The Two Times I Met Robin Williams

I was working The 2012 Comedy Awards at the Hammerstein Ballroom, and I was just a PA. This was my second job in New York, and only my third job in television. The producers knew I was a stand-up and that I was taking classes at UCB, so they put me backstage and had me transport the award trophies back and forth across stage between categories (because the awards were not engraved yet.) I guess they figured comics would feel more comfortable with me.

About halfway through the show, the stage manager walks over and says “Robin Williams is about to come over and hold until they announce him for the Icon award. He’ll be here for about 20 minutes. Keep him occupied.” Within a few moments, Robin was standing next to me and watching the show on an offstage monitor. I said “I’m Justin.” He said “I’m Robin.” And we proceeded to watch the monitor. I kept quiet and professional. But then after a moment, there was a segment on the show where several cast members from the show “Happy Endings” were doing some sort of a bit with puppies. One of the cast members was dressed in a very revealing dress. Low cut. Short skirt. Very revealing. Then came Robin … and from this very quiet and content man came a “Ho … Guess she left the rest of her dress at home.” I chuckled a bit. “The puppies are wearing more clothes.” I responded. He laughed a bit. We then went back and forth riffing on the next 15 minutes of the show in front of that monitor. We had to stop each other from laughing too loud. I asked him if he was nervous. He said “A little. But I just hope Patton is nice to me.” (Patton Oswalt introduced him. He was kind.) Just as Patton announced him, he turned and thanked me for standing with him. And then asked “You’re a comic aren’t you?” I said yes. He asked my name again, then reminded me … he was Robin.

There, from backstage, I watched him walk to Patton Oswalt and collect his “Icon Lifetime Achievement Award.” As I watched one of my current stand-up heroes give my childhood idol an award … something funny happened. A chin landed on my shoulder. Then there was a voice in my ear. It said “Don’t turn around or we’ll be kissing.” I jumped out of my skin and turned around to find my self looking into the face of Jim Carrey. “Hi. I’m Jim.” He said. “I saw you talking to Robin and you seemed like fun.” Jim then proceeded to riff about Robin while looking at the same monitor. He even tried his “I should have gotten an icon award … I worked my ass off on that penguin movie” bit that he performed introducing the cast of Bridesmaids. I laughed.

Robin thanked the audience finally for his award and then made his way offstage. It was frantic but so cool. As he walked past me, the show photographer took several pictures. A now hiding Jim Carrey wrapped him up in a huge bear hug from behind and playfully erupted with “IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN ME!” Out of surprise Robin yelped and then said “Is that Jimmy?!” He turned around, faced is would be attacker smiled and gave him an even bigger hug. It was astounding to me. Seeing how much love these people I looked up to had for each other. Which I wasn’t used to, coming from a few stand-up scenes where so many people were so aggressive and cynical and bitter. To see giants who loved each other made me adore comedy even more. “Have you met Justin?” Robin asked Jim. “He’s funny.”

The next time I saw him, about a year later, when I asked for a photo outside of the Comedy Cellar, he remembered me. He laughed a bit about the ladies dress again when I reminded him. He was so so kind. He was gracious. Still soft spoken. Still very humble. And although then and there, just like backstage, he treated me like a peer, like another comic. He was still my hero.

I just want my hero back.