In the hours since the world learned of the death of Robin Williams, there have been a number of tributes to the legendary comedian and actor. The bench where his character counseled Matt Damon's in Good Will Hunting has become a memorial. So has his star on the Hollywood walk of fame. Fans—celebrities included—have tweeted. But some of these remembrances have been manifested in thoughtful essays from those who encountered Williams, sometimes only briefly, in their personal or profession lives. We've collected some of those here.
Slate's Dahlia Lithwick writes about watching Williams recording the audiobook of a book she had co-authored about the poetry of the terminally ill children at Paul Newman's Hole in the Wall Gang Camp:
For the few minutes that he was himself, talking to me, he was this sweet gentle, big-hearted guy. But he was happiest doing the voices. And you see this quality in everything he ever did, including an interview about his history of addiction where he only really seems happy when he is doing the British, the French, and the Italians. That sunny day while I watched him read, he was overtaken almost completely by the people he met, and the joy he packed into them—and into the characters he played—was, in some way, stolen from himself.
On Instagram, Questlove has posted a mini-essay about Williams' appreciation for The Roots:
This particular Sunday we were walking backstage and had to ride the elevator to the backstage area and we piled inside when suddenly this voice just said "questlove.....black thought....rahzel....the roots from Philadelphia!!!! That's right you walked on this elevator saying to yourself "ain't no way this old white dude knows my entire history and discography"....we laughed so hard. That NEVER happened to is before. Someone a legend acknowledged us and really knew who we were (his son put him on to us) man it was a small 2 min moment in real life but that meant the world to me at the time. Everytime I saw him afterwards he tried to top his trivia knowledge on all things Roots associated. Simply because he knew that meant everything to me.
In Time, Jim Norton discusses his experiences with Williams and comedians' personal demons:
When my mother and father met him after an Atlantic City show, Robin made it a point to spend a few minutes with them and say great things about me. My ego would love to have me believe it’s because I’m so terrific, but the reality is that Robin was smart enough to know how much it would mean to my parents to hear him saying such nice things about their son.
And it did.
Vulture has Chris Gethard's story of doing improv with Williams, though Gethard's essay really is about so much more.
Offstage, he is Boo Radley — hugging the corner, hidden, uncomfortable.
I make eye contact with him. He glances down to the floor, towards a cooler kept backstage filled with drinks for the cast. Bottles of various brands of beers jut through the ice and poke over the edge of the cooler.
“You guys sure don’t make it easy, huh?” he asks me, quietly, with a small smile on his face and a deep and real pain in his eyes. And I understand that all the rumors I ever heard about his demons and struggles are true.
Gilbert Gottfried—who, no, never interacted with Williams while making Aladdin—remembers for CNN a night with Williams, Billy Crystal, and Mel Brooks:
Robin went out of his way to tell Mel how funny I was at the benefit. He repeated some of my jokes and Mel laughed. This was once again Robin proving what a generous person he was. Later, out in the street as he got in a cab, Billy yelled to me, half-jokingly, but quite truthfully, "I guess we'll talk in another 30 years."
Alan Alda remembers hosting the Oscars with Williams, for Time:
The night that he and Jane Fonda and I hosted the Academy Awards show together, he kept coming up with outrageous jokes in the wings. But before he went out on stage, he seemed to be using me as his taste monitor. He would think of a line and say, “Is that too tasteless?” Invariably, I’d say, “Yes, it’s too tasteless,” and invariably he’d go on stage, say the line and kill with it.
A.O. Scott's appraisal in the New York Times begins with a recollection of Williams in Cannes:
The voices were not talking directly to me and they could not have belonged to anyone other than Robin Williams, who was extemporizing a monologue at least as pyrotechnically amazing as what was unfolding against the Mediterranean sky.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.