Robin Williams

There are certain entertainers who, over the course of their careers, dramatically influence popular culture, and one of those, without a doubt, was Robin Williams.  Yesterday, the actor was found dead in his home of a suspected suicide, at the age of 63.  The preliminary cause of death was asphyxia by hanging.  His body was found seated with a belt wrapped around his neck, and his left wrist was slashed with a pocket knife.  Over the course of his life, Williams had been battling a severe case of depression.

Mork and Mindy

Robin Williams in one of his earlier roles, Mork the alien in “Mork and Mindy”

In the 1970s, some 40 years ago, Robin Williams began his career as a stand-up comedian, performing at nightclubs while studying at the Juilliard School in New York City.  He quickly gained a reputation for his quick wit and improvisational humor.  He first became known to mainstream audiences through the popular sitcom, “Mork & Mindy”, in which he portrayed an alien who came to study Earth.  Later on in his career, Williams became known for his numerous film roles, which varied from comedic to dramatic: therapist Sean Maguire in “Good Will Hunting”, inspirational teacher John Keating in “Dead Poets Society”, the genie in the childrens’ classic “Aladdin”, radio DJ Adrian Cronauer in “Good Morning Vietnam” and Parry in “The Fisher King”.  Over the course of his long career, he won one Academy Award, and was nominated for three.

Many people, even in Hollywood, were shocked to hear about Williams’ death.  In addition to depression, Williams struggled with addiction in the past; he had a cocaine problem in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but quit after his personal friend, John Belushi, died of a drug overdose in 1982.  Back in 2006, Williams checked himself into rehab for alcoholism.  And last month, he checked himself in again, fearing that he might relapse.  No matter what, Williams kept performing, however, and by the time of his death he had three projects in post-production: the voice of a dog in the film “Absolutely Anything”, Teddy Roosevelt in a third “Night at the Museum” and a grandfather in “Merry Friggin Christmas”.  However, one of his most memorable bits is this standup routine about the origin of golf, one of my favorite pastimes: