I decided to become a comedian at the age of 14. At that point I didn’t know how to be one—but I was eager to learn.
One of the first things I did was visit my local Blockbuster videotape rental store. Turn right as you enter, head to the middle section directly after the really old action movies, and there would be a small series of shelves dedicated to stand up comedy specials.
My comedy masterclass all contained on analog magnetic tape.
Robin Williams had 3 specials available at my Blockbuster. They were the first ones I chose to watch. Sometimes I would question that decision because it was a bit like wanting to learn science and starting with quantum physics. I had never seen a mind work so quickly. He was a world class performer. His timing was perfect. His delivery was spot on. And he adjusted to the audience without missing a beat. He was an inspiration. I still use many of the things I learned from him in my work today. I owe a lot of my success to his teachings.
Like Mr. Williams, I suffer from the same chemical imbalance. My brain is sick and I have been struggling with that illness for many years. At one point I very nearly made the same decision he did. At the time I saw it as the only escape from my suffering. I was able to choose life and move forward, but it was not an easy choice to make by any means. I was facing a lifetime of illness. I could not leave my home. My friends had given up on me. The loneliness was unbearable. I was so incredibly tired. The exhaustion never stopped. Not even for a second.
And to me, the most disheartening reality… I could no longer perform.
The dream I had since I was 14 was no longer possible.
My anchor to this mortal coil was the love I had for my parents. The most amazing two people in my life. Their unending love and support kept me here. I feel so lucky to have that anchor. I’m so grateful to still be around.
I just want to say that I understand the choice Robin Williams made. The choice that countless others have made. I wish with all my heart that they could have chosen to keep going. But I refuse to demonize them or call them selfish for letting go.
A sick brain is one of the most formidable foes in existence. I know for many blessed with health that is difficult to understand. But I assure you this disease is dangerous and pervasive and sometimes it is fatal. Suicide is not about being selfish. It is not about having a weak will.
Your own brain deceives you. It convincingly whispers that all hope is lost. It tells you there is no way to elude the anguish. It blocks your view of all other options and makes you think there is only one method of escape. Only one solution to end this pain. It silences the logical mind that knows that there are other options. It makes you truly believe that you cannot be helped.
I think if certain people could experience this illness, if only for a moment, they might be surprised how strong people with depression actually are. Maybe they could realize how hard people fought to stay alive as long as they did. They might discover it is less of a choice and more of a battle.
To those in the throes of depression… I ask you to keep fighting. I ask you to keep living. Being on the other side of my decision I was able to gain important wisdom I wish I knew beforehand. Contentment is not being happy all of the time. It is learning to cope with the hardships in between the bits of joy. It is not taking the bits of joy for granted when they come. And contentment is still possible even with a sick brain.
If you keep going, you will feel joy again. And you will feel great sadness again. You will feel everything in between. I make no guarantees of ever achieving a perfect, happy life.
Just know that there is help. There is hope. I promise if you seek care and find a doctor your trust, they can help you work through this illness and learn to cope with it. If you put in the work, you will have bits of joy. You will have moments that make life worth living. One day you will look back and be grateful you stuck around to experience the good, no matter how hard coping with the bad may have been.
I will miss Robin Williams dearly. He was the greatest mentor I have never met. He had a beautiful brain with a tragic flaw. My hope is that his passing will bring awareness to the true nature of mental illness. That it will help relieve the stigma surrounding it. That it will inspire others to find better ways to treat it. I think that would be a most fitting tribute to a man that brought the world many a smile.
My heart is with all who have lost loved ones to depression. Giant Frogman bear-hugs to all of you.
I wrote a bit more about depression here. If you need help, it might be a good place to start.
“Years ago I learned a very cool thing about Robin Williams, and I couldn’t watch a movie of his afterward without thinking of it. I never actually booked Robin Williams for an event, but I came close enough that his office sent over his rider. For those outside of the entertainment industry, a rider lists out an artist’s specific personal and technical needs for hosting them for an event, anything from bottled water and their green room to sound and lighting requirements. You can learn a lot about a person from their rider. This is where rocks bands list their requirement for green M&Ms (which is actually a surprisingly smart thing to do). This is also where a famous environmentalist requires a large gas-guzzling private jet to fly to the event city, but then requires an electric or hybrid car to take said environmentalist to the event venue when in view of the public.
When I got Robin Williams’ rider, I was very surprised by what I found. He actually had a requirement that for every single event or film he did, the company hiring him also had to hire a certain number of homeless people and put them to work. I never watched a Robin Williams movie the same way after that. I’m sure that on his own time and with his own money, he was working with these people in need, but he’d also decided to use his clout as an entertainer to make sure that production companies and event planners also learned the value of giving people a chance to work their way back. I wonder how many production companies continued the practice into their next non-Robin Williams project, as well as how many people got a chance at a job and the pride of earning an income, even temporarily, from his actions. He was a great multiplier of his impact. Let’s hope that impact lives on without him. Thanks, Robin Williams- not just for laughs, but also for a cool example.”—Brian Lord.org (via tariella)
A short story from 20th Century Ghosts. A book you MUST buy and read.
