Chris Gethard — a comedian, writer, and host of “The Chris Gethard Show” — wrote a great piece for Vulture on “What It Was Like To Do Surprise Improv With Robin Williams.”
In his first-person essay, Gethard tells the story of when Williams showed up to the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York City, unannounced, and asked to perform in the “Asssscat” improv all-star show.
When Williams took the stage, Gethard writes, the crowd literally went wild. More so than they probably would have for any other living comedian:
“He comes onstage and I get to introduce him, and the crowd goes apeshit. This is a show that Amy Poehler does regularly, that Jason Sudeikis and Bobby Moynihan and Seth Meyers and Rachel Dratch and Horatio Sanz and so many other stars of current comedies do. And the crowd loves them. But the crowd loves seeing Robin Williams, passionately, with a connection that goes back to their childhoods…
Billy Crystal? I bet they’d be happy, but maybe a little confused. Chevy Chase? I did the same show a few times with him and the crowd was respectful, but not thrilled. With Robin Williams, they are beyond thrilled. To a crowd that loves improv, Robin Williams is like Chuck Berry. For a lot of them he is a little dated, or a guy their parents liked, or someone that they have heard the legend of but maybe never knew at his best — but when you listen to his solos and his spirit and his energy, there is no denying that he is rock and f—— roll.”
When Williams performed, Gethard says the comedy vet took to the stage “like the Tasmanian Devil” with his “let the dog off the leash” philosophy.
But off stage, Williams was much more reserved.
“At the intermission, we are in the green room, everyone jabbering a mile a minute because there is so much energy in the theatre that night. Except for Robin Williams,” writes Gethard. “He is standing quietly against a wall, a look of discomfort etched on his face.”
“Onstage, you couldn’t take your eyes off him. He was relentless. It was impossible to not feel his impact,” Gethard continues. “Offstage, he is Boo Radley — hugging the corner, hidden, uncomfortable.”
Gethard says that much of Williams’ uncomfortableness was due to a cooler full of beers backstage, taunting the then sober actor.
“And I understand that all the rumours I ever heard about his demons and struggles are true … And I realise, comedy is his drug now,” Gethard concludes. “Making other people feel better is his way of feeling better.”
Read the rest of Gethard’s story on Vulture here >
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