Here's How Robin Williams Got To Know His Audience When Performing For US Troops Overseas

Robin Williams Omar Sobhani/REUTERSU.S. comedian Robin Williams stand among U.S. soldiers at Bagram airbase, north of Kabul, December 16, 2004.

Robin Williams made four United Service Organisation (USO) tours to bases throughout the Middle East during the American campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

On each occasion, according to Thom Shanker of The New York Times, Williams did his best to mingle with soldiers and commanders to get a flavour of the bases he was entertaining.

Although Williams was personally opposed to the war in Iraq, the actor and comedian never let politics lessen his dedication to entertaining American soldiers during their deployments.

“No one was more supportive of the troops,” Rear Admiral Frank Thorp IV told Shanker. “And none of them knew that he was against the war. He was so very human and humble.”

Whereas other entertainers on U.S.O. tours would generally relax in climate-controlled tents on bases before their shows, Williams would make an effort to meet the troops before his set, and work them into his act.

Shanker noted:

Long before his stand-up set was scheduled, [Williams] would quietly wander the audience starting with the very back rows, immediately recognisable, of course, and always agreeable to posing for selfies and signing autographs …

But he was really working the crowd to pick up the flavour and the vibe — and even the commanders’ personalities and quirks — of every desert outpost to produce a personalised routine for each location.

Although each of his stand-up sets was specific to the base he was entertaining, Williams would always start each U.S.O. show with the familiar opening of “Good morning, Iraq,” or Afghanistan, in reference to his portrayal of Air Force officer and radio broadcaster Adrian Cronauer in the 1987 film “Good Morning, Vietnam.”

Williams died on Monday in a suspected suicide.

H/t Mark Landler

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