Robin Williams was just as funny off screen as he was onscreen and onstage, with the late comedian and actor having formed a deep bond with a close friend through a series of hilarious voicemails.
In the new HBO documentary Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind, Billy Crystal, fellow comedian and decades-long friend of Robin Williams, opens up about his bond with the late comedian, including a series of voicemails that he and Williams exchanged during their friendship.
“The phone would ring and I’d look at it and see the 415 area code. I knew it was him. I knew it was going to be something really good,” Crystal says in the documentary.
In the voicemails, Williams would take on varying alter-egos, including Ronald Reagan and Sam from the Sibilance Society. In 2009, Crystal made his first voicemail of his own, taking on the persona of Vinny the Valve Guy while Williams was in the hospital recovering from heart surgery. In the years to come, more voicemails were exchanged between the two.
“Hello, Bill, it’s Lord Sisley,” Williams said in one message, his alter-ego having an English accent. “I’m in Africa. And dear God, man, you should be here. There’s creatures who would adore you. I send you all my love. But not like that day in boys school. Something different. Something wonderful. A hug. But if you wish, Bubbly, call.”
Marina Zenovich, director of Come Inside My Mind, originally heard of the voicemails from David Steinberg, an assistant of one of Williams’ longtime managers, and immediately began the hunt to track them down.
“So I chased down Billy to get the messages and it took awhile, but one day they appeared on my phone. It’s like, ‘Are you kidding me?!’ They were just so wonderful and showed the fun they had.” Zenovich told the Huffington Post. “I think that they really loved each other and could keep up with each other. One line, in particular, I love in the movie is when Billy says, ‘Everybody wanted something from him. I just liked him.’ You really got a sense of that.”
The documentary, which centers around the memories that those close to Williams hold of him, also featured interviews with David Letterman, William’s first wife, Valerie Velardi, and his son Zak Williams. Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind is almost entirely narrated by the late comedian.
Williams passed away on August 11, 2014 from suicide. The Oscar-winner, two-time Emmy winner, and seven-time Golden Globe winner suffered from Lewy body dementia.