Robin Williams was a talk show host’s dream — just welcome him to the stage and Williams would take care of the rest.
Williams died on Monday of a suspected suicide at age 63. The news was shocking to many, although Williams talked openly about his decades-long struggle with addiction; yet in public, he was always such a blur of joyful, electric energy.
Of the many stages he appeared on, however, the talk show setting brought out something especially delightful in him. Maybe it was the weirdly intimate yet very public setting, or the urge to impress a fellow comedian behind the desk, or to make the studio audience roar. Either way, it was always a big deal when Williams’ name was on the guest list, because you knew you were in for a treat.
He would stand up, jump around, do impressions, try out different accents, and barely let the host get a word in edgewise. No one seemed to mind. Williams made Johnny Carson double over with laughter and the reserved David Letterman cackle loudly. Conan O’Brien could barely catch his breath. YouTube is packed with clips of Williams’ late-night appearances; here are 11 of the best.
“Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson”: His first appearance on the late-night show.
“Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson”: Williams goes on an incredible — and darkly funny — riff about his drug addiction. The two engage in a fascinating conversation about cocaine use.
“The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson”: An amazing 11 minutes of Williams at his manic best.
“Late Night With David Letterman”: In the “Mrs. Doubtfire” era, Letterman kicks things off noting Williams’ crazy colorful clothes. Williams jokes that his multi-colored tie is from the lovely “DNA Collection.”
“The Ellen DeGeneres Show”: A truly hysterical 2013 appearance where Williams and Ellen play a quick game of charades.
“Jimmy Kimmel Live!”: Williams talks about popping into random improv classes in Los Angeles, just for fun.
“Late Night with David Letterman”: Williams banters about his kids in this classic Dave interview.
“Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson”: Ever want to see Williams gallop on a giant costumed horse? Here you go.
“Jimmy Kimmel Live”: Williams helps former “Good Will Hunting” co-star Matt Damon fill in after Damon “kidnapped” Jimmy Kimmel and took over his show for a night.
“Late Night With Conan O’Brien”: Williams and Conan always had a great rapport — Conan tries to tell Williams a story about meeting him on “Saturday Night Live” years ago and Williams keeps interrupting.
“The Tonight Show With Jay Leno”: Jay can’t even keep up with Williams rapid topic-switching.