Funny Man's Message Is Sobering
Standup comedian Bernie McGrenahan used laughter to loosen up the crowd and gain its trust before exposing his battles with alcohol and drugs. The appearance at Fort Monmouth was sponsored by Army Community Service and the Army Substance Abuse Program.

FORT MONMOUTH, N.J. -- It was time for "Happy Hour" at the Expo Theater, but no one was serving drinks.

This happy hour was a training program disguised as a standup comedy routine that turned into a session on avoiding at-risk drinking, drugs, suicide and sexual assault.

By the time standup comedian Bernie McGrenahan got to his message, he had used laughter to loosen up the crowd and gain its trust. The appearance was sponsored by Army Community Service and the Army Substance Abuse Program.

The crowd was small, but the laughs were large. McGrenahan tackled relationships, the military, cars, his height, toilet paper and his experiences with his disabled brother before telling his own tale of his downward spiral due to alcohol and drugs.

He said he started drinking as a teenager. His "one night a week" of drinking quickly became two, then three nights, plus weekends.

He blew a baseball scholarship to college when scouts became discouraged with the change in his play. He dropped out of community college, lost his job and got three driving while intoxicated arrests that finally landed him in jail for six months.

Along the way his younger brother Scott began to drink and do drugs, something that led to his suicide in the family's backyard with a shotgun blast to his heart.

McGrenahan said his drinking buddies did not visit him in jail; only his mother came week after week. She would come and cry.

He said seeing how broken-hearted she was made him want to change. He told her that when he got out, he was not going to drink anymore or do drugs. That was 21 years ago.

Near the end of his session McGrenahan appealed to Soldiers to watch out for each other, to talk to someone they think is drinking too much or taking drugs.

He said that they should be watching out for their "battle buddy" and to be aware of any changes that might indicate they are depressed or having thoughts of ending their lives.

He also spoke of sexual assault by men and women.

"If you are out somewhere and have a half-finished drink, I don't care what it is, it could be water. If you leave that drink and come back to it, that's it; it is finished, throw it out," he said. "Do not drink anything that someone could have put a drug into while you were not watching. And if one of your friends suddenly starts acting differently, don't get mad. Get them out of there and make sure they are all right."

McGrenahan has appeared on many late night talk shows, including the Jay Leno Show and opens for musical acts in Las Vegas.

He has a full schedule of military bases that have booked him to bring "Happy Hour" to installations around the world.

Page last updated Tue November 3rd, 2009 at 09:50