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Billy Crystal Pays Tribute to Robin Williams: ‘The Brilliance Was Astounding’

At Monday’s Primetime Emmy Awards, Billy Crystal led the audience in a moving tribute for comedian and Emmy-winning actor Robin Williams, who died Aug. 11. Crystal, a life-long friend of Williams, founded and hosted the Comic Relief benefit performances with the comedian, and the two starred together in Ivan Reitman’s “Father’s Day.”

Following the ceremony’s In Memoriam segment, featuring Sara Bareilles performing Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile,” Crystal entered the stage as a photo of Williams filled the large screen of the Nokia Theatre. He told a story about his experiences with Williams doing comedy, playing baseball and attending family gatherings.

“It’s so hard to talk about him in the past because he was such a presence in all of our lives,” Crystal said. “For almost 40 years, he was the brightest star in our comedy galaxy. The brilliance was astounding, the relentless energy was thrilling.”

A montage played afterwards highlighting Williams’ comedic chops on various latenight shows and comedy specials.

Louis C.K. spoke backstage about the late actor: “He was my friend, I loved Robin very much. I grew up watching him, he was someone who worked so hard at it and was explosive with energy. He reached out to me a couple of years ago just because he was a fan of my show… I met him in San Francisco, I went to his house… he was on my show and he was a big influence on me as a person and comedically.”

Before the tribute, Allison Janney explained the significance of the green ribbons worn by some attendees. “Everyone is wearing the green ribbons for depression. I dealt with it firsthand. I lost someone dear to me. I very much want to see what he says. I know there’s not going to be a dry eye in the house.”

Kathy Bates also had a Williams memory: “When I won my Golden Globe, it was before cell phones and I asked if anyone had a quarter to call my mom. Robin stepped up and said, here’s a quarter. I never forgot that kindness. Years later, I was up for an Oscar and he had won the year before for supporting. He was giving the award for ladies. Dame Judi Dench won. He came to me on the commercial break and said, I really wish I could have read your name. Are you OK? I know what it’s like to lose. I really wanted to say, I won this time. This is for you.”

Williams starred in “Happy Days” spin-off “Mork & Mindy” from 1978 to 1982 as the eccentric extraterrestrial Mork. “Mork & Mindy” was one of Williams’ breakthrough roles, earning him an Emmy nomination for lead actor in a comedy series.

Though he mostly worked on film for the remainder of his career, Williams continued to make guest appearances on both drama and comedy series. He received two Emmy nominations for guest actor in a drama series for roles on “Homicide: Life on the Street” and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”

More recently, Williams made guest appearances on comedy series such as “Louie,” “Wilfred” and “SpongeBob SquarePants.” He starred in CBS’“The Crazy Ones” in 2013, his only other leading sitcom role, which was cancelled after one season. He also received a nod for outstanding variety, music or comedy special for 2010’s “Robin Williams: Weapons of Self Destruction.”

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