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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  1. During his career, he starred as a voice actor in several animated films. His voice role as the Genie in the animated, musical fantasy film, Aladdin (1992) was written specifically for Williams. The film’s directors stated that they took a risk by writing the role, and successfully convinced him to take it.Williams continued to provide voices in other animated films..

  2. Cinda White says:

    I know it has been almost a month since we lost this dear man, and then yesterday Joan Rivers. Laughter has truly dimmed, but with Robin Williams, the loss feels like a family member, and I am having trouble finding meaning in this loss. He brought so much to all he touched, that I simply pray there is a way that he is no longer suffering and is aware of the love and hearts that he touched . He is legend, and will never truly die. Heaven must be filled with laughter with the two of them there. May God bless them and their families.

  3. Andy wild says:

    tryed watching a Robin Williams move yesterday could not watch it just was not ready to watch one of his movies at this time

  4. John Pieri says:

    This makes me cry all over.:(

  5. Andy wild says:

    god the world seams so different with him gone the world has lost a great one when it comes his art of being a comic who loved to make others laugh and brighten there day in doing so the world a lot darker with out Robin Williams we will miss you Robin rest in peace

  6. Candi says:

    Still like I just got the news. I grew up with him and thru all his characters. It will be awhile before I can think of him with out crying. He’s action has opened my eyes to seeking help about my own depression. Thank you Robin

  7. Karena says:

    I wonder how long it will be before I can think of him without my eyes misting. He is missed by millions, yet he gave the impression that he was talking to each of them as if they were the only person that mattered.

  8. Sharon says:

    Robin will be missed. He was one of the greatest actor. No one will be able to replace him. He’s looking down at us all, but is surely making everyone upstairs laugh. Loved by all

  9. Hadel says:

    Reblogged this on Hadel.

  10. Brian Dyak says:

    Thank you Allison Janney for mentioning the green ribbon to celebrate mental wellness and bring attention to depression, Robin Williams will be celebrated for being a phenomenal talent well into the future.

  11. Loved him. He is missed.

  12. Mellie says:

    My heart just ached. It was the only thing really worth watching in the whole show.

  13. Brent Tomkins says:

    Just shows you how far we’ve come as a society when this draws ONE response but Sarah Silverman showing her pot pipe draws 87 replies. Great tribute btw.

  14. CGM says:

    It was a touching tribute. I wouldn’t have expected anything less from Billy Crystal, his own brand of classy.

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