The film is Very Loosely Based on a True Story of Armed Forces Radio DJ Adrian Cronauer (Williams), assigned to host radio programs for the Army during The Vietnam War. Cronauer is brash, off-color and sexually offensive — and the troops can't get enough of him! He meddles in the affairs of the Army, annoys his superiors to no end, and makes friends with a young Vietnamese boy and his sister while teaching their English class.
"GOOOOOOOOOOOOD MORNING, TV TROOOPES!":
- Acronym and Abbreviation OverloadAdrian Cronauer: Excuse me, sir. Seeing as how the V.P. is such a V.I.P., shouldn't we keep the P.C. on the Q.T.? 'Cause if it leaks to the V.C. he could end up M.I.A., and then we'd all be put out in K.P. Translation
- Actual Pacifist: One of Cronauer's students insists that, even if someone was stabbing him to death, he wouldn't fight back.
- Artistic License – Military: Hauk complains about how none of the other characters salute him despite being a lieutenant. Nothing is ever made of this, but in real life enlisted personnel in uniform are required to salute when they meet and recognize a commissioned or warrant officer. Failing to do so would result in disciplinary action. Maybe Hauk is just that incompetent.
- Bar Brawl: Instigated when Cronauer takes very justifiable offense at two soldiers using racist slurs about Tuan, then pushing him to the floor. Adrian gets in a headbutt on one of the rednecks and knocks him down! Then another turns out like a Punch! Punch! Punch! Uh Oh... complete with Oh, Crap!, but fortunately, Cronauer's fellow radio personnel back him up. The commotion earns him a dressing down at the hands of Dickerson.
- Being Personal Isn't Professional: Hauk and Dickerson subvert this to no end. They present their grievances as a matter of professionalism but it's clear they both just hate Cronauer's guts. Taylor lampshades it.General Taylor: We've got a mounting crisis in this country. We've got a deejay that the men dearly love. If you two have personal problems, solve them, will you?
- Believing Their Own Lies: Hauk truly, genuinely seems to believe he's funny. He even tries to claim a "silent majority" of viewers appreciate his humor, but General Taylor isn't buying it.
- Bittersweet Ending: Cronauer is kicked out of the Air Force for his unwitting friendship with a Viet Cong guerrilla. Despite his obvious shock and sadness, he does have a few more hours with his beloved English class playing softball with citrus and bamboo, he gets to say goodbye to Trinh and leaves a comedic farewell message for Garlick to broadcast the next morning. Also, Dickerson gets transferred to Guam because his superiors are fed up with his pettiness.
- Blithe Spirit: Adrian Cronauer, to the constant frustration of his superiors, especially with Dickerson.
- Blunt Metaphors Trauma: Remedied, when Cronauer teaches English to a class of Vietnamese. One sample quiz:Adrian Cronauer: Okay, if someone is not telling the truth, you say that they are full of...
Vietnamese Class: Shit!
Adrian Cronauer: If someone has made you angry or angrier, they have...
Vietnamese Class: Pissed me off!
- Boring Broadcaster: Dan Levitan, whose voice is the first one we hear in the movie. When Cronauer introduces Levitan at the end of one of his shows later, he warns people not to operate heavy machinery while listening to him.
- Bowdlerize: In a television broadcast, much of Robin's blue humor was bowdlerized. Ironic, considering the plot.
- Butt-Monkey: Lieutenant Hauk seems to exist for no other reason than to be disrespected by his subordinates, laughed at, mocked, ridiculed, and to make a joke out of his bad humor.
- Captain Obvious: Noel, the army chaplain."This great Godly miracle of radio really gives me the opportunity to speak to you on the air!"
- Camp Gay: Jimmy Wah
- Cannot Tell a Joke: Hauk's one broadcast is a complete train-wreck, and prompts floods of hate mail.
- Catchphrase: "GOOOOOOOOOOOOD MORNING, VIETNAM!" Best wake-up call ever.
- Comically Missing the Point: After Hauk's disastrous broadcast prompts Taylor to remove him and bring Cronauer back, Hauk suggests he could remedy his abysmal reception by playing less polka music, completely oblivious to the actual problem.
- Could Say It, But...:
- Cronauer broadcasts an unapproved news report in this fashion and is yanked off the air because of it.
- Cronauer was firsthand witness to the destruction of Jimmy Wah's and the death of at least one serviceman, so we can understand his need to report on it.Cronauer: (of the blood on his shirt) Where do you think THIS came from, shaving?! It's the truth, I'd like to report the truth; it'd be a nice change of pace!
