August 13th, 2014
09:45 AM ET

Gilbert Gottfried: Robin Williams' Generous Heart

Editor's note: Gilbert Gottfried is a comedian and actor. Follow him on Twitter @realgilbert. Listen to his podcast, "Gilbert Gottfried's Amazing Colossal Podcast!" The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.

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It always made me laugh to hear stories about the insanity that would go on between Robin Williams and Gilbert Gottfried during the making of the movie "Aladdin." The truth was Robin and I didn't bump into each other once during the making of that film. I recorded the Parrot role, and he recorded the Genie separately. So when I saw the film for the first time at the premiere, I was able to laugh along with the rest of the audience at Robin's performance. I had never heard it before.

Where I did run into Robin quite often was in the place where he was most at home, in the comedy clubs. Robin would pop into places like Catch a Rising Star and the Improv in New York, would run onstage and just explode. I remember in particular one night, back in those days, when he was hot from his TV hit, "Mork and Mindy," and I wasn't yet well-known. I was just building a reputation in comedy circles, and I was about to go up onstage at the Improv.

I was standing in the section right outside the restroom where the comics waited to be introduced onstage. All of a sudden, the club door opened and Robin popped in. The people in charge of the club said, "OK, we're putting Robin on next." I couldn't really argue with that; he was certainly a bigger name than I was. But to my amazement, Robin told them, "I have a bunch of people in the audience tonight, and I would really like to make sure they see Gilbert first."

I went up onstage. I did quite well and as I walked offstage, Robin came up to me wiping his eyes from laughing and said to me, "Oh Gilbert, you really baked my cookies." I of course took this as a strange sexual double entendre, and I always do, but Robin meant it as a sincere compliment.

He was a fixture of the comedy club scene back then, one of the celebs who'd pop in to try out material, or in Robin's case, just burst out with any craziness that would pop into his head. But he was also generous to his fellow stand-up comedians: There were a number of times when Robin was onstage and I was at the club, and he would call out to me and invite me to play with him onstage.

Riffing with Robin Williams was extremely invigorating - and extremely exhausting. I knew I had to be on my toes every second. And when we would actually connect onstage, it was electric for me.

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