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.”

More TV

  • Love Island - Pictured: Kyra Green,

    Profits and Revenues Slide, but Are ‘Better Than Expected,’ Says ITV

    ITV revenues and profits were in negative territory in the first half of the year, but CEO Carolyn McCall said the results were better than expected. The boss of Britain’s largest commercial broadcaster had previously said 2019 was partly about mitigating losses for the company, as major advertisers brace for Brexit. “The economic and political environment [...]

  • Harley Quinn DC Universe

    4 Things We Learned at TCA 2019: Day 1

    The 2019 Television Critics Association summer press tour kicked off on Tuesday with presentations from DC Universe, A+E Networks, and Nat Geo. DC Universe, the DC-branded streaming service, brought their adult animated series based on “Harley Quinn,” while A+E brought along a range of projects from across their portfolio. It was also announced that A+E [...]

  • The Boys Amazon Prime

    TV News Roundup: Amazon Drops 'The Boys' Final Trailer (Watch)

    In today’s roundup, USA releases the trailer for the second season of “The Purge” and Amazon drops the final trailer before “The Boys” launches.  RENEWALS Viceland has renewed the pro wrestling docu-series “Dark Side of the Ring” for a second season. The upcoming season will feature 10 hour-long episodes chronicling the lives of wrestlers inside [...]

  • WGA West Logo

    WGA West Unveils Candidates for Election That Reflects Discord Over Agency Campaign

    The WGA West has unveiled the slate of candidates for officer posts and board seats in the election that reflects the divisions among members over the guild’s handling of the campaign to reform its rules governing talent agents. Scribes Phyllis Nagy (“Carol”) and William Schmidt (“Yellowstone”) are set to challenge David Goodman for the president’s [...]

  • The Code CBS

    'The Code' Canceled After One Season on CBS

    Freshman military drama “The Code” is officially done at CBS. The news comes just one day after the show’s season finale, which will now serve as the show’s series finale. “Thank you to all you wonderful people who watched [‘The Code’],” series star Dana Delany wrote on Twitter. “Last night was our finale and sadly, [...]

  • Matt Tolmach'Venom' film premiere, Arrivals, Los

    Amazon to Develop Human IPO Series With Matt Tolmach Producing

    Amazon is developing a series inspired by the true story of a man who sold shares of himself to investors, Variety has learned. In a competitive situation, Amazon has landed the project, titled “JNNA.” It is described as a half-hour comedy about the next big investment craze — humans. It is inspired by Mike Merrill, [...]

  • Olympics

    NBCUniversal Projects More Than $1.2 Billion in Ad Sales for 2020 Olympics

    NBCUniversal projected it would sell more than $1.2 billion in advertising for its 17 days of broadcasts of the 2020 Olympics from Tokyo, citing the event as a rare opportunity for Madison Avenue to reach big audiences without the worry of politics getting in the way of a commercial message. The Olympics is “one of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content