As the world grieves the loss of Robin Williams, one of America’s most beloved comedians, I have been thinking about laughter.
A master of finding and exaggerating the absurd, Williams’ first TV role — the wacky space alien Mork — served as a warped funhouse mirror reflection of American culture. Despite being the butt of the joke, American audiences loved him.
Over the years, he starred in films that confronted dark, divisive, political and emotionally charged topics head-on. His characters often used humor to unify, heal wounds and incite change, and we couldn’t get enough of him.
And that’s what comes to mind when I see the response to Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arınc’s opinion that women should not laugh aloud in public. Turkish women have taken over Twitter and other microblogs, publishing smiling and laughing selfies under the #direnkahkaha hashtag, which translates to “resist and laugh.”
Our industry knows that humor is one of the most difficult things to translate, but laughter unites everyone. In that way, laughter is political, and laughter heals. We need laughter — Yes, Prime Minister! — and we treasure the people who incite it.
Or, as Robin Williams said it back in 2011:
“Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, The Marx Brothers. Comedy is a great art when it works. I’ve never seen anything funnier than Eddie Murphy in The Nutty Professor, that scene at the dinner table. That alone should get an award if you are just talking about sheer funny but they are always talking about ‘well, is it meaningful?’ Well, sure it’s meaningful if you come out and you had a great laugh.”
So let’s take a moment to share a laugh, and heal.
Post your favorite Robin Williams role, joke or scene and make your colleagues laugh. Or if you’re daring and original, give us a new joke. Start with “a translator and Google Translate walked into a bar,” or take us back along your favorite “living the translator life” laughable moment.
Make it good. Deliver what’s sincere. But most importantly, crack yourself up. That’s the best way to honor the legend we all grieve.