EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Veterans Use Comedy to Bring Humor and Healing to Fellow Service Members

Ameera Butt
May 24, 2019 - 8:37 am
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KNX In-Depth presents a special one-hour show in celebration of Memorial Day weekend.

Hosts Charles Feldman and Mike Simpson chat with veterans who have seen combat in Iraq and the first Gulf War -- but now they crack jokes.

Their hope is to help fellow vets get through their trauma and heal through laughter.

LISTEN TO THE FULL PODCAST HERE.

Guests include: Thom Tran (US Army), Les ‘LJ’ Jennings (USAF), Steve Mazan (USN), James P. Connolly (USMC) came together in the studio to discuss how having their military backgrounds have played a role in using comedy for a greater good.

The group is clearly comfortable together, riffing off each other and saying how much camaraderie, humor, and respect goes into being comics who can tell jokes from their unique viewpoint. They joke that blackmail brought all of them together but really it was friendships forged by two of the men’s wives.

Called The GIs of Comedy, the group of around a dozen, was created in 2010 by Thom Tran when he decided that laughter was the best medicine for healing some of the physical and psychological wounds he received in combat, and those of his military brothers.

Thom is an eight-year veteran of the U.S. Army and received the Purple Heart in 2003 after being wounded in Iraq. He retired in 2005 because of the wounds he received.

Tran says because the comedy group is made up of all veterans, they can relate better to the military service members they’re entertaining than "some civilian who means well.”

“We walked in the boots, we wore the same uniform, we charged the same desert so they get it a little better,” he said.

Steve Mazan, who served in the U.S. Navy on a submarine, added there’s always something to make fun of in the military.

He is an Emmy-winning comedian who has performed on “The Late Show with David Letterman” and won an Emmy writing for Ellen Degeneres’ daytime talk show.

Les ‘LJ’ Jennings, who is one of the newest members of the GIs of Comedy, is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. He left his bodybuilding days (He was named Mr. Chicago and Mr. Illinois!) for more funny days.

He agrees with Steve saying the military can be funny including day-to-day activities.

Les said comedy and theater have always been something he’s been into.

“GIs of Comedy gave me an opportunity to give back to the military that has given me so much,” Les said.

James P. Connolly got his start in comedy while he was still in service in the Marines. He helped write jokes for his commanding officer for an officer’s roast.

They all agreed that being funny in front of military service members on a base means they get you. 

None of the four have left behind their respective military attachment after serving and moving onto comedy.

Les recalled the discipline from the military that helped him grow up and get off the streets.

James said he was one of those soldiers who wanted to get out and did not want to feel ‘labeled.’

“Comedians and Marines are very similar to me. We are stubborn, put our head down and live a life that most people wouldn’t even want to do,” James said.

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