For any comedian out there who has the chance to go off and perform for American forces deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, or anywhere, filmmaker and comedian Jordan Brady has some advice for you.
Brady performing for American troops while filming "I Am Battle Comic."
"Don't be a pu**y," he says. "Count your blessings that you can bring a piece of home to these Americans. Don't overpack and leave your politics at home."
Brady put his money where his mouth is, taking off for the CENTCOM area of responsibility – including stops in Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan – with comedians Jeff Capri, Slade Ham, Don Barnhart, and Bob Kubota. Their experiences are captured in Brady's latest documentary "I Am Battle Comic."
The group gets a taste of military life, from Marine Corps infantry to the Air Force flightline. They're there to carry on the tradition of Bob Hope and other comics who came before them: To make America's fighting men and women forget where they are for a few hours.
Slade Ham, Jeff Capri, Bob Kubota, and Don Barnhart in a Film Still from" I Am Battle Comic."
The film is about more than just having fun performing for troops. The Battle Comics come face-to-face with the reality of modern American warfare: Real people are fighting over there and not all of them make it home – whether the American public realizes that or not.
"You never know if the guy you're performing for, shaking your hand, snapping the picture with, that's your Facebook buddy today is gonna be there tomorrow," says comedian Slade Ham, who has performed for troops in at least 39 countries. "Afghanistan and Iraq are real and if I get to take that kid of of that situation for that long ... how many chances do you get to do something that cool?"
"I Am Battle Comic" also includes moving and – at times – tearful testimonials from standup comedy greats like Dave Attell, George Lopez, and the legendary George Wallace. Each attest to being personally moved and changed by their experiences performing for U.S. troops.
"From Bob Hope's USO shows to Robin Williams, it's really the best way comedians can support the troops," Brady says. "So I set out to document that niche of working comedians. Once I met the individual men and women of the military, and felt their gratitude towards us for just telling jokes and visiting, I saw a bigger story."
Jeff Capri, Slade Ham, Don Barnhart, Jordan Brady, and Bob Kubota in a Film Still from "I Am Battle Comic."
The film is now a call to action for civilians to recognize what sacrifices the troops and their families make when deployed, it's also a peek behind the wire of doing comedy on base.
Once Brady finished editing the film, he skipped the Film Festival circuit and instead screened the film in seven cities, following the screenings with a Q&A session with the comics. Brady and his production company, Superlounge, then donated the admissions to military charities.
Comedian Slade Ham performs for U.S. troops in "I Am Battle Comic."
"The Q&As evolved into discussions about how we need to recognize those that serve, now and when they return home," Brady recalls. "We had a few Vietnam Vets that spoke up and crowds applauded them – maybe it was the first time they've heard that. These were some of the most magical nights."
All of the proceeds from theater screenings went to the National Military Family Association, Operation Gratitude, For Veterans' Sake and the Semper Fi Fund. A portion of the sale price of DVD and digital downloads or rentals will benefit the National Military Family Association.