The ‘Raging Bull’ actor was honoured by the Friars Club at the members society’s annual gala at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York and paid tribute to his late friend – who died by suicide in August.
De Niro paid tribue to Williams’ “love, humour and compassion” at the event on Tuesday.
He said: “Last year I was happy to speak at the gala honouring Don Rickles, happy because before I got the call, I couldn’t remember if Don was still alive.
“As you approach the stage in life I like to call the Rickles phase, four things happen. You get older, you get shorter, you get Jewish, and then you become a Friar…
“If you know me, you know how much I like to laugh, and no one made me laugh like Robin. No one could fake that amount of love and humour and compassion. Robin my dear friend I dedicate this award to you.”
A host of stars paid tribute to the veteran actor at the event, including Sharon Stone, Edward Norton, David O. Russell, Christopher Walken, Meryl Streep and Martin Scorsese.
Joel McHale mocked the screen legend for his prolific career, saying: “There was an awkward moment when he was handed a menu earlier and he signed on to star in it.”
Ricky Gervais sent a video message in which he recalled how the 71-year-old actor had called him after he “p***ed everyone off” with his first stint hosting the Golden Globe awards in 2010.
He said: “I p***ed everyone off in Hollywood and you were laughing all the way through.
According to the comic, De Niro told him: “You were great. They were jokes. F**k them. They were jokes.”
When the ‘Office’ star admitted he didn’t know if he’d be invited to return to host the awards, the ‘Taxi Driver’ asked: “You want me to have a word?”
However, Ricky admitted: “I thought you meant you were gonna have ’em whacked. I said, ‘No but thanks.’ ”
Larry King hosted the event, which also honoured Mexican mogul Carlos Slim, and musical performers included Aretha Franklin, Sting and Stevie Wonder.