"Well, it's a whole different game," Williams said—but then, for his own reasons, recounted a talk show he had seen where a man confessed to adultery in front of a predominantly female studio audience. "Idiot," Williams said. "Why don't you just go bobbing for piranha? These women are screaming 'You bastard!' But the idea of being on TV overrode everything. 'Ah'm on TV, y'all.' You're a schmuck, why would you do that? 'Ah'm on tee-vee, ah'm gonna be fay-mous.' Yeah, for all of five minutes, big time."
In one two-year period, Williams made eight movies. "At one point the joke was, 'There's a movie out without you in it?" Williams said. "You have this idea that you'd better keep working otherwise people will forget. And that was dangerous. And then you realize, no, actually if you take a break people might be more interested in you."
People didn't forget.
Williams took it slowly, stopped drinking for 20 years. Until one day in Alaska. "I was in a small town where it's not the edge of the world, but you can see it from there, and then I thought: drinking. I just thought, hey, maybe drinking will help. Because I felt alone and afraid. It was that thing of working so much, and going. fuck, maybe that will help. And it was the worst thing in the world. You feel warm and kind of wonderful. And then the next thing you know, it's a problem, and you're isolated."
But near the end Williams said he was "not afraid to be unhappy," a virtue he called "the gift."
Is that manufactured sentimentality? I hope it doesn't read that way. It's real. The reaction among the deeply ironic writers of the Internet and the often numbingly trite Hollywood elite has so far been unmistakable in its earnestness and devastation. A rare moment. The Williams of endless gags and lols learned to live without irony—he made Old Dogs "just to pay the bills" and was unrepentant—and so have we tonight, if fleetingly. He took risks and said things most of us only think. For it, for taking the risks we all want to and bearing his weaknesses alongside his passion and poise, he is more than respected, he is loved.