The hilarious, heartfelt career of Robin Williams

Robin Williams battled addiction and depression, and psychiatrist Kevin Hill says it\'s important to realize that those problems aren\'t character flaws but diseases. (AP Photo)

WASHINGTON – The death of Robin Williams left many of us shaken.

Suddenly, we realized how close the wisecracks were to his woes, how thin a line there was between his manic hamming for the camera and his underlying depression.

Immediately, we began asking how this was even possible.

Was it an incessant need to be liked, stemming from childhood insecurity?

Was it the financial pressure of failed marriages, draining “all the money” in “alimony,” as he once joked?

Was it the frustration of having to take weaker roles simply for a paycheck?

Or was it his recent diagnosis with Parkinson’s, bringing the daunting realization that the ultimate physical comedian could no longer control his body?

We’ll never know exactly why the world’s funniest man chose to leave us, but his tragic suicide brings a new context for his films.

If you take a good look at his face, you’ll see his smile looks out of place. In one breath, he could spoof the Vietnam War with an Elvis impersonation, “Viva, Da Nang,” but the punchline that follows “Da Nang me” is too chilling to even post here.

While we certainly mourn his loss, I’d rather take a page out of “Patch Adams,” where Williams said, “Why can’t we treat death with a certain amount of humanity and dignity, and decency, and God forbid, maybe even humor?”

Let’s spend this weekend celebrating a one-of-a-kind talent that touched millions around the world.

Tonight through next Thursday, the West End Cinema in Northwest D.C. is showing some of his best movies.

Frederick, Md., will also host a screening of “Mrs. Doubtfire” tonight along beautiful Carroll Creek.

If you can’t make it out this weekend, many of his films are also available on Video On Demand.

Check out my gallery of the Top 20 Robin Williams Roles to help you prioritize.

Then listen to the audio above for some final reflections.

Check out Jason’s Fraley Film Guide. Follow WTOP Film Critic Jason Fraley on Twitter @JFrayWTOP, read his blog The Film Spectrum, listen Friday mornings on 103.5 FM and see a full list of his stories on our “Fraley on Film” page.

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