By Mark Iacampo, USAG Hohenfels Public AffairsMay 25, 2011
HOHENFELS, Germany -- "A quintet of comedians cracked up the crowd during the “No Laugh Track Required IV” tour at the Zone, May 14.
The “fourth time’s the charm” show featured some of the hottest rising stars on the comedy scene, veterans not only of the stage, but of film and television as well. The lineup included Heather Marie Zagone, Justin Wade, Rosie Tran, Johnny Cardinale, and Todd Rexx.
“This was funny all the way through, and I laughed through every single person,” said Sgt. Bailey Olen, Headquarters and Headquarters Company 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment. “I thought, these guys aren’t going to be able to follow up after each one, but it was like non-stop laughter.”
Zagone, comedian and actress who has appeared on “Weeds” and “CSI”, produces the show and is on her fourth tour in five months. She started the program in honor of her cousin, who is currently serving in Iraq.
“I want to go to Iraq and perform for him. I made a promise to him,” she said.
Zagone said she’s impressed by the sacrifice of those serving in the armed forces.
“To make that decision, to give up the next six years of your life, to see your family for one week a year " my hat’s off to them. This is about letting them know we still appreciate them,” she said.
Cardinale is also no stranger to performing for the military. On his fifth tour for the Army he has performed in Japan, Korea, Africa and the Middle East. He said it is the feeling of being part of “one big family” that keeps bringing him back.
“At a comedy club there’s just a bunch of random people that don’t know each other and don’t have anything perhaps in common,” he said. “In (a military show) " everybody sort of knows each other, they’re all in the same boat together. When you vibe with them you vibe with the whole crowd. It’s this big ‘you’re all in it together.’ It’s really an amazing feeling.”
Writer, actress, and comedian Tran recently performed at shows in Iraq and Kuwait. She said right before she left Los Angeles, a Soldier approached her after a show to praise the entertainers that visit the troops.
“He was sent on some kind of recon mission where he was isolated for three months, and the last thing he did on base was go to the comedy show,” she said. The Soldier told Tran that in his darkest moments, he would close his eyes and remember the show. “He said ‘that comedian’s jokes kept me alive.’ You never know whose life you’re going to affect.”
“These guys get off of 15 hour shifts, doing really terrible things and they need to laugh,” Cardinale said. “You see them afterward, you hear some of their stories and they tell you, ‘hey man, I haven’t laughed in 3 months.’ That’s why we do it.”
“We’re used to performing for regular civilians, so I think when you know that you’ve really touched the life of somebody, it really hits you, I’m not just funny, I’m actually helping people, and it really makes you appreciate what you do in your life and brings everything to a whole new perspective,” Zagone said.
But they were funny, and the crowd did everything but roll in the aisles. From Wade’s imitation of Rocky Balboa doing the ‘angry man dance’ from “Footloose”, Rexx’s observations on the vagaries of married sex, Cardinale’s impromptu song lyrics, and Zagone’s anecdotes of her travels through Afghanistan, each comedian left the audience in stitches.
“It got ridiculously funny,” said Spc. Kristopher Janke, HHC 1-4th Inf. Regt.
“It’s just nice to bring a taste of back home for everyone,” said Zagone. “People forget that the families of the military as well, they need relief just as much as the military guys and girls.”
“It takes a lot of guts,” Zagone said of those who serve their country. “You talk to a lot of people…who say ‘I could never do the military,’ and you meet all these people who are just like ‘no problem, let’s get out there, let’s do it.’ Like Pat Tillman, you know, gave up his NFL career to go join the Army Rangers. There really are good Americans out there; I don’t care what anybody says. America’s an amazing country.”
As appreciative of the comedians were of their audience’s sacrifice, the feeling was reciprocated.
“It’s refreshing to have something like this on base, especially for the single soldiers in the barracks to be able to walk out and come out to the Zone and actually utilize the utilities that are here on base. It’s awesome. And to laugh like this, what a great way to spend a night,” said Janke.