Spotlight on Ryan

How did you find ASAP, and what is it you like about working with ASAP?

Way long ago, I was an amateur comedian at William & Mary doing improv and occasional stand-up sets, and Sam, the founder of ASAP, sort of approach me to join him in creating a comedy branch of what was then the Center for Veterans Engagement. And immediately it was an idea that hit home for me. Just the ability to help share the craft of comedy to a population that is so deserving of our support and care was something I immediately jumped on the opportunity to do. So, in the summer of 2014, Sam and I started meeting up and brainstorming how we could provide comedy classes to veterans. We landed on stand-up as the best medium to do that and then began the process that led us to Comedy Bootcamp.”

Do you have family in the military?

Both my parents were military brats growing up, so my grandfathers, on both sides, were military; my connection is certainly there, but what attracted me to this program was that it would provide an opportunity to get to know veterans and service members in a more intimate way. As a civilian and as a young person, you hear about our military members only on the news or in the history books. I felt this was a way to get them to know them as people. That's something that I really wanted to take the opportunity to do, and to be able to do that around a shared love of comedy was an awesome opportunity.”

Can you tell me about one of the routines you really enjoyed from previous times working with the veterans?

“One of the highlights for me was one of our participants who was an active duty navy rescue swimmer. So, the man jumps out of helicopters into stormy oceans and saves drowning people. That's his like threshold of fear. But right before he got on stage at the graduation show, he was a nervous wreck. Part of me was thinking, ‘Jeez, man. You jump out of helicopters, like all you gotta do is tell some jokes in front of strangers.’ But he got out there, and he made a joke about picturing the audience naked and directed the joke at one of my professors who was sitting in the front row. It was just a hilarious moment, and just to see that look in his eyes when he got his first laughed and was like, ‘I'm going to be okay. This is really fun,’ and then to hear him, you know, do an amazing set about his car, his wife, and all that stuff was a real thrill.”

What is something that working with the veterans has taught you about yourself?

I would say that the Comedy Bootcamp experience has showed me the power of, sort of, shared experiences and [how] the ability to talk about those through the lens of comedy is like a really powerful tool. When you meet people who on the surface may seem very different from yourself because they've gone overseas and they've served in combat situations, you might not realize that we're pretty much the same. We've gone through similar things. And so, to be able to laugh about something that we all can relate to with people, who you think on the surface are so different, is a real unifying, gratifying experience to have.”

What can ASAP do for veterans who are not currently participating in our programs?

ASAP can provide you the opportunity to do that thing that you've always wanted to do, and do it in a safe structured, supportive, and gratifying environment with people who can share in going through this experience together.”

Is there anything else you want to say?

There are few things more powerful than laughing together, and Comedy Bootcamp allows people from across the board to simply do that - laugh together.”