Chicago Remembers Native Son Robin Williams

Williams, who spent early childhood in Chicago, died Monday at the age of 63

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    NEWSLETTERS

    8/11/2014: Williams, who spent early childhood in Chicago, died Monday at the age of 63. NBC 5's Dick Johnson reports. (Published Monday, Aug 11, 2014)

    Before Robin Williams went on to conquer the world with his humor, he was born in Chicago and lived in Lake Forest and Lake Bluff for part of his early childhood.

    Williams, an Oscar-winning actor and comedian whose performances careened from dazzling pop-culture riffs to intense dramatic roles, died Monday at the age of 63, in an apparent suicide that marked the grim end of his recent battles with severe depression.

    But some in Chicago are remembering Williams as one of our own.

    "We always felt that even though he went to the world, that he was a Chicago-area guy, that he was a midwesterner," film critic Richard Roeper said. "On the occasions that I had to meet him when he wasn't Robin Williams in capital letters, he was a very sweet, decent midwestern kind of guy."

    All of the comics at Zanie's in Old Town Monday night had worked with Williams at some point in their careers, and they all recognized the influence he had on the comedy world.

    "He was the first guy to really do that rapid fire, this scatological whatever's going on all over the place and totally in the moment," comic Ken Savara said.

    "He would be very quiet, and you'd be talking to him one-on-one, and they would introduce him and he would go on stage and it would be like a neutron bomb went off, the energy that that man had was just explosive," comic Vince Maranto said.

    The performers were able to relate to the self-deprecating insecurity that fuels many comics and sometimes leads to their tragic downfall.

    "Comedians have a dark side. We're dented cans. They say he was suffering from depression. I can totally relate to that," comedian Dobie Maxwell said.

    "Belushi and Pryor and Farley ... it's another comedy tragedy and it breaks your heart," Savara said.

    Williams was also being mourned just up the street at The Second City. CEO and executive producer Andrew Alexander issued the following statement:

    "We are deeply saddened to learn of Robin Williams' death. He was an enormously talented performer and a good friend of The Second City. On several occasions we had an opportunity to perform with him and it was always a pleasure. In the late '70s, Robin and Martin Short spent a week on The Second City stage doing the most extraordinary improvising I have ever witnessed. He also was superb as a guest on SCTV. Our thoughts are with his friends and family."