Friday, June 16, 2017

Military joke thievery

I read in John Baxter's excellent biography of George Lucas that, as a film student, George was advised to join the military. This was during the Vietnam War. You'd think that would be something to avoid like the plague. But, as a film school grad, he would automatically be made a cameraman and given excellent training.

Lucas lucked out. When doctors checked him out to be drafted, they discovered he was diabetic and told him to get to a doctor, quick.

It turns out that so many military cameramen were killed in Vietnam, that once you were in the Army they wouldn't let you leave. One guy enlisted for three years and was there for seven.


But I've also heard about comedians who got their starts in the Army entertaining the troops. I never understood that. It's hard to imagine draftees being ordered to be comedians.

But I just listened to Marc Maron interview Dick Van Dyke, in his late 80's at the time, and it's been explained.

Both Dick and Jerry Van Dyke got their start in comedy in the military, Dick Van Dyke in World War Two, Jerry Van Dyke in Korea. And here's the secret. They stole freely. Nobody cared. In civilian life, stealing another comedian's material makes you a pariah. In the Army, they steal everything. It saved Dick Van Dyke from becoming a tail gunner.

Hell, I could be a comedian if that's all you had to do. If my life depended on it.

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