Behold, this list of San Francisco Comedy Competition winners. The first year was 1976 and Robin Williams finished second to a guy who must have been one funny man named Bill Farley. If you Google Farley now, you’ll get a few links to “past winners of the San Francisco Comedy Competition” and a million links to Chris Farley.
Robin finished second and never participated in the competition again. Because he dominated doing stand-up in San Francisco. He may not have won that competition but the number of comedy clubs and open mic nights exploded. He was famous for doing things like leading the entire audience out of The Boarding House on Bush Street and taking them on tours of the streets. Crazy stuff. Everyone wanted to be him.
Not Bill Farley.
When I started doing stand-up in 1984, Robin had already moved well on to TV and movies and the like. But I’ll always remember him as being a local SF guy who started a comedy revolution. They say that Velvet Underground didn’t sell a lot of records but that everyone who bought one started a band. Robin was THAT to stand-up in the Bay Area and he never forgot those roots and he never forgot where he came from.
I’m sad to see him go and I’m especially sad to see him go that way. Being that depressed is crushing and you always hope that people will find another, better way. That said, that’s not what I’m going to remember.
Before there was “Twitter famous,” there was real stand-up and as far as I’m concerned, it started with Robin Williams.
That’s what I’ll remember.