Robin Wil­liams, the post­hu­mous star


Be­fore the late Robin Wil­liams en­thralled tele­vi­sion au­di­ences on “Mork and Mindy,” he al­ready was a star on the 1970s stand- up com­edy cir­cuit — and by the ’ 80s was a lead­ing light for a new stand- up gen­er­a­tion.

The po­lit­i­cal satirist Will Durst re­calls how he once had the un­en­vi­able task of fol­low­ing Wil­liams at the Holy City Zoo com­edy club in San Fran­cisco, a venue with a star- stud­ded his­tory that is be­ing ex­plored in a new doc­u­men­tary, “3 Still Stand­ing.”

“There were 15, 20 peo­ple in the club be­fore ( Wil­liams) came on stage. He came on and word went up and down the streets. There were a bunch of nearby bars and every­body left them and wan­dered over to the Zoo. The place was packed, all the way out to the hall, onto the side­walk. Peo­ple were try­ing to peer in, just to watch him. And I had to fol­low him. When I hit the stage, it was like a mas­sive move­ment out, like the great ex­o­dus,” Durst said, laugh­ing. “That was quite a bap­tism.” Wil­liams pro­vides a poignant fo­cal point for “3 Still Stand­ing,” which has toured U. S. film fes­ti­vals and is be­ing shown this month at Toronto’s Hot Docs, North Amer­ica’s largest doc­u­men­tary fes­ti­val. His 2013 in­ter­view for the doc­u­men­tary rep­re­sents one of Wil­liams’ fi­nal ap­pear­ances on screen.

The doc­u­men­tary fol­lows the stand- up ca­reers of Durst, Larry “Bub­bles” Brown and Johnny Steele, who are cred­ited with help­ing to launch a com­edy revo­lu­tion in San Fran­cisco in the 1980s along­side Dana Car­vey, Rob Sch­nei­der and Paula Poundstone. All were awed and in­flu­enced by Wil­liams.

“There’s a story Dana Car­vey tells,” Robert Cam­pos, the pro­ducer of the doc­u­men­tary, told The As­so­ci­ated Press. “He was at an open mic watch­ing th­ese co­me­di­ans up on stage and he thinks, ‘ Oh I can do that.’ And then some guy goes up and blows the roof off the stage and Dana thinks, ‘ Oh, I can’t do that’ — and it’s Robin Wil­liams.”

“You can go to any tiny com­edy club in the coun­try and there’s a pic­ture of Robin with the owner arm in arm,” Cam­pos said. “He just re­ally loved to per­form. It’s like Jerry Se­in­feld and Jon Ste­wart say: Once you’re a stand- up, you’re a stand- up. There’s some­thing pure about that form.”

Durst puts it an­other way: “It’s like malaria. It’s in your blood­stream.”

Cam­pos and his wife and co­pro­ducer Donna Lo­Ci­cero said they felt com­pelled to make the doc­u­men­tary be­cause they were huge fans of the ’ 80s San Fran­cisco com­edy scene. Cam­pos said when they told Wil­liams about their project fo­cus­ing on Durst, Brown and Steele, he said, “I love th­ese guys, let’s do it!”

Wil­liams, who had bat­tled de­pres­sion and Parkin­son’s dis­ease, hanged him­self on Aug. 11, 2014, at age 63.

This year’s theme at the Hot Docs fes­ti­val is com­edy. The open­ing night film, “Tig,” is a pro­file of stand- up co­me­dian Tig No­taro made in the wake of her dis­cov­ery that she had breast can­cer.

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