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Robin Williams: How do you switch off a supernova?

When I found out Robin Williams had passed away, I was sure it was just another Internet hoax. I was frustrated with Facebook, that so many friends could fall so easily for what was clearly a scam. Robin Williams, dead? Impossible. If anything, Robin Williams always had too much life in him, too much energy, too much funny, too much heart. How do you switch off a supernova?

Robin Williams appears onstage during MTV's Total Request Live at the MTV Times Square Studios on April 27, 2006 in New York City.
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Robin Williams appears onstage during MTV's Total Request Live at the MTV Times Square Studios on April 27, 2006 in New York City.

Too much energy. Robin was so fast. Physically, mentally, verbally. Watch any comedy special of Robin's and you see him take off like a rocket. His comedy was cosmic, a universe of characters, swirling faster than the speed of light.

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Too much funny. Robin made everything funnier. He had a comedic gravity that pulled everything around him into a funnier orbit. He left wakes of laughter like a speedboat, constant, in all directions, as a matter of course.

Too much heart. Watching Robin on screen was like getting a big hug for your soul. He beamed love to the world like a satellite. To watch Robin was to love him — and you always felt like he — and his characters — would love you back.

And yet. And yet.

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I never got to meet Robin Williams. I would have loved to at least thank him. I think everybody would. And yet how do you begin to thank someone for a lifetime of laughs and tears and hope?

He revolutionized comedy, the comedy business, entertainment. He was successful on television, in the movies, on Broadway, in comic roles and serious roles — from Ork to Vietnam to Neverland. There were no boundaries in his comedy or his career. He was proof that you could do anything if you did it with energy and humor and heart.

One of my fondest memories from high school was watching "Robin Williams: Live on Broadway" with my best friend, Andrew, in his basement, over and over again. We had it memorized, word for word, would quote it for each other when we needed a good laugh. To this day, when I have a big show coming up, one of the last things I usually do before I leave my apartment is to watch a clip from that special. I'm particularly partial to the golf bit. I'll be honest — I haven't thought about why I do that very deeply until now. I think I do it because, as a comic, it's easy to take the joy of what we do for granted; watching Robin, however, is such a gift that it reminds you, as a comic, how lucky you are that you get to give a gift like that, too. Who knows if I'll ever be able to give the kind of gifts Robin gave, but he's always inspired me to try.

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Last night, at the Comedy Cellar, I walked by Robin William's picture in the hallway right before going up. I smiled, thinking about all he'd done and the way he's touched my life and everybody else's. And then I went on stage. Because the best way I know to honor Robin William's legacy is to do my best to pass on the laughter he gave to me and to all of us.

We'll miss you, Robin. And no thanks would ever be enough.

Commentary by stand-up comedian Harrison Greeenbaum. Described as "the hardest-working man in comedy" (TimeOut NY and the NY Daily News), "a favorite young star on the comedy scene" (New York Times), and "one of stand-up's hottest rising stars" (am New York). He's been featured on AXS.TV's "Gotham Comedy Live," National Geographic Channel's "Brain Games." and CurrentTV's "ViewPoint." He was also the warm-up comic for ABC's "Katie" and is one of Comedy Central's "Comics to Watch." He is also the winner of the Andy Kaufman Award for originality and creativity in comedy, and the winner of a Shorty Award in collaboration with Comedy Central and the New York Comedy Festival for "Best Emerging Comic." A graduate of Harvard University, he was the co-founder of Harvard's Stand-Up Comic Society (cheekily acronymized "Harvard College SUCS"). Harrison will be appearing this summer on and the CW's Masters of Illusion. For more info, visit his website (harrisongreenbaum.com) and follow him on Twitter @harrisoncomedy.

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