- Despair Event Horizon: Adrian hits it in the village, after Trinh bluntly rebuffs his advances of friendship."... Great week..."
- Disproportionate Retribution: Dickerson not liking Cronauer for his irreverent style and lack of respect for protocol? Fair enough. Trying to get him killed by routing him through Viet Cong-controlled territory? Wildly overboard.
- Don't Call Me "Sir":
- Sgt. Maj. Dickerson is particularly insistent on this point, taking excessive pride in his non-commissioned status. Ironic, considering the times he tries to pull rank on Cronauer.Dickerson: You stay out of my way, there'll be no problem... but if you toy with me, I'll burn you so bad, you'll wish you'd died as a child. Am I being fairly clear?
Cronauer: Yes, sir.
Dickerson: Sir! I work for a living, airman. You will address me as Sergeant Major Dickerson.
Cronauer: Yes, Sergeant Major Dickerson.
Dickerson: Cronauer, you better stay cool. You better not get involved in anything. You better not even come in range of anything that happens. Or your ass is grass and I'm a lawnmower. Am I being fairly clear?
Cronauer: Yes, sir.
Dickerson: Do you see anything on this uniform indicating an officer? [Pointing to his rank insignia] What does three up and three down mean to you, airman?
Cronauer: End of an inning?
- General Taylor also seems relatively nonchalant about military protocol.
- Sgt. Maj. Dickerson is particularly insistent on this point, taking excessive pride in his non-commissioned status. Ironic, considering the times he tries to pull rank on Cronauer.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: Hauk spends the entire movie trying unsuccessfully to be respected by his own subordinates and later failing to get almost anybody to like his broadcasts.
- Evil All Along: It's revealed that Tuan, aka Phan Duc Tho, is a VC terrorist. Bomber of, among other places, Jimmy Wah's.
- Evil Is Petty: Dickerson spends the entire film actively sabotaging Cronauer and at one point tries to get him killed simply because he doesn't like the DJ. By the end of the film Taylor has had enough of Dickerson's behavior.
- Marty pulls a rather epic double-facepalm at Lt. Hauk's...err, jokes.
- Implied in poor Garlick's tone when hopelessly telling Cronauer he needs very specific family-sanctioned introductions to talk to his love interest, before posing as a teacher in her English class.
- Fire-Breathing Diner: It's Vietnamese cooking!Adrian Cronauer: Shit! This stuff is burning the hair off my feet!
- Ironic in that Vietnamese is actually one of the only South Asian cuisines (due to the century-long imperial presence of France) that doesn't use high spice levels for flavoring.
- Funny Background Event: During Cronauer's debut, Marty's reactions can be seen in his booth, mainly laughing his guts out soundlessly behind the noise-proof studio glass.
- Genre Shift: The first half of the movie is a wacky comedy with lots of great Robin Williams improv. As soon as the bar explodes it becomes a fairly dark drama where the comedy is basically background comic relief.
- Giftedly Bad: Hauk has certain opinions on what is and isn't funny, but his routine falls flat. He even goes so far as to use a squeaky horn for comedic interrupts and bleeping.Hauk: In my heart, I know I'm funny.
- Gilligan Cut: Tuan arranges a date between his sister, Trinh, and Adrian, but warns Adrian that he won't like it when he gets there; he'll say it's ridiculous. "Why? That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard." Cue Trinh in front of a dozen of her family members serving as chaperones and greeting Adrian, and his looking less than pleased."Oh, God, this could be very ugly."
- Gung Holier Than Thou: Dickerson... to the letter."That is humor. I recognize that. I also recognize your species of soldier."
- Harmless Villain: Hauk spends the film as little more than an annoyance. He berates Cronauer for his taste in both humor and musical programming, but nobody takes him seriously.
- Hate Sink: Dickerson is a monumentally hateful villain who seems imported from a much more serious movie. There's absolutely nothing redeeming about him despite serving in the military. Taylor even lampshades it when reassigning him to Guam as punishment for his vindictiveness.
- Heroic BSoD: Cronauer gets into a bit of a funk following his suspension (see Could Say It, But... above). He's reluctant to return to the radio even after Gen. Taylor revokes the suspension, until...
- He's Back!: ...Edward, driving Cronauer, pulls over near a troop convoy and convinces him to do an impromptu session to prove that Cronauer really is loved by the troops, come what may.
- Hollywood History: The real Adrian Cronauer readily admits he was nowhere near as funny or outrageous as Williams (of course, who could be?). Most of the movie, in fact, is fabricated. Cronauer just played rock music with no commentary, and was sent home when his tour was over.
