You are involved in an upcoming Chicago comedy show. What should we know about the Veteran Variety Show?
“Cam Dupre and I are starting a Veteran's initiative at The Playground Theater in partnership with Chicago Vets. Chicago Vets is a really neat organization that works to connect veterans with the resources that they need and The Playground Theater is a great non-profit theater in Chicago. We are so excited to be working with them! We are planning on running from July 11th to August 15th. That doesn't feel like a very long run, but hopefully it will be a great meeting place for veterans. If we can create a community by the end of this summer, then we will have done our job!”
Why are comedy, storytelling, performances (etc) valuable in life/to you personally?
“Standup gets me through my bad days. I'm always trying to find the bright side of everything that happens to me. I'm working as a writer to be able to find the truth in what I'm talking about on stage and I think that people go to standup shows (or at least the good ones) to see some of that truth. A great story or joke comes from sharing experiences and being honest, and to see the vets in our program learn to do this has been amazing.”
During the academic year, you provide volunteer direction with ASAP’s Comedy Bootcamp. Can you tell me about a memory you have from working with the Comedy Bootcamp veterans?
“I am sure everyone knows Isaura Ramirez, and she is lovely. She would drive me to Cozzy's (a comedy club) on Thursday nights. It's like a half hour drive each way, so just talking with her - very informally - about some really hard topics and making a friend that I wouldn't otherwise have, has been really rewarding. I think maybe there is this misconception that it's like all heavy stuff all the time when working with veterans, but they're just people. The vast majority of the time, the class is about learning how to unleash that inner clown. It lives inside all of us. I firmly believe that everybody has that inner clown and seeing the form that that takes in different people is really cool.”
What can ASAP do for veterans?
“So, first off the class is three hours once a week, and that seems like so much time. But when you're sitting there with a group of strangers that become your friends it's something that I look forward to: it's the highlight of my week. When you're beginning to write jokes, you get into this mindset that follows you after you leave. So, you'll go home, and you'll be washing dishes, and you'll think of a joke, and that experience and that joke you hold onto until the next Saturday. So, being able to laugh for a couple hours once a week, I don't think there is anything bad about that.”
Can you tell me about one of the jokes you've heard during your time working with the stand-up group that you have found really entertaining?
“That's a hard one! There are so many good jokes. There's this guy, Brian, who does one liners. He very much embraces being a character, and he did this one joke where he says, ‘I've never stood in front of a group of people that were facing me,’ and he turns around, waits a beat, and then says, ‘Great, now we're on the same page." That always really got me. It was really creative, and he was so comfortable on stage.”
Anything to add?
“It is just like building that community of people and sharing that special three hours a week with each other: that's really important. Being able to open up in a way that I don't think occurs to a lot of people is special. The art of doing stand-up comes from a really honest place, and kind of looks reality square in the face, not only say that, ‘It's okay,’ but also stand up reminds us that reality can be a good thing. A really cool moment for me was at one of the alumni meet-ups, people were talking like ‘Yeah, sometimes I look at tragedy, and I sit and think to myself like how can I make this funny?’ I know that sounds like an absurd statement, but it is such a great way to process emotions. When a bad thing happens, look at it and say, ‘You know what? It's gonna be okay-- and not only is it going to be okay, but I could go out on stage, and I can talk about it. People will relate to me.’ There is something deep about laughter, there's also empathy. I told my first joke at the age of 17 and I've been trying to get better ever since. I hope that wherever I am after graduation I can keep working with ASAP!!”