David Letterman paid tribute Monday to his friend of 38 years, Robin Williams, who committed suicide last week at his Tiburon home.
It was the first time "The Late Show" host taped a new episode since Williams died, and Letterman talked at length about his 38-year-friendship with the actor, whom he started out with in Los Angeles comedy clubs back in the '70s.
"Many things come to mind in a situation like this, and of course, more questions are raised than can possibly be answered," Letterman said. He talked about meeting Williams at The Comedy Store in L.A., saying, "In those days, we were working for free drinks -- some were working for more free drinks than others. What you would do is you would go on stage, you would do your little skits, and you would come offstage. And if there was a new guy coming on, you'd want to stick around and make fun of the new guy, because we were all worried that somebody else was coming in who was really funny."
Letterman said Williams frightened the group of regular comedians, which included Jay Leno and Elayne Boosler.
"They introduced Robin Williams, and for some reason in the beginning, he was introduced as being from Scotland. They said he was Scottish," Letterman said. "So now we're stumped. All of a sudden he comes up on stage and you know what it is. It's like nothing we had ever seen before, nothing we had ever imagined before. We go home at night and are writing our little jokes about stuff, and this guy comes in and we're like morning dew -- this guy's like a hurricane. And now, the longer he's on stage, the worse we feel about ourselves. Because it's not stopping.
"He finishes and I thought, 'Oh, that's it, they're gonna have to put an end to show business because what can happen after this?' We get to see this night after night after night and we didn't approach him because we were afraid of him. Honest to God, you thought, 'Holy crap, there goes my chance at show business because of this guy from Scotland!'"
Soon after, the "Jumanji" actor scored a role on "Happy Days," then his own spinoff "Mork & Mindy," on which he gave Letterman a role in one episode. Then, of course, Williams became a huge movie star and appeared on Letterman's talk shows as many as 50 times, according to Letterman's estimation.
"He was always so gracious, and we would talk about the old times, and never did he act like, 'Oh, I knew you guys were scared because I was so good.' It was just pleasure to know the guy," Letterman said. "He was a gentleman and delightful ... People were drawn to him because of this electricity, this whatever it was that he radiated that propelled him and powered him."
He then played a highlight reel of some of Williams' appearances over the years.
"Beyond being a very talented man and a good friend and a gentleman, I am sorry I -- like everybody else -- had no idea that the man was in pain and that the man was suffering," he said. "What a guy."