If you did not believe you were funny, you should have watched yourself react to what you did while watching your own movies. They (I have no idea who this “they” refers to, but it sounded cool when I wrote it) did not take you as seriously as they took, say, Al Pacino, but then, they never saw The World According to Garp, which was possibly your finest performance till date.
Garp, as John Irving had taught us, was to be taken seriously. And you were the Garpest of all possible Garps that had ever existed in Garposphere. It was not before yesterday, however, that I realised that being Garp was not a challenge for you: in a way you were Garp.
This is the last time I am using the name Garp in this email. I won’t be Garping about it anymore.
Sorry. This time I am serious.
But this email is not another fan mail. I guess you have received more fan mails than the number of minutes I have lived till date, so there is no point.
We did not know who you were. We knew about you. We did not know you.
When I say “we” I assume there are others.
Let us move on, then. While you were making the entire world laugh there was something else going on. Along with Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg, you had co-hosted Comic Relief’s maiden fundraiser; you were actually multitasking, rehearsing for the fundraiser, as Good Will Hunting, Patch Adams, and Deconstructing Harry released in the same year.
Let us not digress. We all laughed at your antics on screen, but as Greatbong has pointed out, we had failed to realise at the staggering number of times you have played a “morbidly lonely” character, with “morbidly” being the keyword.
Laughing is difficult. Making others laugh is difficult.
Crying is difficult as well unless you’re Sukhen Das (Tollywood alert). Making others cry is difficult as well.
Making others laugh and cry at the same time is nigh-impossible, and you were a master of that art, Robin.
Then you hanged yourself. Just like that. They said you were suffering from depression. They have already moved on after RIPping social media and mentioning how you have made them laugh and why depression is crucial.
I wonder how many of them really understood you. I wonder how many get what depression actually is.
Unless mentioned, Robin, “you” would not refer to you anymore. I am addressing goodness-knows-who from now on. When I refer to you again, I will mention.
Let me cut things short: depression is a demon; it is just that it stays inside you and it’s extremely difficult to counter what is inside you (neither Kalashnikovs nor Uday Chopra movies seem to work under such circumstances).
But depression is not just a random internal demon: it is an ogre that nobody barring you agrees to acknowledge. There are times when you will be told that depression is a state of mind that can be overcome with a flick of the thumb.
You will have to get accustomed to two kinds of reactions:
1. Depression is a luxury not anyone can afford.
2. You’re depressed because you do not have enough responsibility (which is somewhat synonymous to “an idle brain is a devil’s workshop”).
Then they move on. You feel like reaching out to them, desperately wanting them to talk to you. Then you realise that there is nothing to talk to and they are busy and you are acting dumb and they are doing you a favour but you still want them to do that favour and you realise that they are confused because you have nothing to tell them and yet you have a lot to tell and time passes by and since you get the feeling that they are getting tired of the entire thing you get into a shell that becomes impregnable with every passing day.
Once you reach that stage you do not want the others to break in. Then that shell becomes a mask. And then you realise that laughter is the most indestructible of all masks that have ever existed, for who would suspect that a man who laughs and makes others laugh can actually be the most depressed soul around?
Thus, the mask gets stronger; and harder; with every passing moment; and then, when the maggots start eating into the flesh and all you are left with is the mask. The “you” in you ceases to exist. The world never gets to know that there is no face behind the smiling mask; the fact that the mask is mocking at them; and they laugh their way to glory.
One can easily dish out statistics regarding the number of people suffering from depression at this time with some research, but it will be a futile effort: this is merely a guess, but I strongly suspect most people suffering from depression refuse to come out of the closet. They think it is a sign of weakness, and it is a widely accepted notion that being weak is being un-cool, especially for grown-ups.
Robin, I will be addressing you from now on. You may choose to ignore, though. A lone voice may easily get drowned.
When you made us laugh and cry at the same time, Robin, we thought you were acting. We thought it was the usual mask actors put on in front of the camera. We never realised that you were not. We were morons. We never realised that you never needed to act in any of the movies. Even in Patch Adams.
You were unhappy. You put up a mask. We thought it was an artificial mask. We never realised the mask was a real one. When we did realise, it was too late.
Not that it would have mattered. Depression, after all, is a luxury people with a lot of free time can afford. You are not the first, though.
Charley Case (sometimes referred to as the man who had started stand-up comedy) was an introvert off the stage, had suffered a nervous breakdown, and had died “while cleaning a revolver”.
Darrell Hammond (of Saturday Night Live fame) had memories of being brutally abused by his mother in his childhood. He attempted suicide at 19, went to rehabs following substance abuse. He also suffered from bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and borderline personality disorder. He had also tried to cut himself backstage during a Saturday Night Live episode and on another occasion had to be taken to the show directly from the psychiatric ward.
The ebullient Chris Farley (also of Saturday Night Live fame; he was also shortlisted to play the lead in A Confederacy of Dunces) was treated for obesity and drug abuse seventeen times. Seventeen. He died of cocaine and morphine overdose. He was 33.
Katt Williams (nominated Choice Comedian for Teen Choice Awards in 2007) became a marijuana addict. He went into rows with audience, and worse, missed shows, changed religion twice, and called himself a “social recluse” in an interview with New York Times. He has given up making others laugh because it conflicted with his health: he could not conceal it anymore.
You could, Robin; until you could not anymore.
Let me do something, for once, that I seldom do: quote someone else.
“Eighty percent of comedians come from a place of tragedy. They didn’t get enough love. They have to overcome their problems by making people laugh.” — Jamie Masada, owner, Laugh Factory (a comedy club based in Los Angeles).
You did not run away. You are not an escapist, Robin. You are a superhero who merely chose to move away from us. Just like Hercules. We have never deserved you.