It has been argued even trees may appear as ghosts. Reports of such manifestations are common in the literature of parapsychology. There is the famous white pine of West Belfry, Maine. It was chopped down in 1842, a towering fir with a white smooth bark like none anyone had ever seen, and with pine needles the color of brushed steel. A tea house and inn was built on the hill where it had stood. A cold spot existed in a corner of the yellow dining room, a zone of penetrating chill, the exact diameter of the white pine’s trunk. Directly above the dining room was a small bedroom, but no guest would stay the night there. Those who tried said their sleep was disturbed by the keening rush of a phantom wind, the low soft roar of air in high branches; the gusts blew papers around the room and pulled curtains down. In March, the walls bled sap.
An entire phantom wood appeared in Canaanville, Pennsylvania, for a period of twenty minutes one day, in 1959. There are photographs. It was in a new development, a neighborhood of winding roads and small, modern bungalows. Residents woke on a Sunday morning and found themselves sleeping in stands of birch that seemed to grow right from the floor of their bedrooms. Underwater hemlocks swayed and drifted in backyard swimming pools. The phenomenon extended to a nearby shopping mall. The ground floor of Sears was filled with brambles, half-price skirts hanging from the branches of Norway maples, a flock of sparrows settled on the jewelry counter, picking at pearls and gold chains.
Somehow it’s easier to imagine the ghost of a tree than it is the ghost of a man. Just think how a tree will stand for a hundred years, gorging itself on sunlight and pulling moisture from the earth, tirelessly hauling its life up out of the soil, like someone hauling a bucket up from a bottomless well. The roots of a shattered tree still drink for months after death, so used to the habit of life they can’t give it up. Something that doesn’t know it’s alive obviously can’t be expected to know when it’s dead.
After you left—not right away, but after a summer had passed—I took down the alder we used to read under, sitting together on your mother’s picnic blanket; the alder we fell asleep under that time, listening to the hum of the bees. It was old, and rotten, it had bugs in it, although new shoots still appeared on its boughs in the spring. I told myself I didn’t want it to blow down and fall into the house, even though it wasn’t leaning toward the house. But now, sometimes when I’m out there, in the wide-open of the yard, the wind will rise and shriek, tearing at my clothes. What else shrieks with it, I wonder?
“Many women, I think, resist feminism because it is an agony to be fully conscious of the brutal misogyny which permeates culture, society, and all personal relationships.”—Andrea Dworkin, Our Blood: Prophecies and Discourses on Sexual Politics (via staininyourbrain)
“Had my dream again where I’m making love, and the Olympic judges are watching. I’d nailed the compulsories, so this is it, the finals. I got a 9.8 from the Canadians, a perfect 10 from the Americans, and my mother, disguised as an East German judge, gave me a 5.6. Must have been the dismount.”—When Harry Met Sally (1989) - Dir.: Rob Reiner (via cinemasquotes)
So if we wanted to watch some French animation, what films would you suggest?
the Triplets of Bellevilleis about an elderly woman searching for her son who was kidnapped in the middle of a Tour de France race. It’s largely free of dialogue, but the sound effects and such are wonderful. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature—it lost to Finding Nemo.
A Cat in Parisis about a young girl and her cat who discover mysteries in the course of one night. It was also nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Feature, but it lost to Rango.
Persepolisis based on an autobiographical graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi about her early life in Iran. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, but it lost to Ratatouille.
the Illusionist is about an aging magician and an imaginative young girl who form a father/daughter relationship. It was also nominated for a Best Animation Oscar, but lost to Toy Story 3.
The Rabbi’s Catis a story about a cat who swallows a parrot and gains the ability to speak like a human. It is set in 1920’s Algeria.
Ernest & Celestineis the adorable story about a big bear and a little mouse who forge an unlikely friendship. It was also nominated for an Oscar in Best Animated Picture, but lost to Frozen.
Kirikou and the Sorceressis a story inspired by West African folklore that tells the story of Kirikou, a boy who was born with the ability to walk and talk, who saves his people from an evil witch. The film was popular enough to spawn sequels and a stage adaptation.
A Monster in Parisis a 3D animated musical film that is reaaaaalllly loosely based on the Phantom of the Opera. It’s set in 1910 and is about, surprisingly, a monster that lives in Paris, and his love for a young singer.
The King and the Mockingbirdis an 80’s film about a cruel king titled Charles V + III = VIII + VIII = XVI, who is obsessed with a young shepherdess, and whose attempts to capture the young girl are thwarted by a mockingbird whose wife the King had previously killed.
Those are probably the most famous of the feature length animated films.
But the animated short films are just as glorious. Here’s a compilation of a bunch of short films and I can link you to others as well.
Sorry for the long answer but I just really love French animation.