Robin Williams & His New Valve Hit the Red Carpet

05/15/2009 at 08:30 AM EDT

Robin Williams & His New Valve Hit the Red Carpet
Robin Williams
Todd Williamson/WireImage
Stepping out for the first time since his heart surgery in March, Robin Williams said he was feeling "wonderful," and had his classic funnyman form intact to prove it.

"I feel wonderful," the comic told PEOPLE at the world premiere of Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., Thursday. "It's nice to just step out, rather than run. When you have a new valve, you have to take it a little slow. I'm like 80 percent there, so it's like, take it slow. But it's great."

Williams, in all his humorous glory, slowly made his way down the red carpet at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum where he bantered with media, snapped photos with admirers, and tossed out impersonations along the way. And he relished in seeing his fellow comics and film costars Hank Azaria, Ricky Gervais and Ben Stiller during the evening saying, "There are other comics, not so much pressure."

Williams underwent more than three hours of heart surgery earlier this year to replace his aortic valve, repair his mitral valve, and correct his irregular heartbeat. And now on the mend, he says the power of laughter has been an important part in his recovery.

"I got one card from Don Rickles that said, 'This is one way to get publicity.' I got calls from all my comedian friends. It was pretty wonderful," he adds.

Williams has now become part of the "brotherhood of the zipper chest" with fellow comic David Letterman, whose show he made his first public appearance on Wednesday night. "The idea of talking about open-heart surgery with someone who's had it – it's great to talk to someone else who's had the great opening as we call it," says the actor, who revives his role of Theodore Roosevelt in Night at the Museum.

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