SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— Bob Sarlatte, a Bay Area-based comedian, reflected on the decorated life of his close friend, actor Robin Williams who was found dead Monday of an apparent suicide according to the Marin County Sheriff’s Department.
“Robin came in second, I came in third,” Sarlatte said, referring to a 1976 comedy competition shortly before his “meteoric rise” to stardom.
“He was an actor on stage,” Sarlatte said and that he really set a new standard for how performers took to the stage during his days of doing stand-up comedy.
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Williams was known for his improvisational style and how he could cull different accents on the spot during his act.
“I got the call from you guys on this,” he said when he spoke to KCBS on the air shortly after the news broke. “It’s a little shocking. I know he had gone into rehab again recently. I really didn’t expect this.”
Sarlatte considered Williams a trailblazer for comedians since he paved the way from the stand-up stage, to television with Mork & Mindy (a Happy Days spinoff) and on to serious lead roles in films such as ‘Dead Poets Society’, ‘Good Morning Vietnam’, ‘Good Will Hunting’ while maintaining his comedic roots in roles like 1993’s ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’, which had been filmed and was set in San Francisco.
“A whole generation grew up with him and I was fortunate enough to have grown up with him comedically. I go back about 38 years with him.”
Sarlatte noted Williams’ Bay Area ties and even his recent presence doing sets at Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley.
“You still saw him all the time, despite the big things he was doing. He was a bit of an actor offstage a bit. He was tough to get to know personally. A lot of times, Robin was a guy that was never really off stage. He was always kind of on. In later years he calmed down a bit, especially off stage. I would still see him on [David] Letterman being as crazy as ever.”
In Sarlatte’s opinion, he said Williams was able to to separate his stage life from his private life more effectively towards the end.
Williams started out on stage in San Francisco. He had attended Redwood High School in Larkspur before going on to the College of Marin. Sarlatte said he met Williams after he had probably gotten his “acting chops” from attending The Julliard School in New York City.
“For all the craziness, Robin was a very disciplined performer,” Sarlatte said.
The Marin County Sheriff’s Office and the coroner’s bureau are investigating the apparent suicide and will conduct a forensic examination to determine his exact cause of death. A representative from the family said Williams had suffered from severe depression.