Billy Crystal’s beautiful tribute to his good friend Robin Williams. Rest in peace. <3
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 onstage. I mean, 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 okay.
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 Franciscoes.” So he was a little lost in the conversation, so I got an idea and I said, “You know, Tim, we have a great Russian baseball player with us.” I looked over, his eyes got all bright, his ears perked up like he was a little dog that was inside all day and the master came and said, “Hey, you want to go for a walk?” So I said, “What’s baseball like in Russia?” Without missing a beat, he said, “Well, we’ve only got one team: the Reds.” Well, the next pitch, the batter fouled one off and it came screaming back at us, we ducked down, it slammed against the wall. Robin turned around and bounced it into his hands, and then he stood up and screamed, “I love America. I’m going to 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 kind 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, “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.”
Well, as genius as he was onstage, 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 the comedy galaxy. But while some of the brightest of our celestial bodies are actually extinct now, their energy long since cooled, but miraculously, 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 it’ll make you think to yourselves: Robin Williams, what a concept.