Monday, August 11, was a sad day for the world when we lost comedic genius/brilliant actor, Robin Williams due to suicide. Williams had been a favorite of late night talk shows since the days when he was a sitcom actor in his breakthrough role on "Mork & Mindy". He would make the job so easy for the hosts of the shows because of his manic riffing style with many characters thrown into the mix. His numerous appearances with Johnny Carson and David Letterman in the early days were always very exciting, fresh, and helped cement Robin's status as a comedy legend. He subsequently appeared as a guest in just about every late night talk show there was, and amazed everyone with his outrageously quick wit.
The only late night host that had the chance to say anything on their show Monday night was Conan O'Brien. David Letterman, Craig Ferguson, Jimmy Kimmel, Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert are off this week. Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers tape their shows on the east coast and by the time the news was out, their shows were already recorded for the night. It was only during "Conan" that there was a true fresh reaction. O'Brien, Andy Richter, and Will Arnett, who was a guest that night, found out just before the show was done taping. After the last commercial break, the three were obviously shocked and saddened. He announced that he just received the news that Williams passed away and apologized to be the one to break it to his studio audience. Conan, Andy, and Will had all worked with Robin before and discussed the fact that not only was he immensely funny, but exceptionally sweet and generous. Conan was profound during his brief tribute:
"This is absolutely shocking and horrifying, and so upsetting on every level...We're just processing this information literally right at this moment and so we are thinking of Robin's family, we're thinking of everybody who he touched around the world throughout his life. We're thinking about Robin tonight...God bless Robin Williams".
On Tuesday's episode of "Conan", he went into more detail about Robin's generosity. After calling Robin the best talk show guest ever, Conan recalled that when he was in a deep depression after having lost "The Tonight Show", Williams sent him a gift- a bicycle. O'Brien described it as the most absurd bicycle he's ever seen and Andy said it looked like something out of a Mardi Gras parade. It was bright orange and green, with shamrocks covering it. O'Brien only knew Williams on a professional level at that point and called him to offer thanks. Robin was proud of how ridiculous it looked and how silly Conan would look riding it. O'Brien still appreciates the gesture every time he sees the bike. Then he went on to show a few clips of Robin on his shows over the years.
Seth Meyers reminisced about Robin on "Late Night" Tuesday. He talked about growing up and being influenced by his movies and comedy albums. Seth offered his and his staff's heartfelt condolences to his family. Meyers went on to say, "The saddest part of this was that Robin was battling depression. If there's anything we can do to honor his memory, I hope it would be to use this opportunity to educate ourselves more about this terrible affliction. I just want to say that we miss Robin, but we're also very lucky to have had him at all. Thank you Robin Williams."
Jimmy Fallon had trouble trying to get through his tribute on Tuesday's "Tonight Show" without crying hard. Fallon described him as one-of-a kind and broke into a wonderful impression of Williams quickly morphing from character to character. He then showed a clip of Robin's first ever "Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" appearance from 1981 that had him cracking up Johnny with his manic characterizations and interactions with the audience and crew. Jimmy ended the segment by standing on his desk and quoting the end of "Dead Poets Society" Walt Whitman's words, "O Captain, My Captain" and adding, "You will be missed."
The late night talk show appearances of Robin Williams featured many of the moments when he shone the brightest. R.I.P., Mr Williams, and thank you.