Friends and family of Robin Williams gathered in New York City on Wednesday night to honor the late comedian and to mark the opening of a new acting center that bears his name.
“I think of him as my brother,” said Whoopi Goldberg, who partnered with Williams and Billy Crystal on a series of Comic Relief fundraising specials. “He was my big brother and the funniest person that I knew, and anybody that dared to be as free as he did, has a shot to be as good as he was. That’s the legacy. He dares you to be as good if you can be as free.”
Goldberg was joined at the event by Crystal, as well as Hank Azaria, Bonnie Hunt, Carol Kane, Marlo Thomas, Phil Donahue, and Barry Levinson, who directed Williams to an Oscar nomination in “Good Morning, Vietnam.”
Crystal told reporters that the occasion was a bittersweet one. He noted that that the center, which is sponsored by the SAG-AFTRA foundation, will offer free educational programming to more than 40,000 performers.
“We miss him terribly, but I think his spirit will live on through the building,” Crystal said.
Bob Balaban co-starred with Williams in 1999’s “Jakob the Liar,” and came away impressed by the actor’s generosity to his fans.
“The people that would come up to him on the street, they mattered to him,” Balaban said. “He treated all human beings like human beings and as simple and obvious as that seems, not everybody’s quite able to do that. “
Goldberg couldn’t recall how she came to be involved in Comic Relief, but she said that the experience was even looser and funnier than what viewers saw at home.
“They had to cut a lot of stuff out,” Goldberg said. “A lot of stuff we couldn’t show.”