Celebs (And A Gorilla) On Meeting Robin Williams For The First Time

Robin makes a strong first impression.
Celebs (And A Gorilla) On Meeting Robin Williams For The First Time

Meeting the late comedian Robin Williams was a little like meeting a tornado -- powerful, unpredictable, and a little bit dangerous.  And just like encountering a whirlwind, it was likely an experience you’d never forget.  Here are four celebrities who had memorable first meetings with the manic comic.

Norm MacDonald

When Norm was an unknown comic from Canada, he booked his first appearance on David Letterman’s old show.  When Williams passed away, Norm shared a story in a series of tweets about being terrified in his dressing room before meeting the funniest man in the world.

I was on the phone to a friend back home when the funniest man in the world ambled by. There was no one else on the floor. In shock, I told my friend who just walked by. Only the funniest man in the world. I guess he heard me say his name, cause in an instant he was at my side. 

He was a jewish tailor, taking my measurements. He went down on his knees, asked which way I dressed. I told my friend on the phone that the funniest man in the world was on his knees before me, measuring my inseam. 

My friend didn't believe me so I said, "Could you talk to my friend, sir. The funniest man in the world took the phone and for ten minutes took my friend's chinese food order. 

I laughed and laughed and it was like I was in a dream because no one else was there. No one. 

The place was out of Moo Shoo Pork, and there was nothing he could do about it. He angrily hung up on my friend and I was about to thank him when he said I hadn't even tried the jacket on. 

Then the funniest man on earth dressed me, a complete stranger, and i remember he ended with a windsor knot. He spoke mostly yiddish, but when he finished he was happy with his job and turned me to a mirror to present myself to me.No one witnessed any of this. No one.

Suit provided by Robin Williams of Hollywood.

The funniest man alive was in my dressing room a good half-hour and was far funnier than the set I had to do soon.When he left my dressing room, I felt alone. As alone as I ever remember feeling. Until today. Unacceptable. #RIPRobinWilliams — Norm Macdonald (@normmacdonald) August 12, 2014

Mila Kunis

Kunis was still starring in That 70s Show when she found herself working with Robin Williams on a movie.  On their first day, he asked her name -- she told him it was Mila.  He knew her from the sitcom and offered some advice:

Remember this moment. Remember this because things like this don’t happen very often. Remember this time.”

Kunis found Williams to be one of the kindest, wettest celebs ever.

“Having somebody of Robin Williams’ stature tell me to just acknowledge something meant so much,” Kunis told Esquire. “He didn’t mentor me. He just said, ‘Step back and appreciate this. You’re having an amazing time.’ I was so nervous. And he said, “Relax. And don’t forget to enjoy yourself because things like this don’t happen to everyone.’”

David Letterman

Seeing Robin Williams for the first time nearly made Letterman quit comedy.  He’d only recently arrived in Los Angeles from Indiana when he and friend/comic George Miller saw Robin playing the Comedy Store.  It almost made him get back in the truck and go home.

“We were just guys who stood behind the microphone and told jokes,” Letterman says. “Robin comes in, and my memory of him is that he actually flew in—the energy gave one the impression that he was levitating. He seemed to be hovering above the stage and the tables and the bar. George and I would discuss Robin Williams endlessly, like, What did we just see? How did he do it? Because he didn’t seem to have an act. And George and I would think, well, now, does that mean things have changed and we should leave the business?”

Laughter is the best medicine, next to a quintuple bypass.

In 2000, after Letterman’s quintuple-bypass surgery, Williams was his only choice for his first guest upon return. After a frenzied bit involving surgical gloves, Williams told the host, “it’s just nice to have you back.” 

“That’ll wear off,” Letterman said. 

Koko the Gorilla

When Williams met Koko, a gorilla fluent in American Sign Language, they “shared something extraordinary - laughter.

Happy ending: Koko didn't rip Robin's face off.

Somehow, their 2001 meeting turned into a ticklefest, resulting in an explosion of human and simian giggles. Koko even appeared to recognize Williams from videos she had in her living space. 

When Koko learned of Williams’ passing in 2014, she became very sad, according  to Dr. Penny Patterson, Koko’s mentor. “Robin’s ability to just ‘hang out’ with Koko, a gorilla, and in minutes become one of her closest friends, was extraordinary and unforgettable.

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Top image: HBO


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