Comedians Give Soldiers Relief from Daily Grind
By Spc. Wes Landrum, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
BAGRAM, Afghanistan, Sept. 15, 2003 They come from cities all over the United States: Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, to name a few. Their mission is simple: to provide relief with laughter. For the five comedians traveling under the "Comics on Duty" banner, it's more than just doing a job.
The comics -- Kevin Jordan, Steve Mazan, Mike Burton, Steve Eblin and Don Barnhart Jr. -- left the United States Sept. 4 to begin a seven-nation tour that ends Sept. 25. The tour includes stops in Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Qatar and Africa, and the comics performed here Sept. 11. Jordan said the tour started from humble roots.
Jordan said a comedian named Rich Davis started Comics on Duty 11 years ago, and performed only at stateside bases at first. "We have been traveling abroad now for over two years," Jordan said.
Barnhart has been doing shows for Comics on Duty for more than a decade. He said Davis, who had been performing in United Service Organizations shows, wanted to tour more bases and get more entertainment to the soldiers.
Barnhart said Davis knew the USO couldn't go everywhere troops were stationed. "He knew the soldiers needed a reminder from home," and that was the beginning of Comics on Duty.
The comics performed Sept. 12, even though there was no show scheduled.
"We heard that the soldiers in Kabul hadn't had entertainment in a while,' said Burton. "We went down there and did a show for them, because they deserved it."
"We had a choice: (to) stay up here and have a day off, or put on flack vests, brave the roads to Kabul, and do a show," said Barnhart. "Without hesitating, we said, 'When do we leave for Kabul?'"
The comics performed for the Quick Reactionary Force the afternoon of Sept. 13, and for the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force that night.
The comics agreed if another tour were scheduled in six months with Afghanistan on the list of sites, they would be right back here doing it all over again.
"No questions asked, I would be here," said Jordan, joking that "there is no safer place than being behind 7,000 people with weapons."
As he finished his routine Saturday night, Eblin summed up the tour's meaning for the comedians in three sentences.
"We don't do this for the money," he told the crowd. "We do this because this is our way of saying 'thank you' for all that you do in keeping us safe and allowing me to be doing comedy. You are all heroes. God bless every one of you, and come home safe."
(Spc. Wes Landrum is assigned to Coalition Joint Task Force 180)