There Was Only One Way Billy Crystal Could Think of to Honor Robin Williams — To Cosplay as a Giant Penis

In an exclusive excerpt from his new book, legendary comedy producer George Schlatter writes, ‘When we asked Billy to do the tribute show, he said that he would, but he would like to appear as a phallus’
There Was Only One Way Billy Crystal Could Think of to Honor Robin Williams — To Cosplay as a Giant Penis

Not many comedy icons can say they might be responsible for Richard Nixon’s presidential election. Then again, there aren’t many show biz mavericks like George Schlatter, larger-than-life producer of the groundbreaking Laugh-In (where Nixon notoriously invited America to “sock it to me”) and countless other comedy/variety series and specials. In his new book, Still Laughing: A Life in Comedy, Schlatter breathlessly spins tales about Frank Sinatra, Milton Berle (yes, it’s even bigger than they say), Redd Foxx, Cher, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy and George Carlin, among other comedy legends. 

If someone made you laugh in the past 50 years, odds are good that Schlatter has a story about them. In this exclusive excerpt from Still Laughing, Schlatter remembers Billy Crystal’s extremely phallic tribute to his pal Robin Williams

Click right here to get the best of Cracked sent to your inbox.

* * * * *

In addition to producing events aimed at making money for yours truly, I’ve done a lot of charity events helping raise money for causes big and small. One year the people at American Cinematheque asked me to produce the night they were honoring Robin Williams. Now booking guests for this was a piece of cake because everybody loved Robin, but instead of the normal presentational-type show, I decided to do a dais of all comics: Johnny Carson, Billy Crystal, Chevy Chase, Martin Mull and eight more of the best and really outrageous stand-up comics of the day.

I felt that the best way to keep the evening from getting out-of-control would be to have the show hosted by a very dignified person with an unquestionable reputation who would be greatly respected and play the straight man. Someone who would keep the train running and at the same time wouldn’t get in the way of the comics and their “funny” by trying to be funny. So naturally I pursued Michael Eisner, who agreed to host the evening. When you want “not funny,” Michael is your man. But I knew he would want to be prepared, so to make him feel at ease I told him I would write some remarks for him as introductions. When we got to the Century Plaza Hotel, I gave him a stack of cards introducing each one of the comics in a very straight, lighthearted, but not “jokey,” fashion. Mr. Eisner explained to me that he would read the cards; however, first he had some jokes he wanted to do. And then he reminded me he was funny.

Note: Whenever someone tells you they are funny, they are not. Especially executives whose staff laughs when they say “good morning.” And when the staff says, “He’s really funny, you should see him when he loosens his tie,” I have two words for you: Al Gore.

Back to Eisner. I begged him to not do jokes. I said, “Michael, you are onstage with a dozen killer professional comedians who would like nothing better than to have you do jokes and be able to comment on both you and your jokes in this environment.” He explained to me that he knew a lot about comedy and to trust him, it would just be wonderful.

The evening started out with the lawyer for the American Cinematheque explaining that he could not tell people yet what their goals were or what their accomplishments had been, but he promised they would announce them next year. For the time being, all they needed was a lot more money. That had a certain numbing effect on the crowd. Bottom line, the lawyer was human Ambien. And he was the opener for the comedy genius of Michael Eisner and his jokes.

As Eisner tried and failed to get a single laugh, I watched this killers’ row of comics take the notes that we had carefully worked on for their performance, put them in their pockets, take out pencils and paper and begin to write Eisner jokes.

Chevy Chase opened by asking Michael if it would be okay if he peed on his suit — and that was the high point, taste-wise, of the evening. Which brings me to Mr. Happy. A videotape had been put together about Robin’s career and his preoccupation with Mr. Happy. Then the plan was for Billy Crystal to appear onstage. When we asked Billy to do the show, he said that he would, but he would like to appear as a phallus. A cock. A dick. A prick. A penis. That’s right, he wanted to come out as Mr. Happy. When I told Billy we might not be able to have his penis device built, he made it clear his participation depended entirely on coming onstage as Mr. Happy.

So I called my friend Ret Turner, who worked closely with Bob Mackie and Ray Aghayan. We’re talking about the most brilliant, respected costume designers in the world. I explained to him that I needed a favor. His immediate response was they were all busy building an entire show for Vegas, plus they were doing a television series and a new line of clothes, and it would be impossible for them to accept any new assignment. But when I explained to him that Billy Crystal wanted to pay tribute to Robin Williams dressed as a dick, he said, “We’ll be right over.”

An hour later they arrived with a drawing of a Mr. Happy costume device. It was awe-inspiring. The next three weeks were spent with Billy Crystal going to an endless number of fittings for his penis costume. Cher never went for as many fittings. Mitzi Gaynor and Carol Burnett, added up, never went to as many fittings. Let’s be honest, you don’t want the wrong-sized penis. Plus, Billy is Jewish, so it needed some trimming by a rabbi. However, eventually, the device was completed. It did, indeed, look quite real, and it did have a piece of monofilament rigged so that when Billy pulled it, the device would enlarge and become erect — much like the device many men over 60 used before Viagra.

A lovely, sweet, delightful, clean, wholesome, young woman by the name of Pam Dawber, who was Mindy to Robin’s Mork, did a nice piece introducing Billy, who came out wearing the device, smoking a cigar, and announcing that he was Mr. Happy. It was hilarious. And according to people who have seen Milton Berle, life-sized. I never was asked to do an American Cinematheque event again.

Postscript: After Billy came home from a fitting wearing the device, he walked through the living room, and his children were playing on the floor in front of the television set. They barely noticed him, but his youngest daughter looked up, saw him wearing his obscene hat, and said, “Hi, dad, are you working with Robin again?” and went back to watching television.

Scroll down for the next article
Forgot Password?