Robin Williams could probably bring a smile to a long embalmed corpse. The human equivalent ofa Roman candle. he fizzes. sparks and erupts in a dazzling rainbow of verbal dexterity. improvisation. mimicry. lightning-paced inventiveness and sharp-wilted repartee. The man is a comic genius.

Born in Chicago. Williams survived a somewhat pcripatetic childhood and. in the classical manner. adopted humour as his shield against a hostile world.

‘Ifsomeone’s about to kick the shit out ofyou. if you talk like them for a second they‘ll be confused enough for you to split. I was a little fat guy at school and they didn't so much want to beat me up. they just wanted to see me roll.'

By the year of his graduation. the little fat guy was voted ‘Most Humorous‘ and ‘Most Likely to Succeed‘ by his fellow classmates. His further education took place at (‘laremont Men‘s (‘ollege where be briefly studied Political Science and at .lulliard Academy in New York. His comic gifts however were honed in an improvisational group and on the (‘alifornia nightclub circuit. leading to a role in Happy Days and his own series Mork and Mindy. now being repeated on (‘hannel 4.

‘lt was very good fun to do and it was basically me. I think the first two years were good. the last two years were sad. The network kept coming in with these premises that basically lost the innocence of the show. When you had me and Raquel Welch its hard for the child watching it not to go through puberty. “Oh look how big she fills the screen”. It was a strange combination but I can‘t get angry because people remember it and it bought me a ranch.‘

‘A cry of‘Nanu. nanu“ is still Williams‘ calling card around the globe but his success as the manic extra-terrestrial came ten years ago and its enduring appeal had tended to obscure other facets ofhis talent as a stand-up performer. organiser of (‘omic Relief and wannabe movie star.

‘Since he endured heaven and hell to splutter “l Yam what I Yam” as Popeye in 1980. Williams has appeared in a succession of movies that. in Britain. have had as much impact as Scotland voting Labour. A courtesy. life-membership of the Troy Donahue fan club is available to anyone who saw ('lab Paradise or The Best of Times.

However. the ignominious anonymity of his celluloid efforts is about to be irrevocably altered with the unleashing of (iood Morning Vietnam which has grossed $130 million and earned him the rare distinction ofan Oscar nomination in a profession where the mechanics of being funny are snobbishly dismissed as not really acting.

(food Morning stars Williams as irreverent armed forces‘ radio disc jockey Adrian (‘ronauer. a wizard of the airwaves whose iconoclastic style brings him into conflict with the military authorities in the Saigon of 1965. Based on the account of a real US DJ. it is the perfect screen vehicle

A project he personally developed.

You can‘t keep a good laugh down. Robin Williams. whose career has spanned Popeye. Mork and Mindy and Happy Days. bounces back into action as a radio DJ in Good Morning Vietnam. Allan Hunter met him.


in that it allows him to act. to be achingly funny. to be pointedly political and to improvise like crazy. ‘lt‘s basically myself. 98’? is me and the rest is characterization. The stuff on the radio is me performing and that was never written down. I’d just come in with a character idea. People ask me if I‘m always on; no the total opposite and that's the other side of the movie when I walk

around picking up things. absorbing.

There are times when you have to be like some haemophiliac in a razor blade factory.’

Williams is 36 and therefore old enough to have served in Vietnam had he been drafted.

‘lt was a lottery: Lyndon Johnson picking ping pong balls out of a bin going “i lere‘s our lucky winners today". Your birthday was your lottery number. My birthday was

July 21st. When he picked the number it was 351 . that means the Vietcong had to be coming east from New York before I was called up. It would have been me and Dan ()ualye going “I lot shit. baby”

Although not diffident about expressing his opinions on world affairs. Williams is wary of being labelled a 'political comedian.‘

‘I see myselftalking about politics. I see myselftalking about sex. I see myself talking about a lot of different things. In (iermany and all over liurope you have ads for condoms on TV. In America because of the right

to life and born-again (‘hristians they

won‘t do it. I want to see an ad that goes -— we strapped this construction worker in a condom and rammed him into a wall at 50 miles an hour. If it can stop this dumb prick it can certainly stop the spread of disease.‘

Does this mean that Williams himself uses condoms'.’ You bet. ‘I have one on right now.‘ he quips. ‘Would you believe it also helps me lose weight l have the skinniest penis in all ofthis room.‘

'(iiven that America is currently in the unenthralled grip ofelection year it is both inevitable and irresistible that Williams be quizzed about his views on the candidates.

You can't help seeing Dukakis and Bush and go ‘Are there any other choices‘." There‘s a car in America called the Samurai and one called the Pinto. ()ne esplodes and one turns over. The choice between Bush and Dukakis is basically that. Bush is one of the few people on the planet that a rattlesnake can't bite out of professional courtesy. If you saw him in a line-up with 15 guys you'd immediately go. “That's him: that‘s the guy”. For me. it’s not so much the President as what's going to happen in the Supreme (‘ourtf

Williams will be supporting Dukakis as the lesser of two evils. Professionally. he is currently appearing in a New York production of Waiting for Godot with Steve Martin and F. Murray Abraham. (‘1 just want to touch his ()scar.‘) He will next be seen on screen as the Man in the Moon for Terry (iilliam's The Fabulous A d ventures of Baron thelzaasen. lnevitably. there is talk of a sequel to (ioorl Morning Vietnam.

‘(‘ronauer is a very subdued man that’s why I didn‘t talk to him beforehand. After the film he came up and said. “Gosh. you made me look like a real neat guy". It's like (iandhi coming tip to you and saying “I never drank Jack Daniels but thank you for putting it in the film". There's talk of a sequel called (food Morning ( ‘lticago set during the Democratic (‘onvention in 1968 which was one of the most interesting times in recent American history. The hard part is that after the war (‘ronauer went to New York as an FM classical music disc jockey and is now studying law. It makes the sequel a bit difficult Tl {IE LAW YEARS; he's back and he‘s pissed.‘

A connoisseur of comedy who cites Peter Sellers and the lugubrious Jonathan Winters as his influences and Billy (‘onnolly as a favourite British funster. Williams turns serious for an observation on the vocation he has tnade his own. ‘For me comedy is like jazz because it comes from a place you don‘t know. I’ve improvised with Richard Pryor and I've improvised with Jonathan Winters and to me that's like a musician being able to play with Parker or Coltrane. (‘omics are a strange beast: they have incredible egos but also hypersensitivity.’

Never a man to be stumped for an answer. Williams is momentarily nonplussed when he is asked to impart his thoughts on the purpose of life. He pauses for the briefest of moments and a smile breaks out on his face as he replies. ‘Laugh. because it's an enema for the soul.‘ (food M orning Vietnam opens all across Scotland on .S'eptemherfl). See Film Listings for Details.

12Thc List .‘sllSept l3()ct 1988