Tag Archives: Life

COMEDY AT WAR: Returning Home

My first trip overseas to entertain the troops in Afghanistan and Iraq was in 2004. I was 32 at the time. Close to 80% of our current military weren’t even in high school yet. Comedy and the reality of war have been two consistencies I’ve lived with daily since. On every trip to a war zone, I make new friends and can’t help but identify with them. In 1990, I was a fresh faced seaman. Every time I return home from one of my comedy tours, I pray they do the same…return home. Safely. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

Bagram Air Base Afghanistan.

My first few weeks home are always a struggle to readjust my sleep and my mental state. I come home caring about different things and taking a very large majority of the world’s problems more seriously. My girlfriend had to sleep in another room last night because I was reacting to every sound and jumping in my sleep. In the four years we’ve been together, that has never happened before. 

Being an entertainer seems so petty to me, when the handshakes, life talks, courage, selflessness, shared laughter, names, and faces are fresh. It doesn’t just shut off for me. It chips away at a part of me each time, without my really being conscious of it. The mind is brutal when you’re not mindful of it. A big part of it is survivor’s guilt. Although I’m very happy not being in the military anymore, the loyalty and connection to every brother and sister serving never leaves. 

The GI’s Of Comedy

I’m grateful that I’ve been doing this long enough to understand/recognize these steps and I feel like I’m mostly sharing this for my fellow comedians who are also military veterans. For everyone else, my point is that these trips I’ve taken to make service members laugh are a complete privilege, but at the same time they break my heart and are a complete mind f*ck. They have had an impact on my thoughts, feelings & life. 

The reason I’m sharing this is because I’m just a comedian. Just a guy spending a week or maybe a month over there. Please imagine a brave man or woman who lives/lived that life on a daily basis for a very very long time. I HATE war. I LOVE warriors. I know the part I play in all of this and I am grateful for my purpose. It has helped me come to terms with what happens over there.  But not with all of it, I believe that’s impossible. All heroes, friends, and strangers please know that for as long as I am walking this earth, I am here for you. Don’t be too proud to talk! PLEASE! I’m here to make you laugh, have a conversation, or just listen. Family, friends, service members, veterans… any and all.  Humanity is my light…

THANKFUL FOR SILENT PROTECTORS: My Country Music Convoy Through Iraq

 The latest Episode of the Comic Relief series I do for Military.com was just posted. I want to share “the story behind the story” on this one. I feel it’s fitting today because I’m very thankful for it.

The soldier in this story, Micah, isn’t just a friend, a veteran, a Airman, a PTSD fighter/survivor, and a hero, he is someone who I know for a FACT saved my life. I am here able to write these words right now because of his selfless actions. And I know he gives it very little thought, because it’s just how he’s built.

I often say my favorite audience member is someone I got to entertain overseas in a war zone now back home safe sitting, laughing, blended in amongst the rest. Think about that for a second. When you go to a concert, attend church, support your children’s school function and so on… You may be sitting next to a man or woman much like my friend Micah, silent protectors shouldering life’s often-harsh realities.

DSC00954
Micah In The Middle

It was an eight-hour (give or take) convoy through Iraq in 2005, hot, tense, funny & very real. Fellow comedian Reno Collier and I stared out the windows taking in rare visions and listening to extremely sad country music. Once outside our humvee when we arrived safely in Kuwait, we could see the cracked window from the small arms fire we took on our trip. Micah said “soooo… you’re not supposed to see that… yeah… that was fun.” Nervous laughter followed by all.

How do you thank someone who saved your life? Including someone in a story is my way of showing how grateful I am for them. When asked, “what’s your comedy about?” my reply is “family, friends and life experiences,” all of which mean the world to me.

This is just one person, one example, one story about the type of person we need to be very thankful for: selfless heroes.

The story in this video below is pretty damn funny. Enjoy!  

