Laugh About It: Why Some Veterans Are Turning to Comedy
We define empathy as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. But for some veterans returning home after service, trying to make sense of their experiences can wreak havoc on their brains — especially when it feels like civilians are apathetic to their journey.
Of course, not every service member performs on the front lines. No matter where one is, the experience of military service can greatly impact a person’s emotional, psychological and physical.
Some veterans are turning to a healthy outlet to unload their feelings and experiences: Laughter.
Recent studies find that laughter comes with health benefits. Aside from the physical perks of released endorphins, a chuckle, guffaw or snicker can relieve stress and pain and can improve your overall mood.
Through the Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP)’s Comedy Bootcamp, veterans with an interest in comedy can join a community of fellow comedians to refine their comic chops. After eight weeks they graduate to a five-minute standup set in front of an unassuming audience.
This spring, the Veterans Coming Home team and WHRO met up with the ASAP Comedy Bootcamp’s current class in Hampton Roads, Virginia.
“The military brings on a certain level of anxiety, and laughter is one of the things, I always try to laugh, but sometimes people laugh to keep from crying.” said Fred McKinnon, a comedian and disabled military veteran who served with the Army Airborne Operations. “A lot of veterans turn to other things to deal with the anxiety, and for me, comedy just so happen to be something I latched on to once I got out, and it has kind of been a safe-haven place for me.”
Fred is not alone in finding relief through the bootcamp. Previous graduates from the ASAP Comedy Bootcamp include Mike Garvey, Isaura Ramirez, and PJ Walsh, who also use the stage as a platform to revisit their tours of service. You can view clips from their final Bootcamp performance at New York City’s Gotham Comedy Club below.
“While I was in Iraq, I was handpicked to train the Iraqi army… I was training them in vehicle maintenance, and now just to be clear, the most work I’ve ever done on a car was changing a flat tire, and I did that by pulling over on the side of the road and flashing my boobs… Which did not go over well with the women in the Iraqi village, but I did win the men’s hearts and minds.” joked Isaura Ramirez, an Army veteran who spent 15 months in Iraq.
Through the ASAP Comedy Bootcamp, groups grow more comfortable with using quips to deliver what would otherwise be grim recounts of their realities, and they find that by speaking comically about themselves and their experiences, they can reconnect with civilians and heal themselves along the way.
Want to see more? Stay tuned for the full-length video from the Comedy Bootcamp, which goes live on May 18, 2016.
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