By Dustin Perry, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public AffairsMarch 11, 2019
CAMP ZAMA, Japan (March 11, 2019) -- The co-hosts of a nationally syndicated radio show brought a night of stand-up comedy, improv, music and interactive games to an all-ages crowd March 1 at the Community Recreation Center here.
The variety program, known as "Game Night," featured Derek Haskins and Sean Powell, the eponymous hosts of the Big D and Bubba Show, as the emcees, along with comedians Carly Aquilino and Jessimae Peluso. Their visit was part of a Pacific tour in cooperation with the USO, which included additional stops at Camp Fuji and Yokosuka Naval Base.
The Big D and Bubba Show has been on the air since 1996, when Haskins and Powell teamed up on WXCT, now WTGE, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The show has aired weekdays on AFN radio for the past seven years, said Patrick Thomas, the show's producer since 1999. The three started Game Night about a year ago with the desire to visit markets where their show aired, but to do more than simply a meet-and-greet "handshake tour," Thomas said.
"We wanted something where we could come and actually entertain people," said Thomas. "It's improv, it's live radio … it's comedy, it's a game show--it's everything."
Aquilino and Peluso opened the show, sharing the stage for a 20-minute set of stand-up during which they riffed on topics such as dating, living in L.A. and New York, and adjusting to the culture shock after arriving in Japan. Both comics integrated crowd work into their sets, with Peluso taking particular delight in talking to a group of four male Soldiers in their early 20s seated in the front row.
"Are you guys the boy band of the Army?" Peluso asked them.
Later segments of the show included Powell projecting embarrassing photos of Haskins onto a large screen onstage, and using an app on his phone to translate Japanese text on snack food packages, the results of which were often wildly incorrect. A T-shirt Haskins bought at the airport and was wearing said, in Japanese, "I am not a sumo wrestler," but the app translated it as, "I sumo at have specific person is no."
They then invited members of the audience onstage to participate in a celebrity guessing game, married couples for a mini round of the Newlywed Game, and even a segment where Thomas asked one woman biographical questions and then spontaneously composed a song about her while playing acoustic guitar.
"The games are just a way to get people onstage so we can talk to them and come up with jokes on the fly," said Thomas. "It's all about trying to entertain the crowd."
Earlier in the day before the show, the Big D and Bubba team met with military police officers on Camp Zama, members of the U.S. Army Japan Band, and U.S. Army Garrison Japan Commander Col. Phillip Gage. While being given a tour, Haskins and Powell, recorded their interactions with the Soldiers, with the possibility of using the material on future episodes of their show.
"I enjoyed going to the motor pool," said Thomas. "Those were our guys because they all listened to country music and bunch of them were from places where they grew up listening to the show, so that was a lot of fun."
Thomas said being able to meet with and entertain military listeners of their show was "one of the greatest things [they'd] ever done in their life."
"The thing we're most proud of in our career is that we are the AFN country morning show," said Thomas. "Being on the air all over the world, where all these guys can listen, is the best part of what we do every day. So being able to come out here and actually meet the troops, it's been amazing."
Being part of the USO is a privilege, Thomas said, because the organization helps to bring service members stationed overseas or deployed to combat areas "a taste of home."
"Getting to talk to the people who say, 'I grew up listening to you guys; I couldn't wait to come out here," it's just such a rewarding experience for us," said Thomas. "You can sit in the barracks and watch Netflix, but this is more of a thing that connects you to home, because we're here."