Jimmy Fallon

“Hero,” “Idol,” “Friend”: Comedians Remember Robin Williams

In the outpouring of grief, tributes and memorials following Robin Williams’ death Monday, there were a few that particularly stood out. These messages shared personal stories about the late comedian and actor – first meetings, first impressions, first comedy albums and a touching tale by one of his friends who spoke openly about his own struggles with depression.

[NATL] Memorials for Robin Williams: The Nation Mourns

Among the tens of thousands of tweets about Williams, a string of tweets from comedian Norm Macdonald about his first meeting with "the funniest man in the world" in 140 words or less is especially touching.

"It was my first stand-up appearance on Letterman and I had to follow the funniest man in the world," Macdonald starts off by saying.

He ends by tweeting: "When he left my dressing room, I felt alone. As alone as I ever remember feeling."

And then: "Until today. Unacceptable."

Late night hosts paid tribute to Williams Tuesday, with Jimmy Fallon calling him "the Muhammad Ali of comedy."

"He was a hero to me," comedian Paul F. Tompkins wrote on Fusion.net, going into detail all the reasons why.

"One of the first comedy albums I was ever given was 'Reality... What A Concept.' I loved it. I loved 'Mork & Mindy.' I even loved Robert Altman’s 'Popeye.' Robin Williams meant a lot to me when I was a kid. I knew nothing of drug use or depression. It never occurred to me that comedians, these magical creatures that I worshiped, ever felt anything other than the serene satisfaction derived from making people laugh."

Russell Brand in The Guardian wrote one of the most poignant tributes to Williams, commenting: "Robin Williams’ divine madness will no longer disrupt the sadness of the world."

"Hidden behind his beard and kindness and compliments was a kind of awkwardness, like he was in the wrong context or element, a fallen bird on a hard floor," Brand says of his fleeting meeting with the actor.

[NATL] Remembering Robin Williams

People posted an interview with stand-up comedian and Citizen Radio host Jamie Kilsten, who talked about how Williams spent time helping him with his own problems a few months before his death.

"Robin would email and ask me how I was. I would tell him, ‘I'm having a really hard time,' and he would write, 'Can you talk?' And that night I would get a call from a blocked number. He would say, 'Tell me, man, tell me what's happening.' I was having panic attacks. I canceled gigs. I told him I couldn't do this anymore."

Kilsten said that Williams didn’t need to do anything to help him, personally or professionally. "He took me under his wing. He was so famous and wealthy and he didn't need to do any of that."

Comedian and TV show host Jim Norton described his first meeting with Williams at the Comedy Cellar in New York City back in 1998 in Time.

"None of us wanted to admit it, but Robin Williams was performing, and we were genuinely excited," he wrote.

"What struck me the most about Robin was how important it was to him that the other comedians liked him. He was always gracious to the performer he had bumped off the lineup. That first night, and during his many returns over the years, he would always come upstairs and sit with us at the "comedy table" (made famous on Louie)."

Perhaps one of the most fitting tributes came from Josh Gad, who voiced Olaf in Disney’s "Frozen." Like many of Williams’ fans, he remembers growing up watching the late actor singing and dancing in Popeye, portraying Peter Pan in Hook and bringing a genie to life in Aladdin.

"Every actor has that idol that inspires them," Gad wrote. "That makes them want to bring joy and laughter to the masses; to make people cry and think; to give people a two-hour escape from the pain of their daily lives. For me that actor was Robin Williams." 

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