Friends, fans and fellow funnymen remembered legendary comedian and actor Robin Williams, who died Monday at the age of 63 in an apparent suicide.
Williams was pronounced dead at his Marin County home after being found unconscious and not breathing around noon, officials said. His publicist said that he had been battling severe depression in recent weeks.
"It’s hard to even speak of him in the past tense because he’s such a vibrant, vibrant person," movie critic Leonard Maltin said. "So present, so immediate and his comedy was so instantaneous and immediate."
Though Williams was born in and spent his early life in Chicago, it was his participation in drama during his high school years at Redwood High in Marin County that allowed him to overcome his shyness.
"Just another high school student, as I was. You know, growing up and, going to high school. He wasn’t a celebrity of any sort," high school classmate Anna Farsi said. "When I saw him for the first time on TV, it was just, you know, wow."
Jim Dunn gave Williams his first acting role in "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" at the College of Marin before Williams attended Julliard.
"I said, 'this young kid is going to be somebody someday. Mark my words,'" Dunn said.
As Dunn predicted, shortly thereafter, Williams became "somebody" – he starred as Mork on the show "Mork & Mindy" in the late 70s and soon launched his stand-up comedy career.
"Robin used to pick up his check for 'Mork & Mindy' in his outfit, in his Nanu Nanu outfit," said comedian Pauly Shore, whose mother Mitzy Shore owns the Comedy Store, a Hollywood comedy club where Williams performed. "He used to pick up his check and do ‘Nanu Nanu’ to me."
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The Comedy Store, the Hollywood Improv and the Laugh Factory all paid tribute to Williams, having each of their marquees changed Monday to memorialize the late comedian. "Robin Williams, Rest in Peace, Make God Laugh" was written on the marquee at the Laugh Factory.
"We lost one of our members, one of (the) greatest members of (the) comedy community. And we’re all saddened. Every comedian, we are saddened," Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada said. "I (knew) him 35 years. He was one of greatest comedians of all time. He always made fun of me, that, that my accent is fake."
Williams’ comedy career spanned decades, from television and film roles to stand-up comedy tours and TV specials. As an actor, he portrayed memorable roles in both comedy and drama, winning an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Good Will Hunting.
"Robin is true genius, no doubt about it, both in comedy and in acting, and he’s going to be missed, he’s not going to be easily replaced," Hollywood Improv founder Budd Friedman said.
News of Williams’ sudden passing Monday surprised many; though he had been open about his battles with drugs and alcohol in the past, his happy-go-lucky persona seemed to outwardly mask the battles he had with his inner demons recently. After his passing, Williams’ publicist said that the Oscar-winning actor had been battling severe depression recently.
"Everyone heard about what he was going through, but you just don't know how heavy stuff is with people, and it sucks," Shore said.
A memorial was building near Williams’ star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame by Monday night, fans of all generations leaving flowers, candles, messages and movie memorabilia to honor the man that Entertainment Weekly once called "the funniest man alive."
"Four days after Saddam was captured, he performed for us at a USO show (in Iraq)," US Army veteran Christopher Mulroney said. "That five minutes I got to know him, I felt like I was part of his family."
Many entertainers and fans fortunate enough to meet Williams echoed Mulroney’s thoughts, emphasizing Williams’ kind nature and loveable spirit.
Up-and-coming comedian Adam Ray recalled the time Williams had unexpectedly shown up at the Upright Citizens Brigade improv theater and improvised with him on stage.
"I remember Robin giving me a half-hug, smiling at me with that big warm smile that only he had, and as we walked to the back of the stage, he whispered to me, 'so funny man.' I have never forgotten that moment, or the fact that he looked me in the eyes and said it," Ray said.