Sunday, October 6, 2002
RHEIN MAIN AIR BASE, GERMANY - His antics are legendary on the interview circuit, and most talk show hosts admit that you never know what to expect when you sit down with Robin Williams.
“Your name’s Kane…. Where’s Able?”
Even though I’ve heard that joke my whole life, I still chuckled since it came from the man known for his roles in “Good Morning Vietnam” and “Mrs. Doubtfire.”
I sat down with Robin Williams in the only interview granted to any media organization regarding his recent United Services Organization (USO) tour to Turkey, Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan.
“There’s so much dust there, even Lawrence of Arabia’s going – NO!”
He spent a week in the region, cheering up soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines serving in Operation Enduring Freedom. We caught up with him on his way back to the U.S. during a brief rest stop in Germany. He talked about life with the troops on the front lines of the war on terrorism.
“There’s some big guys in the service. Some of them came up to me and said.. Gimme a kiss… and I said you’ve been here too long!”
Williams carries on the USO tradition made famous by Bob Hope in World War 2, Korea, and Vietnam. He joins Drew Carey, Jay Leno, Joan Jett, and the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders on a growing list of performers making the rounds in Central Asia.
“I tried to sing “Danke Shein” but it just didn’t work out,” says Williams, joking about the song made famous by another USO performer… Wayne Newton.
There’s something about Williams that makes you crack up laughing almost every time he opens his mouth.
“Before I went to Afghanistan, I watched those Defense Department briefings, and Rumsfeld (Secretary of Defense) kept saying… “We don’t know when… We don’t know how… but sometime, somewhere, something bad is going to happen.”
He can be funny, irreverent, silly, and sometimes downright serious.
“There are amazing people… men and women, all ages, all nationalities doing extraordinary things, and they deserve to have someone come over and say “You Rock.. you’re the best.”
For Robin Williams, Afghanistan isn’t really a war zone. It’s just a remote venue with a great stage for standup comedy.
“It’s great to see people smiling and laughing, and that’s what it’s all about… a good laugh in a big way.”