Finding Humor in the Waiting: Veterans and the Power of Comedy

Veterans use comedy to navigate the challenges of military service and connect with diverse audiences

In the military, waiting is an inevitable part of the experience. Whether it’s waiting to leave, waiting to come back, or waiting in line, humor has long been a coping mechanism for veterans. The ability to find the funny in the mundane or the mistake helps to smooth the rough edges of life on deployment. Comedy in the military is a special brand that must cater to a diverse audience and find interesting angles on routine experiences. It is always irreverent in some way, providing a respite from the seriousness of war. This Veterans Day, it is important to appreciate the humanity of those who serve and recognize the power of humor in their lives.

The Healing Power of Laughter

Humor has a unique ability to turn hours into minutes and make difficult situations more bearable. Veterans often rely on humor to cope with the challenges they face during their service. One example is the story of an officer on a guided missile destroyer in the Persian Gulf who tripped during a night exercise, shredding his fingers on the ship’s nonskid deck. Despite the seriousness of the injury, the crew found humor in the situation, making jokes and puns about the officer’s bandaged hands. Laughter became a way to bond and alleviate the stress of deployment.

Comedy as a Unifying Force

Comedy in the military is not just about finding humor in personal experiences; it also serves as a unifying force among diverse groups of people. The military brings together individuals from different backgrounds and walks of life, creating a melting pot of cultures and perspectives. Through shared experiences, veterans develop bonds of trust with people they may not have interacted with otherwise. Comedy becomes a tool to bridge these differences and find common ground. It allows veterans to connect with audiences from various backgrounds and share their unique perspectives on topics such as war, race, patriotism, and more.

Embracing Vulnerability through Comedy

Veteran comedians often use self-deprecating humor, making themselves the butt of the joke, to showcase vulnerability and model how to offer both praise and critique for the country. By sharing their personal experiences and perspectives, they create a space for dialogue and reflection. This vulnerability extends beyond the stage, as shown in a comedy show organized by the Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP). After the performance, the comedians engaged in a conversation with the audience, addressing any jokes that may have landed awkwardly or fallen flat. This open dialogue allowed for a deeper understanding of differing experiences and perceptions, fostering a sense of unity and empathy.

Comedy as a Catalyst for Dialogue

Comedy has the power to spark difficult conversations and challenge societal norms. During the ASAP comedy show, topics such as white privilege, police brutality, and race were discussed in a lighthearted yet thought-provoking manner. The audience, consisting of both military law enforcement personnel and civilians, engaged in a conversation about these sensitive topics. The comedians and the audience navigated through the complexities of race, safety, and patriotism, highlighting the importance of open dialogue and understanding. Comedy became a catalyst for meaningful conversations that might otherwise be difficult to initiate.

Knowing Your Audience

One essential lesson that both comedians and military personnel learn is the importance of knowing their audience. To effectively use humor, one must understand the sensitivities and perspectives of the people they are addressing. This knowledge allows comedians to tailor their jokes to resonate with their audience and create a shared experience. Similarly, in the military, understanding the diverse backgrounds of fellow service members fosters a sense of camaraderie and unity. By knowing the audience, veterans can use their stories and humor to bridge divides and bring people together.


Humor has always played a vital role in the lives of veterans, providing a respite from the challenges of military service. Through comedy, veterans find common ground, embrace vulnerability, and spark meaningful conversations. The power of laughter enables them to navigate the waiting and uncertainties of military life, while also connecting with diverse audiences. As we celebrate Veterans Day, let us appreciate the humanity of those who serve and recognize the profound impact of humor in their lives.

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