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Lewis Black Remembers Robin Williams: He Was “On Another Level”

Robin Williams Death
Lewis Black and Robin Williams Kevin Winter—Getty Images

Williams was as smart as he was funny, the comic says

Contrary to popular belief, Robin Williams, who died Monday at the age of 63, wasn’t “always on” and going a mile a minute. But comedian Lewis Black says Williams’ ability to jump from one topic to another was unparalleled among his peers. Here, Black remembers Williams as an endlessly giving and energetic person:

“I had met him before, but I really got to know him when we went on two USO [United Service Organization] tours together [in the late 2000s], and spent time with him on the film Man of the Year.

The first thing was: I got on a plane with him, and he was reading a book which was a history of Iraq. He sat there and talked about it for 35 minutes, going through the history of Iraq with us. That’s astonishing. I thought, this guy is kind of brilliant. He was a really bright guy who may have had a photographic memory.

[Trying to figure out how he does what he does] is like standing in front of a hurricane and going, gee, I wonder how that happened.

He wasn’t someone who was always on. It’s very much a misconception.

There were jokes of his that made me laugh hard, but it was the going from one thing to another, making those connections. It’s like how you watch an improv group take suggestions. It was like Robin had the most brilliant audience inside his head throwing out suggestions, because he would put combinations together that were just crazy. And how he could work out of the moment. That working out of the moment is a gift, but he did it on another level.

[On the USO tours], the amount of energy he brought when we would get off of a helicopter and walk towards the troops — the amount of energy he gave to them was unbelievable. It was really incredible to be in that kind of giving presence. I was exhausted. We’re going from place to place, he can’t give enough to them, and I’m trying to think, ‘Where can I take a nap?’ It was inspiring. Wherever we’d land, until the point where we would leave, he’d be talking to them — and not just going off, but being straight with them. I adored him. If you look at the outpouring that’s gone on, that someone of his stature would come to see them was kind of amazing to them.

It’s proof again that the good die young, and pricks live forever. He’s gonna be missed. There’s a hole, and it’s gonna take a long time to be filled.”

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