Comedy in the Military: Finding Humor in the Face of Adversity

Military veterans use comedy to cope with the challenges of service and connect with diverse audiences

In the military, waiting is a constant companion. Waiting to leave, waiting to come back, waiting in line, waiting on watch – it’s a part of the daily routine. To make the waiting bearable, humor becomes a vital coping mechanism. The ability to find the funny in the mundane or the mistake helps smooth the rough edges of life on deployment. This unique brand of comedy plays to a diverse audience, finding interesting angles on boring routines and always maintaining an irreverent edge. Veterans use comedy to turn hours into minutes and create a sense of belonging in the face of adversity.

1: The Healing Power of Laughter

Humor has long been recognized as a powerful tool for healing and resilience. On a guided missile destroyer in the Persian Gulf, a mishap during a night exercise resulted in an officer shredding his fingers on the ship’s nonskid deck. The crew responded with classic dad jokes and mummy puns, finding humor in the officer’s heavily bandaged hands. This laughter not only brought levity to the situation but also created a sense of camaraderie and unity among the crew.

2: Comedy as a Universal Language

Military veterans come from diverse backgrounds, united by their desire to serve and pursue economic security. The military brings together individuals from trailer parks in the mountain West, East Coast neighborhoods, immigrant enclaves of the Midwest, and sprawling Southern suburbs. Through shared experiences, veterans form bonds of trust and friendship that transcend cultural barriers. Comedy becomes a way to bridge these differences, as veterans find common ground and laughter alongside people from all walks of life.

3: Embracing Vulnerability Through Comedy

Veterans use comedy to offer both praise and critique for their country. By making themselves the butt of the joke, they model vulnerability and create a safe space for dialogue. Many veterans, forced to hide parts of their lives while in uniform, have paved the way for future generations to serve proudly and authentically. The cultural diversity within the military reflects the beauty of America, allowing for Vietnam veterans and Gen Z women to share laughter and stories side by side.

4: Comedy as a Catalyst for Difficult Conversations

After a comedy show featuring military veteran comedians, a conversation between the comics and the audience took place. The audience had the opportunity to unpack jokes that may have landed awkwardly or fallen flat. One comment about a punchline regarding white privilege and police brutality sparked a discussion about race, safety, differing experiences, perceptions of police, patriotism, and comedy. This conversation exemplified the power of comedy to bring together a group of democratic strangers and facilitate dialogue about challenging topics.

5: Knowing Your Audience

The key to successful comedy, whether in the military or on a national scale, is understanding your audience. Veterans have honed their comedic skills by performing for diverse crowds, adapting their jokes to resonate with different sensibilities. This ability to connect with audiences from various backgrounds serves as a valuable lesson for a nation struggling with dialogue. To truly engage in meaningful conversations, it is crucial to understand and empathize with the perspectives and experiences of others.


Comedy has long served as a lifeline for military veterans, helping them navigate the challenges of service and find moments of joy and connection amidst adversity. Through laughter, veterans create a sense of belonging and unity, bridging cultural divides and fostering understanding. Comedy also serves as a catalyst for difficult conversations, allowing for dialogue about sensitive topics in a safe and inclusive environment. As we honor veterans on Veterans Day, let us not only appreciate their sacrifices but also recognize the humanity and resilience they bring to the stage of life.






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