ROBIN WILLIAMS

Regular readers may recall that a fortnight ago this column put the spotlight on mental health and depression, with a particular focus on the fact that comedians are particularly vulnerable to mental fragility.

There was nothing particularly topical about what I had to say, but it seems that recent events have now put it all in even clearer perspective.

ROBIN WILLIAMS 1951 -2014

With so many parts of the word in crisis, why should the death of an entertainer affect so many of us?

Perhaps because during his 40-year career Robin Williams’ performances  helped us forget the cruel world we live in.

Apart his many hit films, he was a sensational stand-up comedian.

In the early ‘80s he topped the bill on a Prince’s Trust Charity Performance, fresh from his TV series “Mork and Mindy” – the television platform which provided his springboard here in the UK.

He struggled at first, sweating and looking panicky. But, once the audience had tuned in to his manic, stream-of-consciousness delivery, it was BOOM!

He got his first huge laugh and was off and running, improvising and riffing like a veteran jazz musician.

He was also a terrific actor in straight roles – playing memorably sinister characters in both “One Hour Photo” and “Insomnia” –  and his voice performance as the animated Genie in “Aladdin” has entertained generations.

And now he’s gone.

Looking at his career and his genius ability to create laughter, it’s almost impossible to believe that he suffered from terrible depression.

But there is a small clue in his own description of comedy:

“Comedy is acting-out optimism”.