The news of beloved actor/comedian Robin Williams’ sudden death Monday sent shockwaves around the world, and in Bloomington, the loss hit members of the Comedy Attic, the heart of the town’s comedy scene, particularly hard.
Comedy Attic host Brad Wilhelm says Williams’ imprint on comedy, particularly the rise of comedy clubs, is indelible.
“Robin Williams, in his success with Mork and Mindy and that HBO special, which I think was called Live at the Met, blew that up, and all of a sudden comedy clubs popped up everywhere, there were thousands of them, that was the beginning of the big comedy boom,” Wilhelm says.
According to the Comedy Attic’s owner, Jared Thompson, the star almost came to the Comedy Attic to try out some new material in a series of surprise shows in 2010.
“Unfortunately, it never happened, I don’t know exactly what he ended up doing instead, but the fact that we were even involved in a conversation about it was just fantastic,” he says.
Williams performed at the IU Auditorium in 2009.
IU Auditorium Director Doug Booher recalled that experience, sharing many stories highlighting Williams’ kindness and generosity; one standing out in particular.
According to Booher, Williams learned of a teenage boy being treated at the IU Health Proton Therapy Center for a serious medical condition who would be attending the show that night.
The boy was a huge fan of Williams’, but due to the cost of his medical treatment, his parents were only able to get a balcony ticket for their son and one parent to accompany him.
When Williams found out about them, he arranged for the young man and his parents to sit in the front row and come backstage after the show to meet him.
“After the show, when we escorted the boy back to meet Mr. Williams. I am not sure which of them was more excited,” Booher said. “Mr. Williams and the young man shared stories of their lives, recounted favorite movie lines and roles, and even took turns impersonating Mr. Williams’ various performances. Toward the end of their visit, Mr. Williams shared some very personal insight with the boy about perseverance and his optimism for the boy’s recovery. With tears near the surface for everyone in the room, they exchanged contact information and hugs. It was truly a genuine moment that defied all of the common beliefs about celebrities, and reinforced the incredible power of laughter and love.”
The Marin County Sheriff’s Office reported today that Williams died of “asphyxia due to hanging.”
As NPR reports, Williams was suffering from depression.
He was discovered by his personal assistant in Williams’ bedroom, “unresponsive with a belt secured around his neck,” according to Marin County Sheriff’s Lt. Keith Boyd. (You can read his prepared statement here.)
As we reported yesterday, Williams’ publicist said the actor had recently been battling “severe depression.” Boyd said in the news conference Tuesday that Williams had been seeking treatment.
In July, Williams checked into rehab to maintain his long-term sobriety. His representative told the Huffington Post at the time that Williams was “simply taking the opportunity to fine-tune and focus on his continued commitment [to sobriety], of which he remains extremely proud.”
Williams had a few films in the works at the time of his death, including Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, which is set to release in December, and a sequel to Mrs. Doubtfire.
Williams was 63 years old.