When I was a young girl, I told my parents I wanted to go to clown school instead of going to university. “We are not spending your education savings on that,” they would retort.
As responsible parents, they’d warn me that making it in show business is like winning the lottery: the chances of landing a gig lucrative enough to make a career of it are extremely slim. Plus, what societal value did entertainers bring in comparison to doctors, judges and engineers?
Clowns are no doctors, saving lives. They don’t rescue people from burning buildings (except maybe in a skit involving one of those giant rescue trampolines a group frantic clumsy clowns pull from one side to another trying to get the positioning just right), they don’t broker important business deals, pen legislation or discover a cure to cancer.
“Oh, but they do save lives,” I’d insist. “If it weren’t for clowns to make us laugh, all the doctors, lawyers and the rest of us would become miserable and want to die. And if they die, who’s there to save lives?”
“You’re still not going to Clown College.”
Ok, so maybe university was a better choice for me, but still. Today is the first time I post on my blog in over a year, for a reason. The news of Robin Williams’ passing was received so emotionally, by me, by millions, that I suddenly feel compelled to share this conviction that I’ve kept in the back of my mind and the bottom of my heart since childhood.
Comedy is important. Laughter helps us digest life’s hardships and comedy lets us process the world around us in a less threatening way. You may not win a Nobel Prize, or be seen as the smartest guy in the room, but dedicating your life to bringing the world joy, laughter and beauty is a noble pursuit.
To me, one of the most tragic aspects of Robin Williams’ death is the fact that a man who has brought so much joy and lightheartedness into the lives of others, became so ill that he failed to see enough joy in his own life.
With his passing, I’m reminded that the younger me was on to something. Laughter is valuable, the clown is noble, and those who dedicate themselves to comedy are serving society in a very important way. And I’m not just thinking of internationally renowned comedians. I’m thinking of the friendly bus drivers I’ve met who make me smile each and every time I board their bus, or the doctor who greeted me with a joke before a scary procedure.
Take the time to make others laugh. You may be surprised by how big of an impact you have on their day, whether you see it or not.
Robin Williams, you may have succumbed to depression, but it is your beaming smile that I’ll remember. RIP.