Robin Williams' spirit remained very much alive tonight at the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards.
Just two weeks to the day after the revered comedian, Oscar winner and star of screens big and small ended his own life, Billy Crystal took the stage at Los Angeles' Nokia Theatre to preside over a stand-alone tribute to his longtime friend and frequent colleague.
"He made us laugh, hard, any time you saw him," began Crystal, who in addition to hosting a number of Comic Relief benefit specials over the years with Williams and Whoopi Goldberg also starred with him in the 1997 comedy Father's Day.
Crystal told a couple of stories about his great fellow comedian, including one about how Williams would come to major Crystal family functions, put on a foreign accent and kibitz with the old-timers about a journey to the States from his little village in Europe that was entirely fictional but that he made sound entirely believable.
The tribute concluded with a short montage of hilarious Williams moments, and then the screen faded to black and the broadcast transitioned into a commercial.
Producers of all the big award shows have been rightfully wary since last year's in-memoriam debacle, which featured five breakout tributes in addition to the usual list of the year's departed and reaped far more backlash than could have been predicted.
But there was really zero chance that Williams wouldn't receive a special tribute segment—nor has there been one iota of legitimate argument against the plan to do so. (Lurk around the depths of the Internet and you'll probably find some, but you won't find it here.)
Though he didn't do much scripted TV work between his breakout work on Mork & Mindy and his return just last year as a star of CBS' The Crazy Ones opposite Sarah Michelle Gellar, any appearance he made over the years was memorable, be it as a deranged engineer on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in 2008 or as a heavily accented cuckold during a pretty fabulous cameo on Friends in 1994—which he made with Crystal.
But playing Mork from Ork would have earned him his place in the annals of TV history even if he had never stepped foot on the small screen again. What was originally conceived as a freak plot point on Happy Days (an alien in Milwaukee!) ended up spinning off into its own series after Williams nailed the audition.
"As genius as he was onstage, he was the greatest friend you could ever imagine—supportive, protective, loving," Crystal continued. It's very hard to talk about him in the past because he's so present in all of our lives. For almost 40 years, he was the brightest star in the comedy galaxy, but though some of the brightest stars are extinct now...
"They float in the heavens, so far away form us now, their beautiful light will continue to shine on us forever...[and sometimes] you'll think to yourselves, 'Robin Williams, what a concept.'
The tribute to Williams followed this year's in memoriam segment, accompanied by Sara Bareilles singing "Smile."