America’s greatest Jester leaves us with the ultimate life lesson.

Some people remember exactly where they were when JFK was killed, or when the planes hit the towers.

I remember exactly where I was when Robin Williams first made me laugh.

I was ten, and downstairs in my den, PJs on, wood fire burning on a nippy New England night, watching reruns of Happy Days when in walked an alien guest star named Mork.

I didn’t know what the heck this guy was.  But I knew he was funny.

He kept me and the rest of the world laughing for decades, with one man specials on HBO and movies like Aladdin and Mrs. Doubtfire (“It was a run-by fruiting!”).  When Johnny Carson handpicked his final two guests for his last Tonight Show, Williams was one of them.  Because Johnny knew Williams would keep America and Johnny himself, smiling on a very somber night.

And then, while we were still recovering from his last punchline, he’d pivot better than Michael Jordan, and give us an AwakeningsDead Poets Society, and, of course, his Oscar winning, Good Will Hunting.  

Because he was an actor.  And a fantastic one.  He trained at Julliard for a year before busting out (what classroom could hold that talent?) and making his way onto stand-up stages.  I was so glad to see him return to Broadway for Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo years ago.  And I had hoped he’d be back again soon.

But he won’t be back.  Because yesterday he took off his Jester’s cap, and, according to early reports, took his own life.

It’s always sad when anyone that has had a positive effect on so many lives dies.  But for some crazy reason, it’s even harder when it’s someone who in their public life was almost always laughing.  That’s what we remember.  That’s what I remember from when I was ten years old!

But there’s something we should must learn from this, especially those of us in the entertainment industry who dream every day about a career trajectory like Mr. Williams’.  Money, fame, super-stardom . . . a freekin’ Oscar for goodness sake . . . those things can’t make you happy.  In fact, in some cases, they might do more harm than good.  Take care of yourself first and your career second.

I don’t think anyone could get me laughing today after this tragic loss.  Well, that’s not true.  Ironically, there’s only one man that can.

And he appeared in this Happy Days episode.


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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.