Robin Williams: Great moments as a guest and on stage
Robin Williams never just relegated himself to his official film and television work and, especially recently, spoiled audiences with his delightful, exuberant charisma in a variety of venues. Whether it was a talk show appearance, an official comedy special, a Richard Pryor roast, a USO tour, a Reddit AMA, or a heartfelt interview with James Lipton or Marc Maron, Williams gave his all to each occasion.
Below are 16 essential moments. Be warned, there’s some salty language—but if you love Williams, you already knew that.
An Evening with Robin Williams (1982)
In his greatest and least hinged stand-up special, the Bay Area native returned to San Francisco, donned a Hawaiian shirt, and unleashed 80 minutes of hyperkinetic comedy flavored with bleakly hilarious confessionalism. (“Cocaine is God’s way of saying you’re making too much money!”) —Darren Franich
WTF with Marc Maron (2010)
It’s not hard to figure out why this is one of Maron’s most popular episodes. Both comedians discuss addiction, heart surgery, divorce, and jealousy in a candid, essential interview.
Richard Pryor roast (1977)
Still a young, up-and-coming comedian, Williams boldly participated in a roast of the venerable Richard Pryor. It was of course, out of admiration and led to a role on Pryor’s variety series. Williams would later say: “Richard Pryor is an alchemist who can turn the darkest pain into the deepest comedy. [He] doesn’t go for the jugular—he goes straight for the aorta.”
Saturday Night Live as Ronald Reagan (1986)
“You say Iran, I say Iraq, let’s call the whole thing a deal.”
Inside the Actors Studio (2001)
Williams takes a pink scarf and shows the audience just how many characters he can seamlessly embody with one silly prop.
Robin Williams: Weapons of Self Destruction (2009)
In Williams’ last HBO special, he gets into healthcare and heart surgery at DAR Constitution Hall.
70th Academy Awards (1998) After three nominations, Williams finally took home an acting Oscar for his performance in Good Will Hunting. He’s emotional, over-the-moon excited, and, though he jokes that he’s “uncharacteristically speechless,” witty as always.
Robin Williams on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1981) His first appearance on The Tonight Show, Williams gives a veritable stand up-worthy performance just chatting with Johnny Carson, who’s in stitches for most of the interview.
Carson also requested that Williams be the final comedian to appear on his show before he retired in 1992. It’s a classic.
Reddit AMA (2013) Williams reveals his favorite celebrity to impersonate (“Oh my god, Jack Nicholson. He once was with me at a benefit and leaned over and said, ‘Even oysters have enemies.’ In a very intense voice. I responded with ‘Increase your dosage.'”) and his favorite impersonation of himself (“Dana Carvey does my personal favorite impression of myself. It’s accurate. And kind.”).
Jimmy Kimmel Live! (2013)
Williams helps his Good Will Hunting co-star and perpetual Jimmy Kimmel target Matt Damon come up with some jokes.
A young Williams plays an exuberant cowboy opposite Cindy Williams, showing off his trademark energy.
Singing with Billy Crystal at Comic Relief IV (1994)
Williams, Billy Crystal, and Whoopi Goldberg hosted a series of telethons for the charity organization Comic Relief, Inc. Sometimes, they would even sing and dance.
Robin Williams: Live on Broadway (2002)
A comedy special of its time, Williams talks religion, anthrax, and the Bush administration.
USO performance at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait (2007)
Williams became a staple on the modern USO circuit, but this Kuwait appearance is perhaps his most memorable because of an ever-so-slightly unexpected moment in the middle of the performance.