us, at least we have the memories.
Speaking of which, here are some of the Nerds sharing their favorite Robin Williams memories.
Patrick: I grew up watching him with my parents and loved this amazing neurotic man. His characters were timeless and filled with beauty and flaws, much like the man himself. A true genius that we should all aspire to… but also a reminder that we should love each other and that we all have our own secret problems. Rest in peace, Robin. Thanks for the tears, the smiles, and the laughter.
Alice: There’s a photo of me somewhere of me trying to wiggle my ears as I said “Nanu, nanu.” Mork & Mindy really captured my imagination as a kid, and he’s had such a prolific career. Really loved him in The Fisher King.
Eric: The “funny man” was pure dramatic genius in Good Will Hunting. My favorite work of his and a well deserved Oscar. RIP Robin Williams.
Trish: My favorite Robin Williams role was as the genie in Aladdin. I was 12, and my father had just bought me the Aladdin cassette tape soundtrack. I knew every song by heart, and Robin’s voice always made me smile. It was a happy time in my life thanks to him, and I’ll never forget it. The world has lost a wonderful, brilliant man. He brought laughter to many lives, young and old, when they needed it the most. May he rest in peace.
Jamal Igle: I met Robin Williams at Forbidden Planet on 59th street back in 1987. I wasn’t an employee at the time, I was just a 14 year old high school student. We were told not to bother him while he was shopping, and we were very respectful. As I was standing at the toy rack, I sort of muttered to myself “My mom would never believe I met Robin Williams.” Suddenly he leans next to my face from behind and just says “Why not?” It was a thrill for me, one that I’ve never forgotten. His death has hit me very hard, just like it did when Freddie Mercury died. Robin had been a part of my pop culture world almost my entire life. He was unique and won’t ever be replaced.
LaShawn: I liked most of Robin Williams’ movies, but I would always remember him best as Mork. My cousins and I watched that show religiously. The best and weirdest episode was where Mork starts to shrink, and he shrinks so much that he winds up in an alternate universe.
Sadness. RIP, Robin. Thank you sir for the laughs.
Rodrigo: He made being weird and nerdy fun and acceptable and created space for others to be themselves. Mental health is no joke. Patch Adams and the healing power of laughter was one of my favorites. I use it daily.
We encourage everyone — not just those of us feeling vulnerable — to check out these resources, compiled by The DART Center:
Active Minds empowers students to speak openly about mental health in order to educate others and encourage help-seeking
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is the leading national not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide through research, education and advocacy, and to reaching out to people with mental disorders and those impacted by suicide.
The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network strives to assure that each member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.
IMPACT: The LGBT Health & Development Program’s mission is to conduct translational research taht improves the health of sexual minority people and to increase understand of hte development of sexual orientation and gender identity.
The International Association for Suicide Prevention is dedicated to preventing suicidal behavior, alleviating its effects and providing a forum for academics, mental health professionals, crisis workers, volunteers and suicide survivors.
The Jed Foundation’s mission is to promote emotional health and prevent suicide among college and university students.
The Suicide Prevention Resource Center is the nation’s only federally supported resource center devoted to advancing the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention.
The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth.
Dante Basco — who famously starred as Rufio opposite Williams’ Peter Pan in Hook — wrote this moving tribute on his personal website. Part of which is excerpted below:
But I just want to bid a sorrowful farewell to one of the greatest I’ve been able to work with and be around and I’ll always remember my time with you as some of the greatest moments in my life… and just like the rest of the world, I’ll remember you with joy and laughter.
O’ Captain! My Captain! See you in Neverland…