Two weeks later, we're still mourning the loss of comedy giant Robin Williams. And there was nobody on earth better suited to pay tribute to Williams at this year's Emmys than his longtime friend and frequent co-star Billy Crystal.
Crystal's speech remembering Williams was so heartfelt, so funny, so damn good that we thought we'd just reprint the speech in full below. (Get a box of Kleenex ready.)
"He made us laugh. Hard. Every time you saw him. On television and in movies, nightclubs, arenas, hospitals, homeless shelters, for our troops overseas and even in a dying girl's living room, to honor her last wish. He made us laugh."
"I spent many happy hours onstage with Robin. His brilliance was stunning; the relentless energy breathtaking. I felt like if I could throw a saddle on him and stay on for eight seconds, I was doing great."
"Robin, Whoopi, and I were in the broadcast booth on Comic Relief day at a New York Mets game with the great Tim McCarver. Robin knew nothing about baseball. I asked him who his favorite team was, and he said, 'The San Franciscos.'"
"He was a little lost in the conversation, so I got an idea, turned to him and said, 'We have a Russian baseball player with us.' His eyes got all bright; his ears perked up. It was like he was a little dog that was inside all day and the master came and said, 'Hey, do you want to go for a walk?' I said, 'What's baseball like in Russia?' Without missing a beat, he said, 'We only have one team: The Reds.'"
"The ball came screaming at us; we ducked down, it went screaming into the wall. The ball bounced back into Robin's hands. He yelled, 'I love America! I'm going to defect.'"
"He could be funny anywhere. Often at my family functions, he would sit with my older immigrant relatives like he was one of the guys, and he would tell them about his journey from his little village in Poland to America. One uncle of mine said he came to America after World War II and hitchhiked. Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'"
"As genius as he was on stage, he was the greatest friend you could ever imagine: supportive, protective, loving. It's very hard to talk about him in the past because he was so present in our lives. For almost 40 years, he was the brightest star in the comedy galaxy. But while some of the brightest of celestial bodies are actually extinct, their molten energy long since cooled, miraculously, because they float in the heavens so far away from us now, their beautiful light will shine on us forever. And the glow will be so bright, it will warm your heart and make your eyes glisten, and you'll think to yourselves: Robin Williams… what a concept."
Check out footage from that Mets game:
Following Crystal's speech, the Emmys broadcast cut to a montage of Robin's greatest hits, including his manic debut on The Tonight Show back in 1981, darting back and forth in front of the cameras while Johnny Carson guffawed in the background.
Crystal's friendship with Williams dates back decades, to when both were aspiring stand-up comedians in the 1970s. The two teamed up with Whoopi Goldberg to raise nearly $50 million for homeless charities with HBO's Comic Relief telethons in the '80s and starred together in the 1997 comedy Father's Day. (Crystal and Williams even appeared in an episode of Friends that year to promote the film.)
"We felt we needed to do something powerful and memorable," Emmys executive producer Don Mischer told E! News last week. "Billy seemed like the perfect choice."
The day Williams died, Crystal's only reaction was a brief, poignant tweet:
But we're glad he finally found the words to celebrate his lifelong friend.
- Billy Crystal