Veterans Use Comedy to Bring Humor and Healing to Fellow Service Members

May 24, 2019 - 3:30 pm

It's a special KNX In-Depth hour in celebration of Memorial Day Monday.

They're veterans of combat in Iraq and the first Gulf War but now they crack jokes.

They're stand-up comics who have served in various branches of the military and want to help fellow military soldiers get through trauma and heal through laughter.

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 played a role in wanting to use comedy for a greater good.

The group is clearly comfortable with each other, riffing off each other and saying how much camaraderie and respect goes into being a group that can tell jokes from a very unique viewpoint. They joked 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, was created in 2010 by Tom Tran when he decided that laughter truly was the best medicine for healing some of the physical and psychological wounds he received in combat, and those of his fellow members in the military.

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


3:25 - 3:57 Tom "I met all these other comedians who happen to be veterans and I had this idea in my head of forming a group of exclusively vets to go entertain the troops the way we had people come and entertainm us but the diff is we are all vets and we can all relate far better to the people we are entertaining for than some civilian who means well but we walked in the boots, we wore the same uniform, we charged the same desert so they get it a little better.

/the hierarchy, the jokes in the submarine and plenty of opps for laughter on a submarine, youre on the same boat and its a shared common making fun of day to day activities.

He said because the comedy group are all veterans, they can relate far 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, who served in the US 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.

VIDEO steve 4:53-5:06

steve there's always something to make fun of in the military and making fun of everything in a submarine.

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

VIDEO Les: 6:17-6:44

military intelligence is an oxymoron. it starts in the military just from day to day activities just the way things are done is hilarious in and of itself.

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 got his start in comedy while he was still in service at the Marine Corps Base Camp in Pendleton. He helped write jokes for his commanding officer for an officer's roast.

VIDEO 9:17-9:53 James I was in Desert Storm

I started because i was given no choice.

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

But when we walk onto a base and tell a joke without having to explain what an acronym is," Tom said. He said the serviceman get it because they've been in their shoes.

All of them didn't leave the military persona or life behind after serving and moving into comedy.

VIDEO: Les 27:01-28:35 All of you have had th experience of being in teh miitary and comedy, youve kept an attachment to the military. Why did you guys decide to keep the military as part of your life?

Les said the discipline from the military helped him grow up and get him 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.