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CMU senior finds passion for comedy after loss of childhood best friend

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While Jalen Robinson was transferring from Kellogg Community College to Central Michigan University in 2018, his childhood best friend committed suicide which left him broken.

“When the whole thing went down, I kind of felt like the world was calm,” Robinson said. “I felt like I had nothing left.” 

The Detroit senior said the two were so close that they referred to themselves as cousins. Even their families were intertwined by their friendship, sharing in grief after his death. 

“We were always with each other every day,” Robinson said. “When that happened, it tore everybody apart, not only his family. It tore our family apart because he was like family to us.” 

Robinson was playing basketball for Kellogg when his friend died. He said the sport was a way for him to cope with his loss. After an injury in Spring 2018, he found himself needing another outlet to process his feelings. 

In February 2020, Robinson began uploading comedy videos to his Instagram as a new way of dedicating both his energy and grief. 

“That made me strive to do funny stuff because you never know who's having a bad day and not,” Robinson said. “I just want people to come to my videos, be able to watch it, and then just laugh and get whatever’s on their mind off their mind.” 

Robinson had found comedy and made it his new outlet. Now, Robinson is known as an influencer on TikTok and Instagram by the handle @jrobdarcel, where he frequently posts short comedy videos for his almost 540,000 followers.  

In January, Robinson decided to start using TikTok for posting content, gaining almost 80,000 followers by March. At the time, his goal was to get 500,000 followers before he would consider himself “big.” 

Robinson has now surpassed his goal with well over 500,000 fans who watch his TikTok content. He said he often gets comments from viewers telling him he is an inspiration to them. 

Tragically, he said, his longtime friend is not among the list of subscribers. 

“What if I’d done comedy before then?” Robinson said, “What if he had watched my videos and maybe felt a little better? That’s what I kind of think about when other people reach out to me and say how I’m an inspiration to them, it makes me think of him.” 

Robinson has learned a lot about himself and the silent battles other people face over the past year. During a time period of widespread stress and anxiety, awareness of mental health issues is as important as ever, Robinson said. 

“(Mental health issues) need to be more noticed. There’s a lot of people that deal with self-harm, drug addiction — and it’s all mental," Robinson said. "I just feel like that stuff needs to be addressed more. If somebody knows that somebody’s going through that stuff, they shouldn’t just sit back and let it happen, they should go and be there for them.”

Even though they spent a lot of time together, Robinson said his friend never showed any signs of depression or suicidal tendencies.

“On the outside, he was always happy,” Robinson said. “I never asked him what was up, what was wrong because he always seemed happy, but I didn’t know that he was really hurting on the inside. I didn’t know what it was — why he was hurting.”