Before his death, Robin Williams was putting on a happy face to everyone — even those to whom he was closest. The late actor's longtime friend and fellow comic, David Letterman, opened up about Williams' death on The Late Show on Monday, Aug. 18 and said he "had no idea" that Williams "was in pain."
"I guess like a lot of us, most of us, I've been thinking about Robin Williams," Letterman said of the star, who died on Aug. 11 at the age of 63. "I knew Robin for 38 years. 38 years. Which in and of itself is crazy how time…" Letterman trailed off as he started choking up.
"I met him at the Comedy Store [in Los Angeles]," the Late Show host, 67, continued of the Oscar winner. "He and I were kids… we wanted to make people laugh… In those days we were working for free drinks… It wasn't until I started the NBC version of this show… it wasn't until then that I sort of got to really know Robin Williams. He would come on to promote movies, or concerts, or whatever he was talking about, and he was always so gracious and we would talk about the old times. It was just a pleasure to know the guy. He was a gentleman and delightful."
In the days following Williams' suicide, it has since been revealed that the beloved star was in the early stages of Parkinson's and struggling with an ongoing battle with anxiety and depression. Fans and friends alike continue to comment on Williams' warm spirit even in the face of adversity.
A pal to many big-name stars, Williams got to know Letterman in his early comedic and television days.
"In the old days, he was kind enough to ask me to appear on his Mork & Mindy show," Letterman said of Williams. "Now, this is a double-edged sword. He did it only because he was trying to help other fledgling, starting-out comics. The other side of the sword is, I had no business being on that show. I can't… I have no business being on this show! But he gave me a job! And in those days, jobs were hard to come by, and there I was and I was on Mork & Mindy."
"I can remember between the dress rehearsal and the actual taping of the show, the director of the program Howard Storm comes up to me and he says, 'Well, you've been trying all week. This is your last chance.' So even to the detriment of the show, Robin was kind enough to invite me to come on because he thought, 'Why can't I spread this around and have some of my friends share in my success?' Which is exactly what he did."
Letterman later returned the favor, hosting Williams on Late Night and the Late Show.
"He was on our show, this show and the old show, a total of nearly 50 times," the talk show host explained. "Two things would happen because Robin was on the program. One, I didn't have to do anything. All I had to do was sit here and watch the machine. Two, people would watch! If they knew Robin was on the show, the viewership would go up because they wanted to see Robin. Believe me, that wasn't just true of television, I believe that was true of the kind of guy he was. People were drawn to him because of this electricity. This, whatever it was, that he radiated, that propelled him and powered him."
Letterman went on to share a vintage photo of himself with Williams, comedian and actor Richard Pryor, and Comedy Store founder Mitzi Shore — an image he said he will cherish even more now that Williams has passed. He then shared more footage of himself and Williams from the many years of their friendship.
"We put together a segment of Robin Williams' appearances, and moreover, more than anything, it will make you laugh, and really, that's what we should take from this," Letterman said. "He could make you laugh under any circumstances."
The touching montage showed clips from Letterman and Williams' interviews, jokes, and skits over the years, highlighting moments of the men laughing together, shaking hands, and clearly delighting in each other's presence."
"Oh my," an emotional Letterman said when the video came to a close. "Well, what I will add here is, beyond being a very talented man, and a good friend, and a gentleman, I'm sorry, like everybody else, I had no idea that the man was in pain, that the man was suffering. What a guy, Robin Williams."
Watch Letterman's tribute to Williams in the video above.