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David Letterman’s heartfelt tribute to Robin Williams

On Monday, August 18, David Letterman dedicated a segment on “The Late Show” to remembering his old friend, Robin Williams. Robin committed suicide the previous Monday, but Letterman didn’t tape any shows that week so this was the first opportunity that he had to pay a tribute to the beloved comedian.

Robin arriving at a 'Late Show with David Letterman' taping in 2008
Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

Letterman reminisced about first seeing Robin at the club that he worked his way up, The Comedy Store. While Dave was enjoying a steady amount of sets as a rising comic there, along with Jay Leno, Elayne Boosler, and Jimmie Walker, he admitted that they would stick around to watch the new talent and hope that no one was so funny that it would hurt their chances. The night Robin debuted, Letterman watched with another comedian friend, George Miller, and immediately began to worry,

“All of a sudden he comes up on stage and you know what it is, it’s like nothing we have seen before, nothing we ever imagined before…The longer he’s on stage, the worse we feel about ourselves…I thought that’s it, they’re gonna have to put an end to show business because what can happen after this?”

Once Robin had found success in his sitcom, “Mork & Mindy”, he did open doors for his comedian friends. Williams got Letterman a role on an episode of the hit show. Dave elaborated, “Robin was kind enough to invite me to be on because he thought, why can’t I spread this around and have some of my friends share in my success.”

Williams appeared on “Late Night with David Letterman” and “Late Show with David Letterman”, a total of 50 times. Dave said that whenever Robin was a guest on his shows, two things were guaranteed to happen: Letterman was able to sit back and “watch the machine” and the ratings would go up.

After showing a cherished picture of Richard Pryor, Mitzi Shore, himself, and Robin, Dave showed many clips of Williams appearing on his shows over the years. Amongst the clips were the aforementioned “Mork & Mindy” episode and when Robin came onto the show wearing surgical scrubs after Letterman’s quintuple bypass surgery.

Letterman ended the segment with these heartfelt words: “Beyond being a very talented man, and a good friend, and a gentleman, I’m sorry like everybody else I had no idea that the man was in pain, that the man was suffering. What a guy, Robin Williams."

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