G.I. Jokes: From Combat Zone To Comedy Zone

The All Warrior Network created a short documentary about U.S. Army Veteran and now comedian Justin Wood’s inspirational story. I got to play a small part in his journey. Our friendship and Veteran loyalty is captured extremely well. It’s a positive, funny & heartfelt story. You can’t ask for much more than that. Enjoy!

IMG_3338

FullSizeRender (4)

 

THE UNEXPECTED

I’m astonished how the promises I make to myself keep leading me to living a more fulfilling life. When I look back at the trajectory of my life, any so-called “normal” path never seemed to fit. I’d often come across the “where do you see yourself in 5 years” question. I don’t really like this question because for me it brings in an element of “I want,” which always seemed to bring about expectation, and when those visions were achieved, most of the time they came with a sense of entitlement.  Entitlement and expectation kill surprise. The surprise and just flat out amazement of the unexpected places and moments life has taken me to have crushed every visualized achievement I’ve ever had.

I really try to never miss smelling a rose. I learned as a young man a very long time ago that life is a gift, the one thing we all share… I can go on about this forever. For now, I’ll say that taking the time to pause and look around has often lead to me taking the very 1st step down a path leading to something completely not what I expected and beyond where I ever could have seen myself.

Just a few examples from my own time on this round planet (or flat depending on what year you are reading this):

-With a killer mullet, Camel light stained fingers & a bitchin 1979 Z-28 Camaro (you’re welcome ladies), I barely graduated high school. The next day I joined the Navy. As a result, 5 years later, my hands were in the mouth of The President of The United States and I was advising him to floss and use a fluoride rinse. He never listened… old puffy gums Willy.

-I moved from the NYC comedy scene to LA because I found myself hanging out with my old hometown New York friends on weekends instead of grinding it out in comedy venues. My move to the west allowed me to make friends in comedy and we went to clubs nightly for a very long time together. 5 years after that move, this born and bread New Yorker was living on a tour bus playing for 10 – 15,000 people nightly and opening for the biggest comedian in the country who happens to be a straight up ReeeeeeD…NECK!

-When I made the move back to NYC to immerse myself into the stand up scene, I actually took a break from comedy and went to a full time theatre school. 5 years later, I was doing a theatrical show (seriously WTF? Remember cigarettes, camaro, mullet?) recounting my life and trying to shed light on the importance of our service members.

-Back in LA again and after all the years in comedy clubs, acting classes & theatrical performances, I find American Ninja Warrior to be the coolest thing I’ve ever done…and now it has opened up a new and unexpected path. Though maybe I should start expecting the unexpected!

I guess my point here is that I made a vow to myself to work within my values. The one big question I ask myself often is, “At the end of my days, what will I look back on?” The TV spots, line in a movie, dream venues… all awesome, don’t get me wrong… but they pale in comparison to the White House, years traveling with a hillbilly, sharing my story on stage, and getting hit in the face by a log on National Television while showing the world what matters to me. I found the things that matter to me most while traveling down an off-the-beaten-track journey and when I look back, those are what shaped me.

I’m far from finished. I actually think I’m just getting started…

With that said, I’m BEYOND EXCITED to finally share this next venture: I’ve been asked to be part of a team (all Marines) in ADVENTURE TEAM CHALLENGE: September 18-20, 2015. This is pretty awesome and my mind was completely blown! Seriously read on…

The Adventure Team Challenge brings together disabled and able-bodied athletes for three days of spirited team competition. Presented by Pearl Meyer and directed by World T.E.A.M. Sports, in Colorado’s rugged and wild Gore Range north of Eagle. It inspires and challenges athletes of all abilities. With each team of five including two athletes with disabilities, one being a wheelchair user, the Challenge provides an opportunity for competitors to work together toward shared goals and rewards.

I’ve made some adjustments to how I look at life and they have me going “outside the box” of sorts and I again have been offered something exciting and in ways, nerve racking. My only regret would be not doing it!

Challenge accepted!

Print