- Incredibly Lame Fun: Hauk only plays polka and laughs at his own jokes in his broadcast. See Giftedly Bad.
- Incredibly Lame Pun: Cronauer refers to his slot as 'the Adrian Cron-hour'.
- Insult Backfire: When Jimmy tells Adrian of his fetish, soldiers' ankles, and offers Adrian his bar for pictures of them, he says, "You're a very sick man, you know that, don't you?" and Jimmy takes it as a great compliment.
- Ironic Juxtaposition: The horrors of Vietnam to Louis Armstrong's "It's a Wonderful World".
- Jerkass Has a Point: Dickerson is an irredeemable Hate Sink, but he is correct to reprimand Cronauer for instigating a bar fight, something that in real life would almost certainly result in a court-martial. On the other hand, Dickerson seemed more interested in using it as an excuse to rake Cronauer over the coals rather than uphold military protocol.
- Just Following Orders: The MPs (one of whom was on duty when Cronauer gave his impromptu show to the trucks full of soldiers) assigned to escort Adrian to his plane home are implied to be (like most of the rest of the occupying Army) quite fond of Cronauer, and indeed join in on the last day of fun with a group of Vietnamese English students.
- Karma Houdini: Downplayed. On one hand, Taylor purposely reassigns Dickerson to Guam for being a petty, vindictive asshole. On the other hand it never comes to light that Dickerson intentionally routed Cronauer through a Viet Cong-controlled highway with the intent of getting him killed. In real life, this would almost certainly result in Dickerson spending the rest of his life in the stockade.
- The Last DJ: Cronauer, quite literally. The troops love him, most of his superiors don't.
- Loophole Abuse: Dickerson never actually (that we know of) laid down a specific time-table to get Cronauer on his plane home that final day, which allows him, Garlick and even the MPs to join in on the promised game of softball with the English class.
- Meaningful Name: Sgt. Maj. Dickerson, Cronauer's bullying superior. Cronauer catches on to this and actually uses the stressed part to refer to him.
- Meaningless Villain Victory: Sgt. Maj. Dickerson does manage to get Cronauer off the air (and out of the military to boot), but in doing so, he shows himself to be such a petty, mean-spirited asshole that Gen. Taylor can't stomach him anymore and has him reassigned to Guam. Taylor also puts Garlick on the air as Cronauer's replacement, knowing full well that he will keep things going the way Cronauer would have.
- Mickey Mousing: A minor example: an establishing shot of soldiers de-boarding from a carrier plane is synced up to another of those polka records Hauk loves so much.
- Mood Whiplash: The movie starts off very funny and irreverent, as Cronauer adjusts (or doesn't) to life in South Vietnam with characteristic hilarity. Then he's almost blown up by a Viet Cong bomb, and finds out that the Vietnamese kid he'd become friendly with is actually a Viet Cong guerrilla trying to kill as many Americans as he can. Cronauer eventually becomes horribly disillusioned with the whole situation. Needless to say, the movie ends on a bit of a downer.
- The Neidermeyer: Sgt. Maj. Dickerson, Cronauer's despicable superior.
- No Indoor VoiceCronauer: (faking like he's taking a phone call) Hi, who's this?
Cronauer: (faking like he's calling in): MY NAME'S BOB FIBBER!
Cronauer: Hi Bob, what do you do?
(As "Bob"): I'M IN ARTILLERY!
Cronauer: Listen, can we play anything for you?
(As "Bob"): ANYTHING, JUST PLAY IT LOUD, OK?!
- No Name Given: We never learn General Taylor's first name, unlike the other officers that serve as main characters.
- No Sense of Humor: Hauk's sense of humor is so abysmal that it nearly counts as this. Dickerson recognizes humor but disapproves of it.
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business: As Garlick tells McPherson when Cronauer leaves the station, "A man does not refer to Pat Boone as a 'musical genius' if things are all right."
- Oh, Crap!: When Cronauer is informed that Tuan is a VC terrorist. At first he's dismissive, but when Dickerson starts pointing out suspicious behavior by Tuan (such as his ability to freely get in and out of VC territory), Cronauer starts to realize that it all adds up.
- Passing the Torch: A middle scene has Cronauer messing with Garlick to see what he'd be like as a radio host. After he's discharged because of his unwitting friendship to a VC, Garlick takes his place.
- Polka Dork: Lt. Hauk is the only member of the United States Armed Forces in Vietnam who thinks it's a good idea to play three hours of Polka over the radio. It's not the only reason why General Taylor kicks him out of host duties and reassigns Croanuer, but even Hauk agrees that it was too much (he still offers to cut down on it if he stays as a host, not get rid of it completely).
