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This is Not a Test, This is Rock and Roll! My Favorite Robin Williams Movie: ‘Good Morning, Vietnam’

Comedy legend Robin Williams died Monday. As a person that has used comedy and comedians as a way to find himself and navigate the world, Williams’ work has had an influence on me. He showed that you can be serious and silly, poignant and pointless. The surreal joy of The Fisher King, the way Aladdin brought out child-like glee in angsty teenage me and the chaotic fun of every one of his talk show appearances.

But one movie of his that has had a lasting effect on me is Good Morning, Vietnam.

I’ve watched Good Morning, Vietnam at least one a year for the last 25 years. I saw it in the theater. Rented the VHS. Bought the VHS. Bought the soundtrack. Watched  it on TV every chance I got. Growing up, if someone was flipping around the family TV and came across Good Morning, Vietnam they’d stop and the rest of the family would stop what they were doing and drift into the living room to watch. That actually still happens. The first time my wife witnessed this phenomenon she didn’t quite understand what was happening.

Good Morning, Vietnam is about a radio guy assigned to an US Armed Services Radio station in Vietnam. Robin Williams played that guy, Adrian Cronauer. There’s comedy, a little action, drama and social commentary; everything I like in a movie. Rock and Roll, radio and rebellion. The DJ shows up in Vietnam, stands up to the squares and plays the music of the people.

I also find it to be a story about inertia. The inertia of reality and how to live in it. He can’t stop the draft, the war, the killing, the history; he has to live in it, be pulled along by it. All he, or anyone, can do is either give in to the pull and let the inertia grind you up or, hang on and try to find a small bit of understanding and happiness. Or at least play some good music.

A quick YouTube search yielded these gems from the film, let’s enjoy them together now, and later we can watch the whole movie again.


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