CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE BASRA, Iraq — When comics Scott Kennedy, Theo Von and Sam Fedele are backstage, they said they like to talk about sandwiches.
"Any kind of sandwich. Also guns, women. You know, guy stuff," said Von.
The three comics were in Basra, June 8, talking about guy stuff, wife stuff and little people, music these days (scary) and porta-john graffiti (enlightening). It was the last stop on an 11-day tour of Iraq's joint security stations, patrol bases, forward operating bases and contingency operating bases.
"About two and a half years ago, some guys in Baghdad asked me if I'd come over every month, for 11 days and bring a couple guys with me," said Kennedy, who has been on 30 tours. "I said if I could go out to the JSS's and the PB's and the FOBs and the COBs and places that don't get anything, I'd come every month."
Out in front of the stage, Soldiers filed into chairs and prepared for a night of laughter.
"We're here to make you guys forget life outside the wire," said Kennedy.
Von opened the show. He was the youngest one, in his twenties, with track pants, a plain white t-shirt and hair and image that suggests Ashton Kutcher and Zac Efron's evil son. "He's a fun-loving, goofy guy," Fedele said.
Fedele was second. He was definitely the sweatiest. "Half of you are going, 'Hey look! Tony Danza and Fred Flintstone had a son," Fedele said. A former Marine and owner of a blueprint business in southern California, he talked in his New Jersey accent about his wife, his kids and his views on politics (he's not a politician).
Kennedy closed the show. Kennedy said as a child he was less of a class clown and more of a class comedian. "Yeah, I was pretty funny, but I was more the guy who'd whisper something in your ear and you'd get in trouble for doing it."
Backstage, Von and Fedele sat and waited for the show to end. Unlike Kennedy, Von and Fedele were relative rookies, and this tour was new to them. They had eaten in the dining facilities, they had rode in UH-60 Black Hawks and they had sweated it out in the desert heat. After doing four shows a day for 11 days, the comedians were able to get a glimpse of the life of a Solider.
"In the end, the joke was on me," said Von, who was on his first tour. "I had a different view of the military, and I came here and I saw you guys work!"
After the show, Kennedy, Von and Fedele met Soldiers for photos and signatures. "Even if you don't want a picture, come back so I can shake your hand," said Kennedy. "The reason I come back here so much is because I just like being around heroes."
What was your "welcome to the military" moment?
"I was walking, and then I saw this guy with the thickest, ugliest glasses with a semi-automatic weapon," said Von. "I tried to shake his hand, and he totally messed it up. And they give this guy a semi-automatic weapon! It was like he needed a laser sight just to get my hand!"
"My welcome to the military moment ... getting shot at," said Kennedy.
This work, Comics come to Contingency Operating Base Basra, by SGT J.P. Lawrence, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.