If Laughter Is the Best Medicine, Hopefully Smiling Is Still Partial Credit

Yesterday I was lucky enough to get the chance to do a show at Walter Reed Army Hospital with two other fellow comedians. In an effort to prepare myself for the venture, I did my research, which brought up both Jon Stewart’s and Kathy Griffin’s trips there.

I actually did catch that particular episode of Griffin’s show, the 4th season finale of Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List, and I found it very helpful in knowing what to expect. I also thought she handled the entire experience professionally, without completely scrapping her act or changing herself, which led to a nice mix of both awkward and tearjerking moments.

photo courtesy of Flickr and soldiersmediacenter

My own experience was not quite as grandiose (I only mean in that there were no video cameras documenting footage for basic cable television), but just as insightful. Our crowd ended up being a bit light due to some last minute free tickets to the Redskins game (sports versus arts! the rivalry continues), but the room was still about three-quarters full. Occupants included a bartender, the show supervisor, his friend, another friend, a few gaggles of wandering soldiers and their families, and some occasional head pokes in the room.

There were definitely three children in the room, and by children, I mean two 2-year-olds and one almost 2-year-old. Kids don’t completely freak me out at comedy shows because I’m used to performing in front of a demographic known as my stuffed animals, who share many of the wants and needs of children, but still, there were minor panic attacks. After all, I left my balloon animals at home, on the inflation wait list.

I can, however, say that one of the children in the room was wearing a full monkey costume, similar to this one, complete with a plush banana sticking out of her pocket. Comedy gold.

The audience was a bit quiet, but definitely appreciative and laughed from time to time. There were a few people who came in, sat for a bit, and then left, but some stayed for the entire show. There was one gentleman in a wheelchair who laughed and smiled at nearly everything. The feeling was contagious. Even better, the little monkey child loudly giggled and clapped her hands at two points in my set when there was pretty heavy silence in the room. “She has great taste in comedy,” I wryly observed.

After the show, one of the guys came and asked for all of our autographs. My heart just melted into my socks at that point.

In fact, everyone I talked to afterward was so gracious and grateful about us coming out. It might not seem like a lot for a comic, just one night to come out and do a quick show, but hopefully, it’s something different for the soldiers and their families. It’s easy to get caught up in the ups and downs of stand up, and having good or bad shows, but every so often, you do a show where none of that seems quite as important.

Politics aside, these men and women, the majority of them probably younger than me, have been dealt a tougher hand than mine, and it’s hard to not be inspired by their strength and courage in the face of their circumstances.

photo courtesy of Flickr and soldiersmediacenter

To find out more about Walter Reed Hospital and getting involved with its outreach programs, go here.

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