- Pointy-Haired Boss: Hauk, so very much.
- Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: Delivered by Cronauer to the buff GI bullying Tuan:Cronauer: I've gotta tell you something, you know? I've been all around the world. Seen a lot of places and a lot of people. I have never, in my life, come across a man as large as you, with as much muscles, who has absolutely no penis.(Headbutts him in the face).
- Reasonable Authority Figure: General Taylor is a pretty nice guy and is willing to give Cronauer rather a lot of latitude compared to the rest of the brass. As he sees it, Cronauer keeps the morale of the troops up, so Taylor doesn't really care if he bends or even breaks the rules a bit to do so.
- Reassigned to Guam: Sgt. Dickerson's ultimate punishment for his vindictiveness towards Cronauer.
- Running Gag / Book Ends: Garlick keeps trying to start a jeep whose engine is already running, especially when he drives Cronauer from the airfield at the start of the movie and back to it at the end.
- Shaped Like Itself: Cronauer defines "groovy" as "it's like 'hey, groovy'" to his English class.
- Something Only They Would Say: "FLIP THEM THE BIRD!"
- Soundtrack Dissonance: Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World," played over a montage of a village being carpet-bombed, suspected VC members being shot, antiwar riots in the streets of Saigon, and troops on duty at a firebase.
- As it happens, the use of that song also counts as Anachronism Stew since it was only recorded in 1967, two years after the events of the film.
- Stalking Is Love: Cronauer runs after a woman he likes the look of, then bribes his way into getting close to her. Of course, this is seen as fun, romantic, and not at all creepy. A bit subverted in that, once she gets to know him and see how nice and funny he is, she turns him down, and accurately points out that he's lying about just wanting to be her "friend" and that there's no good future for them together, so he needs to back off.
- Stealth Insult: Cronauer, of course. He delivers this masterful one to Hauk.Thank you for that constructive criticism. It's a privilege to take comedy notes from a man of your stature.
- Take That!: Hauk asks who they can get for entertainment, and wants to know why Bob Hope won't come, to which Garlick replies, "He doesn't play police actions, only wars. Bob likes a big room, sir!" Reportedly, Hope himself was offended by the line and remonstrated with Robin Williams over it when they met face-to-face on The Tonight Show.
- Title Drop: Cronauer regularly shouts the title, used with regularity to greet on-air listeners.
- Tokyo Rose: Cronauer does an impression of his rival over the North Vietnamese airwaves, Hanoi Hannah... in the vein of The Wicked Witch of the West.Adrian Cronauer: "Oh my God it's the Wicked Witch of the North, IT'S HANOI HANNAH!"
(As the Wicked Witch): "NOOOOW LITTLE GI! YOU AND YOUR LITTLE TOTO TOO, AHHHHHHHHAHAHAHA!!"
- Ultimate Job Security: Taylor flat out tells Dickerson that he's covered for him numerous times, thinking his heart was in the right place. His behavior towards Cronauer finally made him realize that Dickerson is just an ass.
- Uriah Gambit: Dickerson issues Cronauer a pass to interview troops in the field, without telling him that the only road into the area is held by the enemy and dotted with landmines. He aims to Make It Look Like an Accident.
- Use Your Head: Cronauer headbutts a man in the Bar Brawl, then tries to do the same to his companion, only to find he's One Head Taller. Oh, Crap!.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Although he liked the movie and the treatment of the story, the real Adrian Cronauer said the movie is inaccurate. In truth, pretty much everything except the basic details was fabricated. For example, instead of being the staunch liberal, antiwar, anti-military Robin Williams (despite being in a volunteer-only branch), he describes himself as a "lifelong card-carrying Republican" and was a vice-chairman of the 2004 Bush/Cheney campaign, was sent home when his tour ended and states that much of what Williams did would have gotten him court-martialed in a heartbeat. He was also a Sergeant, not an Airman First Class.
- Cronauer really did teach an English class but didn't lie his way in nor use it to chase a local.
- Villainous Rescue: Tuan pulls Cronauer, whom he considers a friend, outside of Jimmy Wah's seconds before the bombing, saving his life.
- Wiper Start: Garlick keeps trying to start jeeps that are already running.[the third time Garlick attempts to start an already started car]
Adrian: Staggers the imagination.
Garlick: Makes me unique?
Adrian: What a plus.
- You Need to Get Laid: "You are in more dire need of a blow job than any white man in history." (Cronauer, to Dickerson upon being discharged from the Air Force)General Taylor: Goddammit, that's funny.