Robin Williams’ death by apparent suicide yesterday left the comedy world visibly shaken, and tributes to the world’s favorite funny uncle continue to pour in—both from people who worked with Williams and those who grew up in his furry, formidable shadow.
Among the unfortunately timed first to comment, Conan O’Brien, co-host Andy Richter, and guest Will Arnett ended the taping of a Conan episode yesterday afternoon by sharing the news with their audience and offering their condolences to Williams’ family.
Williams was known for his compassion and generosity towards young comedians, and Norm MacDonald shared a touching story on Twitter about the first time he appeared on The Late Show With David Letterman and the kindness Williams showed him backstage. The whole thing is worth reading, though this is how it ends:
Williams’ young co-stars also shared their memories, describing him as a warm, uplifting presence who positively impacted everyone on set. Dante Basco, who played Rufio in Hook, said, “I can’t help feeling like it’s the death of my childhood” on his blog. Mara Wilson, who made her film debut opposite Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire, simply said, “Very sad, very upset, very glad I did not have to hear about this though Twitter.”
But Williams’ influence was felt far beyond those who worked with him; Paul F. Tompkins described growing up with Williams’ comedy and his lasting influence in in a heartfelt post on Fusion:
Robin Williams will live on in shadows and light and sound, at least. He will continue to comfort weird little kids (and odd adults, for that matter) with his performances, those who know his work today and those who have yet to be born, who may experience him ten, fifty, a hundred years from now. But this is cold comfort indeed.
Other comedians shared their memories of Williams and the way he impacted their lives and careers, sometimes up close, sometimes from afar:
President Obama even chimed in with a tribute that was a reflection on the immense nature of Williams’ impact, and the first time in history a sitting president has used the word “bangarang” in an official statement. (That probably would have made Williams laugh.)
“Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan, and everything in between. But he was one of a kind. He arrived in our lives as an alien – but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit. He made us laugh. He made us cry. He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most – from our troops stationed abroad to the marginalized on our own streets. The Obama family offers our condolences to Robin’s family, his friends, and everyone who found their voice and their verse thanks to Robin Williams.”
Meanwhile, an impromptu memorial has already sprung up to Williams at the bench featured in Good Will Hunting on the Boston Common, and more are sure to appear as fans process this unexpected, tragic news.