Four funny military veterans lauch punchlines on the Peninsula.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
The G.I. Comedy Co., which includes a carousing troupe of ex-Marines and a Navy vet named Jason Resler (who prefers to call himself “seaman”), are taking siege of Monterey Live in the name of patriotic hilarity.
The marines form The Three Jarheads, the official comedy group of Iraq War Veterans Organization, Inc. As multi-ethnic marauders (one is white, another black, the third Hispanic), they aren’t shy about breaking down racial barricades; more importantly, they contend, they are using comedy as a way to heal their fellow soldiers.
Founder of the G.I. Comedy Co. and event host David Bothun enlisted in the Marines because, according to Bothun, they were (and still are) the most “badass” service division.
“The Marines are a department of the Navy,” he says. “The men’s department.”
After serving for two years, it took Bothun almost two decades to recognize the comedic material he accessed while in the military. That awakening was triggered by 9/11, after which he had an anxiety attack that led him to begin hanging out in bars with other veterans.
“You’re sitting next to a vet, and these boot camp stories start pouring out,” he says. “I realized that a lot of it was funny. They make you shave your head, and then they give you a comb for your pocket. [Sergeants] tell you to ‘hump all day and all night’ [during training] right after the don’t ask/don’t tell policy is explained.”
In 2002, Bothun began touring the West Coast with other ex-military comedians. One night, while sitting on a bus stop bench after a gig in Oregon, he was offered a ride. The stranger was Resler.
The two began performing at bases together and discussing a firmer commitment to serving suffering soldiers.
“We feel the need to take care of other service members,” Bothun says. “We were there. We understand.”
This weekend, a portion of the proceeds will go to The Wounded Warrior Project. Literature will also be available about further foundations, including some that serve victims of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is of particular concern to Bothun.
“In Iraq and Afghanistan, [service members] are losing nine guys every week and a half. If you aren’t disturbed by that… that’s a disorder.”
Bothun believes his comedy is more accessible to all citizens than most might expect.
“The jokes are about men and women who happen to be in the military,” he says. “They’re people. We’re not talking in acronyms. It’s not political.”
He breaks into a chuckle and explains what it was like to meet his ex-wife, a very civilian endeavor, in military terms.
“You meet your future wife, and she’s like a recruiter. She says nice things, offers a great future. Marriage is boot camp. She tells you how to behave, what to wear, how to cut your hair.”
That said, the act, which the group opens by raising a microphone stand with an American flag attached in recreation of the iconic image of three soldiers elevating the flag at Iwo Jima, should carry added significance for soldiers. After performing with Resler at Travis Airport in Marietta, Okla., an Airforce ranger gave one of his achievement patches to Bothun, who keeps it in his pocket whenever he performs.
THE G.I. COMEDY TOUR plays 7pm Friday and Saturday, Sept. 5-6, at Monterey Live, 414 Alvarado St. Monterey. $20/general; $15 military. 375-5483, www.montereylive.org