Robin Williams' Tragic Death Sheds Light on the Dark Side of Comedy


News of Robin Williams' sudden death set the world reeling on Monday.

The beloved comic was 63 years old and lost his life to a suspected suicide. He had famously battled drug and alcohol addiction in the past and just last month, Williams confirmed that he was headed back to rehab in an effort to maintain his sobriety. In a statement issued shortly after his death, Williams' publicist said, "He has been battling severe depression of late. This is a tragic and sudden loss."

Comedian Michael Ian Black called attention to the often dark world of comedy on Monday, tweeting: "We lose at least one great comic to suicide or ODs every year. Our jobs are to communicate, but we seem to not know how to ask for help."

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Williams was just one of far too many comedians dealing with demons. Chevy Chase, one of Williams' close friends, said in a statement that he also suffers from depression. "Robin and I were great friends, suffering from the same little-known disease: depression," he wrote. "I never could have expected this ending to his life, and to ours with him. God bless us all for his LIFE! I cannot believe this. I am overwhelmed with grief. What a wonderful man/boy and what a tremendous talent in the most important art of any time – comedy! I loved him."

Williams often used comedy to cope with his suffering, cracking jokes about his personal battles with addiction. Dr. Drew Pinsky tells Entertainment Tonight that "comedians often have various instances of deprivation and trauma in childhood and making people laugh, performing, becoming a celebrity is often a bid to fill that hole and make that emptiness go away. And it does in the moment, but it doesn't heal the chronic condition."

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Dick Van Dyke once said that he was "mostly drunk for 15 years." Chris Farley and John Belushi died of overdoses. In fact, Williams was reportedly with Belushi in the hours before he died of a lethal mixture of heroin and cocaine. Williams has said that Belushi's untimely death is one reason he was able to beat his own cocaine habit at the time.

In chilling, vintage footage from his hit comedy Mork & Mindy, Williams – in character as the lovable alien Mork – addresses the dark side of fame. "When you’re a celebrity, everyone wants a piece of you," he says. "You have to pay a very high price. There are responsibilities, anxieties, and to be honest, some can't take it."

To say Williams will be missed is a large understatement. Remembrances from friends, family and fans are pouring in on social media, while many have flocked to pay their respects at his Walk of Fame star in Los Angeles and at the infamous Good Will Hunting park bench in Boston. Plans for a formal funeral have not yet been made public.

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