For 26-year-old Spc. Anthony Marlin, a satellite communications systems operator in Charlie Company, 53rd Signal Battalion, U.S. Army Satellite Operations Brigade, the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command’s Best Warrior Competition is no laughing matter, even though he was a stand-up comedian before he joined the military.
He was runner up in the Soldier category of the competition. The most outspoken of all this year’s BW Soldiers, Marlin said he trained and prepped extensively prior to the competition.
“I feel like I am more mentally fit than I have ever been,” Marlin said. “I did not waste a day to grow and develop myself to get ready for this competition.”
It’s a 180-degree shift from his life prior to the military. For a handful of years Marlin travelled around the U.S. making people laugh, or so he tried, he said.
“I won’t ever say that I was good, because you can always be better at something, but I did it for years,” Marlin said. “I enjoyed every second of it, and I got to see a lot of really cool places, and met a lot of really cool people, and made a lot of people laugh along the way.”
Growing up in small-town Bonetown, then Vilonia, Arkansas, Marlin always had a knack for the performing arts. He enrolled in college for a year and bounced around from job to job in the process, when one day he got a phone call that he’d been accepted into a performing arts competition to try out for the stand-up comedy portion.
He immediately began writing jokes and did a few local open mic performances at watering holes around town before surprisingly winning the competition.
“Early on was rough,” Marlin said. “The fact that anyone who watched me perform thought I was funny was a stretch. People had a lot of faith in me though, especially my mentor Jay Jackson, (a noncommissioned officer in the Arkansas Army National Guard) who believed in me from the jump.”
Marlin was standing (no pun intended) tall telling jokes and making audiences laugh all over the country thereafter. He travelled with fellow standups from Boise, Idaho, to Boston going through his routine trying to make a living. The pay was hit and miss. Sometimes he didn’t break even money-wise on the trips, but during the last year, he finally started making decent pay after coming up with his own show.
“It was an improv/trivia/traditional standup show involving a lot of interaction with the audience and water guns, yes, water guns,” Marlin said. “It was great and was the most lucrative deal I’ve ever had in comedy.”
But as time went on, Marlin realized comedy just wasn’t going to cut it, and he was ready for a big change.
“Comedy took me all over the country and allowed me to see and do things I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise,” Marlin said. “And then it came to a point where I said, ‘Do I want to keep doing this, or keep it in my hip pocket and go for a career that has technical prowess and do something I can do to make money and support my hobbies?’ So I chose to join the military, and I haven’t looked back.”
Marlin said he had a good ride, and that he would miss it, but wanted more.
“I put it all behind me,” Marlin said. “Deleted all my performances off YouTube and just wanted a fresh start. When I was in that recruiting office, I never imagined the opportunities that would develop for me.”
Marlin said his comedy career prepped him for the military in a certain way.
“It’s like this linear way of thinking in comedy that had an end goal in sight, but if a bump in the road came about, you’d have that resiliency to get back on track,” Marlin said. “So in an odd way I felt comedy helped me succeed in the military because it taught me how to bounce back from failure, because there was a lot of that before there was any success.”
Marlin has been in his current unit in Landstuhl, Germany, for more than a year-and-half now and is thinking about starting to write jokes again and possibly do some open mic nights on the base or around town, as he is beginning to get that funny itch again.
“I figure I have to learn some German and get a feel for their humor,” Marlin said. “COVID shut down all the clubs and bars country-wide, but things are beginning to ease up, so you just might see me in that spotlight sometime soon.”