Williams' Friend: "Everyone's Got Demons. Comics Just Show Them More"

Howie Nave and Robin Williams
By  | 

(The full uncut taped interview is attached to this story.)


STATELINE, NV - Although he starred in movies and on television, Robin Williams' roots were in standup comedy.

That's where Howie Nave met and from time to time worked with him. Nave works at a Tahoe radio station and hosts the Improv comedy club at Harvey's in Stateline.

The two comedians had appeared together at an annual benefit in the Bay Area. Williams made unannounced appearances at the Improv and had appeared on Nave's radio show.

Tuesday, Nave reflected on the man he knew both off stage and on, his chronic problems with depression and the unseen link between that illness and comic genius.

"You know, I think people would be really surprised, although if you're a comic it's not surprising (he was) painfully shy. In the green room with a few comics he would hold forth, but one on one really quiet, but one of the kindest people ever."

"Some news anchor guy said 'I don't get it. He's got an Oscar. He made a lot of money making people laugh. Why would he be depressed?'"

"Really? I mean talk about shallow. Everyone's got demons. Comics, we just show our demons on our sleeves more."

Nave knew Williams had been in and out of rehab through the course of his career. His new TV show had been canceled after one season.

He says a mutual friend who saw him recently said he'd lost weight and it was no surprise Williams had battled depression, an illness that had plagued his idol and mentor, Jonathan Winters.

They weren't alone, Nave says. Comics draw on personal struggles as a source for material.

"Comics are constantly living in pain. We joke about you know the more painful the comic is the better the laughter is for the audience. God, but at what cost?"

In the end, Nave says he feels the same sense of loss millions of fans are feeling today.

"It just sucks. That's why it's such a shock."