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Remembering Robin Williams

Posted by: Emily McManus
Robin Williams hijacks the TED2008 stage before the BBC World Debate. Photo: Andrew Heavens

Robin Williams hijacks the TED2008 stage before the BBC World Debate. Photo: Andrew Heavens

It’s 2008, moments before a BBC broadcast live from the stage at TED. But something’s gone wrong. The house lights are still up, the camera ops are looking at one another, official-looking folks are wandering at the stage apron muttering into headsets, and the panelists are sitting patiently onstage but looking, increasingly, baffled. Minutes go by.

And then a voice rises from the audience, wondering “why at a technology conference everything is running so shittily”! As Kim Zetter wrote: “at least that’s the word I think he used; it was hard to hear the last word through the audience’s laughter.” It was Robin Williams, who’d spent the day watching TED, and who now jumped out of the audience to grab the mic and reel off 10 or 15 minutes — reports vary — of improvised comedy about the day of ideas, TED in general and his own wide-ranging future shock.

The BBC shot the whole thing while waiting for their own production to come back online, and they eventually posted the monologue, cut into 3 minutes of breathtaking tightrope work.

And when I read the news today, I watched it again, and it reminded me of what we just lost — but it also gave me 3 minutes of pure, wild joy. Just watch him go.

See our Community Director Tom Rielly’s reflections on Robin Williams »