National News

Canadian comics remember Robin Williams

By Will Campbell, The Canadian Press

TORONTO - Canadian comedians are mourning the death of American comic and actor Robin Williams as the loss of one of comedy's greats.

Williams was pronounced dead at his home in California on Monday. He was 63.

"Very sad to hear the news about Robin Williams. Big loss for not just the entertainment world but for the whole world," stand-up star Russell Peters said on Twitter.

"Sad to hear about Robin Williams. A very funny and lovely man," tweeted TV-comic Colin Mochrie.

Brent Butt tweeted he was "stunned" at the news and remembered how Williams would show up at Vancouver comic clubs and got the crowd roaring with laughter.

"He used to drop in & do spots @ UrbanWell & Punchlines in Vancouver. Big laugher, lots of fun."

Comic and TV actor Shaun Majumder said in an email that Williams helped mould his comedic instincts from a young age.

"There is no doubt that he was a huge influence on me in my early days as a comedian... in fact he was an impact on me well before I was a comedian or actor which made me the most annoying 7 year old on the planet."

Bruce Hills, the chief operating officer of the Just for Laughs international comedy festival in Montreal, calls Williams' death "so sad on so many fronts."

"Most importantly he leaves a wife and three kids behind but also millions of fans worldwide that will miss this very special artist, comedian and genuinely good person."

Stand-up comic Gerry Dee remembered Williams for his ability to start off as a touring comedian who then make it big as a Hollywood star.

"He did what we're all trying to do... take our stand up career into TV and movies. And he did it more than anyone and better than anyone. And he did it in drama, he did it in comedy," Dee said in an interview.

Dee said Williams was a courageous comic who put so many "out there" styles in his stage act, such as his machine-gun speaking and stream-of-consciousness delivery.

"He just took chances. And I think any comedian will tell you that's one of the hard parts of trying to be different. When you try to be different you fail a lot of times and you bail on it," he said.

"But he never bailed on it. He always stayed true to himself."

Stand-up Frank Spadone said it was a "sad day" for comedians everywhere.

"You've lost a very iconic, important person in your community," he said in an interview.

"He was inspirational. He was funny, the way he committed himself to the characters (he played). The way he did everything."

Spadone remembered catching Williams perform at a Toronto club while he shot a film in the city, and said the joint was packed with people for Williams' impromptu open-mic gig.

"That place was just buzzing because he was in the place. That's the kind of influence and that's the kind of respect and reputation he had," he said.

"Just everyone wanted to see him and be in the same room as him. And as a comic, everyone was just so excited that he was there."

Even Canadian political leaders were touched by the news of Williams‘ death.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper tweeted that he and his wife, Laureen, were ”saddened to hear of the passing of Robin Williams.”

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau tweeted that to him, the actor-comedian will ‘‘always be Mork.

”I will wear my rainbow suspenders and remember the great artist and man that he was,‘‘ wrote Trudeau.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne posted a tweet calling Williams a ‘‘brilliant talent lost.

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark tweeted: ”Robin Williams brought hours of joy to countless families — ours included. Rest in peace.”

Police said Monday that a preliminary investigation indicated Williams death was a suicide due to asphyxia.

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