To be a standup comic in the San Francisco Bay Area is to live in Robin Williams’ shadow. He lived here. He came up here, performing in the legendary Purple Onion and Holy City Zoo comedy clubs. Every so often, my Facebook and Twitter feeds would light up with posts reading “ROBIN WILLIAMS IS AT MY SHOW” or “Robin Williams saw my set and told me I was funny!” or simply a photo of an open miker, beaming next to a comedy demigod who looks exactly as kind in reality as he did on the big screen in his Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting “inspirational teacher roles.”

Robin_WilliamsI never met Robin Williams. Not once. I never found myself standing in a room with him, and even if I had, I doubt I would have approached him. I don’t take photos with celebrities, as a rule—it always feels self-serving and weird to me, a strange visual humblebrag that my Midwestern upbringing tells me is inappropriate. And what on earth would I have said to Robin Williams? “Hey, I’m a comedian, too, sort of. I have a day job, but someday I’m going to quit, and then I’ll be a real comedian, like you.” That, too, feels gross—if I couldn’t tell Robin Williams “I’m a comedian,” full stop, with no qualifications, then I wasn’t really a comedian. I would wait. I would become a real comedian. And I would run into him some other time, later.

I thought I had more time. We all did.

So, Robin? I’m a comedian. Thank you for so many years of laughter.

Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 3.07.17 PMDespite your enormous success in television and then in film, you never stopped doing standup comedy. You were a working standup comedian for over forty years. You never stopped because you loved it. It was obvious. It was obvious the night I heard a bootleg recording of your improvised Shakespeare for the first time. It was obvious anytime you were at a glitzy Hollywood awards show and for the few minutes you were presenting or accepting an award, the Oscars became a comedy club. It was obvious in every special you recorded, all the way up to 2009’s Weapons of Self Destruction, when you proved that nothing—not age, not a years-long struggle with substance abuse, and not even a heart attack could dull your manic genius.

It’s no secret that some of the funniest people in the world are afflicted with depression, but today I’d rather focus on how fortunate we were to have this remarkable man with us for so long. Regardless of his personal demons, he created comedy that will live on for generations, and that is something to celebrate.

Like most of you, I never met Robin Williams. Like most of you, he made me laugh many times. And like most of you, I will miss him terribly. Whether you grew up watching him on Carson, as Mork from Ork, voicing Aladdin’s friend Genie, or delivering Oscar-worthy film performances, it’s safe to say he touched your life.

Robin Williams once said “Comedy is acting out optimism.” In honor of his tremendous life and legacy, please act out some optimism today.


  1. soledad weaver
    August 12, 2014 at 4:04pm
    Ms. Anneken, thank for sharing your message with all of us who are mourning the lost of a really gifted special man. There are so many of us who will miss his bright light. You expressed what others are unable to. Be safe.
  2. Lynn Lanier
    August 12, 2014 at 4:35pm
    Kelly, you nailed it! Thanks
    August 12, 2014 at 8:11pm
    Robin was gifted with an out of this world ability to gift everyone around him with the peak experience of uncontrollable laughter. Robin was true artist, using his unique brand of irresistible 'learning for others', as his world view became our world view. And so...we say goodbye to another divine artist, whose genius goes far beyond its definition, with an obvious love for everyone and everything. Maybe, perhaps, in his next performance, he will demonstrate his irresistible love for himself. Mork calling Orsen. May I enter the Golden Gates now? Yes, seriously. No I'm not joking. I'm standing just on the other side. Look in the camera. I'm waving right here. Yes, that's me. Why is this so funny to you? No I don't have a key. What memo? I knew it couldn't be this easy. Finally I discover that, God's the greatest comedian of us all. Very funny.
  4. Brian Grant
    August 12, 2014 at 10:52pm
    The World According to Garp was a special book. I was apprehensive about "Mork" playing the role. My whole life was changed by an unbelievable portrayal by Robin Williams. His future roles were even better. I will miss him until my death. He was my favorite actor throughout my life. Namaste.
  5. Jane Collins
    August 13, 2014 at 11:40am
    One of the best and most heartfelt Robin Williams memorial blog posts I've read. Really lovely, thank you for this tribute. I watched Mrs. Doubtfire again last night and will spend the weekend hunting down my old DVD of Moscow on the Hudson. If we all keep loving his work, he's not gone, he's immortal.
  6. Marta
    August 13, 2014 at 1:35pm
    Well said Kelly. Thank you for writing this.
  7. Marybeth Wootton
    August 15, 2014 at 6:49pm
    It's consoling and reassuring to see the support for Robin Williams in the press and from the public. I've been in shock since hearing the news earlier this week, but the revelations of his life explain a lot. My own father (George Ahern) took his own life just 4 weeks ago by hanging himself in his CA home. Uncanny similarities. There was no fanfare or media. He was just a regular guy, but someone who also suffered with bipolar disorder (like Willams) and also Schizophrenia - in my Dad's case for more than 50 painful years. Please if anything - let Robin William's death, though sad and shocking, lead to a realization that the U.S. should be mindful of, and support of, treating mental illness like a real illness. People are dying just like they would with any other chronic ailment, because of bipolar disorder and other psychiatric disorders. It's obvious to me, as someone who knows and appreciates a loved one with manic depression, that much of Robin William's extraordinary talent and uniqueness is actually due to his disorder - the blessing and the curse of everyones' lives who are touched by this illness.

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