TIME remembrance

Joan Rivers: Why Robin Williams Was a Great Red Carpet Interview

Robin Williams Death
Bruce Glikas—FilmMagic/Getty Images

"You popped the champagne cork when you said hello to him," she says

Joan Rivers, who died on September 4 at the age of 81 after complications from throat surgery, reflected on Robin Williams the month before her death.

Joan Rivers is an authority on red carpet interviews — and the veteran comedian says Williams was one of the best celebrities to chat with, both for his candor and his zany humor. Below, Rivers reflects on his more serious roles:

“Robin was one of the great interviews. You’d see him coming down that red carpet and you knew, OK, now we’re gonna have fun. We’re not gonna hear the usual, ‘Yes, we all love each other on the set.’ The one I remember most is, I had this incredible dress, I think it was Dior, with great big gold feathers on the top, absolutely beautiful. I was looking so snappy, I thought. And he came up and did five minutes on looking for eggs in my top, because I looked like a chicken. It was fabulously insane. He made like a chicken, and was clucking, and looking for eggs. Hilarious.

He was very wild. The only one you could compare him with in terms of style was Jonathan Winters. Both of them crazy mad, going into characterizations, in and out, in and out. Such ADD. It’s like you open the capsule and everything came out, all the air came rushing out. You popped the champagne cork when you said hello to him.

He was an incredible actor. [His comedy bits] were all acting bits. They may have been funny, but he became the crazy man, he became the duck. You forget, for all the things he did, he also did Waiting for Godot on Broadway, he did Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo. I was waiting for him to do King Lear. I think he would have been great. He came from Juilliard with Patty Lupone and Christopher Reeve. That was a big class he came from. He also had a really formal upbringing. He came from an upper middle class family, very educated, very well-read, very knowledgable about everything, about literature. The references would be so amazing. Even to do Dead Poets Society, he knew what he was talking about when he was talking about the poetry. He was incredible. Everyone’s talking about the comedy, but I’m talking about The Fisher King, What Dreams May Come, Awakenings. Everyone forgets all the serious, wonderful things he did, not just Mrs. Doubtfire.

We all flew into New York to do a Richard Pryor roast, and everybody was on the dais — Don Rickles, David Brenner, Garry Shandling, All of comedy was on the dais at the Waldorf Astoria. Next to last was Robin, and he blew everybody out of the ballpark. He was so above all of us. He was incredible. Very special.”

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