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Word of Mouth

Robin Williams: The Most Iconic American Clown


In the wake of Robin Williams' death, we spoke to freelance writer Leigh Cowart about her recent experience at a clown convention. After the interview she shared her perspective on Robin Williams, a man whose humor and compassion had the power to bring so many people out of the depths. 

Virginia asked her about the notion of the sad clown, always underlying the comedy with something tragic. Leigh spoke about some of the most famous clowns--Barry Lubin known as Grandma the Clown, Robert Grimaldi, the father of the clown white face--and being shocked at the tragedy and incredible sadness in their lives.

The idea that the people who need to laugh the most, who are least at home with their thoughts, least at home with who they are...for whatever reason are so compelled to alleviate that in others. I think it's a really...it's born out of such compassion.

Leigh also mentioned that she thinks Robin Williams was the "the most iconic American clown." She said: "It seems like a cruel irony that someone capable of spreading that kind of joy, maybe wouldn't be able to give it to themselves."

He made it okay for people for generations to laugh at themselves through him. He was never afraid to make his pain, and his experiences, alleviate some of the ache of our own.
Credit By U.S. Marines Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Luis P. Valdespino Jr (Released) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Comedian Robin Williams performs for military men and women as part of a United Service Organization (USO) show on board Camp Phoenix.

Cowart was working on an article about Williams when we spoke with her that reveals her own very personal struggle with depression. You can read it now at Buzzfeed, "Robin Williams and the Dark Art of Laughing at My Demons." 

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