tom rhodes, viva vietnam special

July 15, 2011

Comic Venture

TV previews.

Vet’s Son Hits Road In Vietnam For Cable Show

April 25, 1995|By Allan Johnson, Tribune Staff Writer.

Tom Rhodes faced a surreal moment a few weeks ago, when he screened his Comedy Central special on Vietnam for a group of veterans, political officials and others.

Rhodes and his father were walking outside after the screening in Washington, D.C., “and there was a protest going on out front, people with signs and marching and stuff,” describes Rhodes, 28. “And I thought, `Ohmigod, my career is over; I’m gonna be bagging groceries again in Oviedo, Fla. (where he grew up).”‘

As it turned out, “they were protesting in front of the Turkish embassy, which was right next door,” laughs Rhodes. “So I was like, `Thank you, God.’

“And it was funny, because their signs said `Go Home, Turkey.’ I thought they could have been talking about me.”

Rhodes’ special, “Viva Vietnam: A White Trash Adventure Tour,” premieres at 9 p.m. Sunday on Comedy Central.

The special features Rhodes taking a comic journey through various cities in that country and is playing on the 20th anniversary of the end of the most controversial war in history.

“I want to have a good time for all the people who came here and didn’t get to have a good time,” Rhodes says in the hour-long special, which is like one of Charles Kuralt’s on-the-road pieces-if it were done by David Letterman.

Rhodes visits Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Da Nang (China Beach) and Hanoi during the course of the show. Along the way, he samples the local cuisine (“Is the bat flown in fresh daily?” he asks); runs into a Hard Rock Cafe without the memorabilia; sits in the shell of a helicopter; walks through an underground tunnel and plays pool in a bar called Apocalypse Now (“Tell me this country doesn’t have a sense of humor,” he jokes).

Among those who could have told Rhodes to “go home, turkey” were his father, David, a helicopter pilot who was shot down in September 1969, while flying a rescue mission over Laos. The elder Rhodes eventually got a Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross for that mission.

“Obviously, if it wasn’t for (my dad), I never would have been anywhere near” Vietnam, says Rhodes, a standup comedian who was two years old when his father was shot down, and who wears an MIA bracelet.

Rhodes, who does spot programming features for Comedy Central, originally was to do a pilot for the cable network that had him poking fun at whatever significant event was happening in an assortment of U.S. cities.

First on the list was Las Vegas, but that fell through.

Then Rhodes told director Jerry Kramer about a surfboard company sponsoring a competition at China Beach, and the two became passionate about doing an overall special on Vietnam. The “city” idea and the Vietnam idea merged into the concept that became “Viva Vietnam.”

Rhodes says there might be a lesson in “Viva Vietnam” for some veterans.

“A lot of guys go back, or they want to go back,” Rhodes says. “Maybe not everybody has to go back. I mean, watching this could…Oh, okay, it’s not things exploding everywhere.”

– More on Vietnam: Much more serious than Comedy Central’s venture into Vietnam is the Discovery Channel’s examination of “The Fall of Saigon,” a two-hour special airing at 8 and 11 p.m. Friday. The documentary zeroes in on the final days of the Vietnam conflict, constantly hitting home with the sense of confusion and rage that came with America’s pulling out of that city in 1975, ending its participation in the war.


Comedy Central Cable Network
Comedy Central Productions Production Company
Visualize Studios Production Company


Name Role
David Becky Producer
Michael Bernard Director of Photography
Mark Farrell Producer
Rich Hall Writer
Pat Hanson Sound
Jerry Kramer Executive Producer
Steve Rasch Editor
Steve Rasch Producer
Tom Rhodes Host
Tom Rhodes Writer

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