Robin Williams: Comedy Store, Laugh Factory, Improv pay tribute

Tourists walk past Robin Williams' memorial at the Laugh Factory at Sunset Boulevard and Laurel in Hollywood on Aug. 11, 2014.
(Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)

A group of mostly comedians milled about in front of the Comedy Store on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood on Monday evening, shortly after the news broke of Robin Williams’ death at 63. The marquee on the storied building was changed that afternoon to read “RIP Robin Williams.”

Other comedy clubs paid tribute too. The sign on the Laugh Factory down the street read “Robin Williams Rest in Peace. Make God Laugh.” And, at the Improv, the marquee read “Robin Williams 1951-2014 Legend.”

Comedians came to the Comedy Store with hopes of getting onstage to do three-minute sets during the famous club’s open-mike night. Some hung out on the Sunset Boulevard sidewalk, while others sipped beers on the patio. There were also television crews set up on the sidewalk, interviewing people going into the club about Williams.


Comic Big Al Gonzales, 35, reminisced about working with Williams, who died Monday of an apparent suicide, while living in San Francisco and working in the comedy club scene. Williams would regularly come to the Bay Area comedy clubs to check out the scene and the young comedians, Gonzales said.

“It was always exciting for young comics, because you always had a chance to be in a show with him,” Gonzales said. “He was very quiet. You could tell he was reserving his energy. He was a tiny guy, but he would make himself tinier, almost as if he didn’t want to be recognized.”

Gonzales said that once Andy Dick was performing at a club in town, and Williams showed up to see the show. Most of the audience didn’t laugh at Dick’s routine, except for Williams. “I just remember his sole maniacal laugh, while Andy Dick fell apart on stage.”

Brad Sachs, also a comedian, said he knew Williams mostly from his films, including “The Birdcage” and “Good Will Hunting,” and loved the way the actor could switch between his manic comic style and more serious roles.

“It was always inspiring to see someone who was so zany onstage, and yet so good in more dramatic films,” said Sachs, who lives in Sherman Oaks. “He could really reel it in, and he was a guy who you thought no one could ever reel in.”

Though he’d never actually met Williams, Sachs recalls one interaction. “I saw him once in San Francisco jogging, and I yelled at him ‘O Captain! My Captain!’ and he gave me a thumbs up, which I thought was pretty cool.”


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