Greetings from Korea, the Land of the Rising Sun…wait, that’s not right. Why can’t we get it right?
Who are the GIs of Comedy? Well, per the bio The GIs of Comedy is a comedic troupe of troops, who have taken their love of their country and brought it to the comedy stage. Quite simply, as the motto says, they’re Standup Comics. All Veterans. Still Serving Their Country. One Joke At A Time.
And there are a handful of us, however, on this current Fall 2015 tour to Korea & Japan, there are five of us, courtesy of Armed Forces Entertainment. So, again, who are we? What are we? Apparently, that’s open for debate.
First of all there’s the creator of the GIs. His name is Thom Tran. He was born in Vietnam but raised in Buffalo. He’s a medically retired Staff Sergeant who was injured in Iraq in 2003. To be more specific he was shot in the head and awarded a Purple Heart. He the Asian guy in Call of Duty Black Ops. Which Asian guy? All of them. Really. But who is he? What is he? People ask all the time. In fact, the Korean flight attendants on Korean Air started talking to him in Korean.
Jose Sarduy is a pilot/instructor for the Air Force when he’s not telling jokes. He’s a graduate of the Air Force Academy and has served for 20 years. He even flew President Bush to China. But who is he? The Mexican and Puerto Rican sergeants at lunch the other day were amazed that he was an expert salsa dancer. Why were they amazed? “Because he was white.” So is he? No. What is he? What kind of name is Sarduy? It’s Cuban. Jose was born in Cuba and raised in Miami.
I met Thom and Jose in 2012. We’ve toured extensively. Great comedians! Great guys! Great Americans! Then there are the rest of the “GIs of the Comedy” as we were once dubbed by a local television anchor in Buffalo. But I’ll talk about us, too, extensively. Sherwood Schwartz dissed the Professor and Mary Ann on the early opening theme of Gilligan’s Island by referring to them as “the rest.” They were just as important as “the millionaire and his wife” and so are the rest of the GIs.
Key Lewis is a veteran of the US Navy. I met Key last year when we entertained troops in Italy, Jordan, Israel, and Jordan. He such a great comedian and so full of energy. Great guy who loves his family, hats, and shoes, but who is he? What is he? He tells a great joke that starts with: “I’m half white, half black, and look Mexican.” And everyone thinks that. He says he didn’t have a choice. Hell, I even call him “Llave” which is Spanish for key.
My newest pal is Ralph Figueroa. We did a show together over the summer in Vegas. He served in the Army for 12 years. Our paths likely crossed at Ft. Sill back in the mid-90’s and we have hit it off well. Ralph is a great guy, too, and does so much to give back to veterans. It’s quite impressive. He’s into cars and hair gel. He let me borrow some last night and after a show, walking in the rain, and 7 hours of sleep, my hair is still holding up well. But who is Ralph? What is Ralph? He’s half Mexican, half El Salvadoran, yet everyone thinks he’s Puerto Rican. They call him “Papi.”
Then there’s me. Everyone else has their photo taken in front of a brick wall. I got a tree. I’m cool with that. They’re all big city guys. I’m not. I’m an Army guy for 23 years and counting…Enlisted, Officer, Reserves, National Guard, Regular Army, Salvation Army, you name it and I’ve done it in the Army…but who am I? What am I? I’m a white guy from Alabama, so naturally, people think I speak Roll Tide. I don’t. Not me. I’m an Auburn guy. War Eagle!
So now you know a little bit more about us, specifically, who we are. Now don’t get it mixed up again…
And a special thanks to our tour manager, Kennon, who is doing a great job and has her hands full keeping us all straight. I don’t envy her position at all. She also just happens to be Thom’s fiance.
Thom created the GIs of Comedy hoping to bring the therapy of laughter to troops still serving in combat zones, and technically Korea is still at war, even though they have a Captain D’s, Krispy Kreme, and the largest Base Exchange I have ever seen here at Osan.
I’m honored to be able to entertain troops all around the world, but it’s even more special doing with such a great group of guys. I’m not just blowing smoke, I mean it. Now if we could just come up with a joke that starts with “A Korean, a Mexican, a Puerto Rican, a Bama fan, and a white guy named Jose walk into a bar….”
Sorry, we don’t do Pinterest…
Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He is also a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.