by Anura Guruge
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When I was living in San Francisco in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I had some clients who were also my friends who were standup comedians. I would frequently hang out with them in the various comedy clubs throughout San Francisco, and spent a lot of time in the green room backstage with a number of comedians, many of whom went on to be quite famous.
At one particular club, ‘The Holy City Zoo‘ that was located out in the avenues in San Francisco, on many Sunday nights at around 9:00 to 9:30 p.m., Robin Williams used to show up unscheduled, and whoever the headliner was for that night would simply step aside and have Robin alone on stage where he would proceed to do 45 minutes to an hour of his unbelievable and extremely energetic standup comedy.
A lot of people would come to the club on Sunday nights knowing that there was a chance Robin would show up. On a few occasions, I was backstage in the green room when Robin came there and had the opportunity to spend some time with him and hang out with him and a number of comedians. Usually, I would be the only non-comic in the group.
One night he and several other comedians were hanging around backstage, and he and the others were going crazy laughing, joking, and doing parts of their routines, with Robin being Robin. The phone started ringing with no one answering it, and finally someone working at the club yelled out and asked if someone would pick up the phone. Since I was the one closest to the desk, I walked over and answered the phone. This was of course in the days before everyone had a cell phone.
I said hello, and the voice on the other end asked if Robin was there. I held the receiver down and yelled to him that he had a phone call. He asked, “who is it?” I asked the caller, “who’s calling please?” and the voice said, “ his wife.” I said, “it’s your wife.” I watched as Robin went from his zany, warm smile, to a very somber and serious face in an instant, almost as if someone had flipped a switch and turned off one mood and turned on the other. Robin came and took the phone from me and then proceeded to cup his hand over the phone and talk very quietly into it. I walked away to give him privacy.
Another time, he and Jay Leno, and my friends, Tim Bedore and Jack Wright, went out to ‘The American Music Hall‘ in San Francisco to watch a comedian who was a friend of all these guys. I forget who the comic was. I sat at that table while Robin drank soda water with lime since he was clean and sober at that time, and had an amazing time while Jay and Robin and the other comedians heckled the guy on stage. The audience loved it, and we all had a great time.
I will never forget these nights and the few times I had the pleasure of being around Robin Williams. Everything I have been hearing about him in the news describing what a warmhearted and talented guy and wonderful person he was all ring true for me having had a small opportunity to see it firsthand.
I do not know whether any of this would be of any interest to anyone, or even if it would be appropriate that I share it publicly. However, feel free to talk about it as you like on your blog or otherwise. It is just nice to be able to be a person who can share a story about Robin Williams.