25 August 2014, Nokia Theatre, Los Angeles, USA
Billy Crystal’s tribute to Robin Williams during the 66th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards.
He made us laugh. Hard. Every time you saw him. On television, movies, nightclubs, arenas, hospitals, homeless shelters, for our troops overseas and even in a dying girl’s living room for her last wish. He made us laugh, big time.
I spent many happy hours with Robin on stage. The brilliance was astounding, the relentless energy was kind of thrilling. I used to think that if I could just put a saddle on him and stay on for eight seconds I was going to do ok.
Robin, Whoopi and I were once in Shea Stadium in the broadcast booth with the great Tim McCarver. It was Comic Relief Day for the New York Mets. Robin knew nothing about baseball. I asked him, ‘What’s your favorite team and he said, ‘the San Franciscos.’ So he was a little lost in the conversation, so I got an idea and said, ‘You know, Tim we got a great Russian baseball player with us.’ I looked over to him and his eyes got all bright, his ears perked up like he was like a little dog that was inside all day and the master said, ‘Hey, you wanna go for a walk?’
So I said, ‘What’s baseball like in Russia?’ Without missing a beat he said, ‘Well, we only have one team. The Reds.’ The next pitch, the batter fouled one off and it came screaming back at us, we ducked down and it slammed against the wall. Robin turned around, it bounced into his hand, he stood up and he screamed, ‘I love America! I’m gonna defect!’
He could be funny anywhere. We were such close friends. He would come to all of our great family functions—weddings, bar mitzvahs, that type of thing. He would sit with my older immigrant relatives like he was one of the guys and he would tell them about his journey from his little shtetl in Poland to America. One uncle of mine said to him, ‘I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked. And Robin said, ‘I waited until there was a 747 and a Kosher meal.’
As genius as he was on stage, he was the greatest friend you could ever imagine—supportive, protective, loving. It’s very hard to talk about him in the past because he was so present in all of our lives.
For almost 40 years he was the brightest star in a comedy galaxy. But while some of the brightest of our celestial bodies are actually extinct now, their energy long since cooled.
But miraculously, since because they float in the heavens so far away from us now, their beautiful light will continue to shine on us forever. And the glow will be so bright, it’ll warm your heart, it’ll make your eyes glisten and you’ll think to yourselves, ‘Robin Williams— what a concept.’