This USO Entertainer is “Dreaming of a Black Christmas”

Lewis Black performed and greeted troops as part of the 2008 Chairman's Holiday Tour. (USO Photo by Dave Gatley)

Comedian Lewis Black has emceed the USO Gala, gone on two USO tours, and is getting ready to embark on a third, but as he reveals in his new book “I’m Dreaming of a Black Christmas,” it wasn’t an easy decision at first.

Although Black has long been a supporter of the troops, he recently told NPR’s Neal Conan “that he was “stunned” to hear from the USO.  ‘Have these people seen my act? Do they have any idea what they’re getting?’ he says.”

The tours changed his life, however, and he explained that – even after a grueling schedule and sandstorms – “the audience of servicemen and servicewomen made it all worthwhile.”

Click here to listen to the full interview and keep an eye out for more on Black’s 2010 USO tour!

“My Boys” Take Their Comedy Tour to USO Yokosuka

"1900? Gonna be tough to do unless we time travel. Reminds me of Spinal Tap where Nigel just can't figure out the time on base." -Jamie Kaler (Photo courtesy of http://jamiekaler.posterous.com)

Actors Jamie Kaler & Michael Bunin of TBS’ hit show “My Boys” are currently on a USO Comedy Tour and Jamie is blogging about the experience.  Check out the latest:

“Mike and I get a tour of the USO in Yokosuka, Japan. Great organization and your donations are much appreciated by the troops. It definitely makes it easier for the sailors to be away from home and family. And I can tell you from being here for one day that anything that helps these guys keep in touch with the states is money well spent.”

Jeffrey Ross Keeps It Funny on the Frontlines

From the desk of John Hanson, SVP of Communications for the USO:

The meanest man in show business is the nicest guy I know.

Jeff Ross, the Roastmaster General, insult comic extraordinaire (but not such a great dancer it turns out) is a consistent and sincere supporter of U.S. troops through his work with the USO.

A month or so ago, we needed someone to perform at Caroline’s Comedy Club in New York during fleet week.  A sponsor was going to take care of the club and open it to sailors and Marines in town for the annual invasion of the City.  Jeff agreed to give us his time for this cause.

The sponsor backed out (bad, bad sponsor).  Caroline’s agreed to keep the venue available.  Comedy Central kicked in with us, and the show went on.  Jeff agreed to go forward with this gig, despite the booking of the Craig Ferguson Show later in the week.  Other performers might have begged off doing something few people would hear about, and we couldn’t blame them.

Ross is a wonderful person.

Jeffrey Ross, comedian, entertains the troops at an USO show on Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan on August 19, 2005. (U.S. Army photo by SPC Joshua Balog)

During his first USO tour to Iraq, his hotel was rocketed.  His response?  “I’m not paying for THAT!”  He made a documentary of that tour – PATRIOT ACT.  It’s not only “the funniest movie ever to come out of Iraq,” but it’s also the best view of what our performers see while on a tour to a war zone.  Buy it.  Rent it.  Steal it from someone you love, but watch it.  Not great for the kiddies, but it won’t kill you.

After Hurricane Katrina, the military was called on to protect the Gulf Coast region.  General Russell Honore called us and said, “These guys need a show.”  Our call to Jeff reached him as he was crossing a street in Los Angeles.  “I’m there,” he told us.

He was part of General Richard Myers final tour, before retiring as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  That one circled the globe.

Wounded warriors are routinely invited to Jeff’s shows.  He doesn’t make a big deal of it, but it’s important to him to reach out and give back.

Sure, he can be mean – in the sweetest sort of way, of course – but his heart’s as big as anything, and I’m so proud that he continues to honor his commitment to the men and women who volunteer to serve us and sacrifice for us.

He’s more than a stand-up comic.  He’s a stand-up man.

If he comes to your town, catch his act.  Then thank him.

Check out Jeff Ross’s appearance on Craig Ferguson’s Late Late Show last week.  Remember: the opinions expressed in the video are solely those of Ross and Ferguson.  Ha.

Complimentary Tickets for Military to see Jimmy Fallon Show – May 8th

Fallon served as emcee at 2009's Fourth of July USO concert on the White House South Lawn.

In the Worcester, MA area for Mother’s Day weekend?  Then don’t miss a fabulous opportunity to see comedian Jimmy Fallon this Saturday evening, May 8th, at the Hanover Theater located at 554 Main Street, Worcester, MA!  Show starts at 8:00PM.

Complimentary tickets are available through the generosity of Hanover Theater. Two tickets per military ID, active and reserve. Tickets must be reserved by Friday at 1:00PM. Tickets must be picked up at Will Call at the theater the night of the show. For tickets, please use the USO Ticket Line only at 617-720-4531 Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday and call anytime after 11:30AM when a volunteer staff member is available to take your reservation. Thank you!

Fort Drum 3rd BCT Homecoming

On Jan. 21, 2010, the USO welcomed home Fort Drum’s 3rd BCT in style after a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan.  Nearly 800 soldiers and their loved ones were treated to an evening of food, entertainment and a special performance by the Fort Drum Army band.  Comedians Steve Burr and Dan Liberto brought laughs and smiles, with Johnny Spezzano of The Border 106.7 (WBDR-FM) and Whirlin’ Disc DJ’s keeping people on their feet.  The event was made possible by Alfred Weissman, longtime USO supporter and New York businessman.  Welcome home!

Soldiers relax upon returning home (USO Photo by Jason B. Cutshaw)

Soldiers relax upon returning home (USO Photo by Jason B. Cutshaw)

A Fort Drum Band drummer entertains during the event (USO Photo by Jason B. Cutshaw)

Delicious food made homecoming extra special for those returning from deployment (USO Photo by Jason B. Cutshaw)

Comedian Dan Liberto cracks 'em up during dinner (USO Photo by Jason B. Cutshaw)

There to show support were Col. David B. Haight, 3rd BCT commander, with Mr. and Mrs. Weissman, Karen Clark and Lt. Col. Jeffrey Abbott (USO Photo by Jason B. Cutshaw)

A 3rd BCT Soldier cuts loose on the dance floor with his son (USO Photo by Jason B. Cutshaw)

Comedian Steve Burr takes the stage and the laughs continue (USO Photo by Jason B. Cutshaw)

The Weissmans with the Haights and Karen Clark - thanks for making this possible! (USO Photo by Jason B. Rickshaw)

So This Wounded Veteran Walks into a Bar…

Operation Proper Exit is a program that returns wounded warriors to the place of their injuries in the hopes of finding closure and a sense of purpose in their service.  Although many left the field of battle unconscious, only to wake up a world away at a later time, the men participating in OPE say that there is peace to be found in leaving the field for a second time, this time by their own volition.  That is the proper exit they deserve.

Photo by Katie Hayes for NPR

As the third iteration of Operation Proper Exit makes its way through the Persian Gulf, one story of another wounded veteran caught our attention. Staff Sgt. Bobby Henline suffered burns on almost half of his body after being wounded in Iraq in 2007.  Remarkably, he has turned this experience into – you ready for this? – a career in comedy.  And that’s no laughing matter.  Well, actually, it is.

Recently interviewed by Andrew Short for Punchline magazine, Henline conceded that his “ultimate goal is to put together a USO tour and give back to the veterans, using his injuries and comedy as an example of making the best of the darkest situations.”  How cool is that?  We’re so flattered.

If you live in the San Antonio, TX, area you can catch him live at Rivercenter Comedy Club.  Luckily for everyone else, NPR’s Terry Gildea interviewed Henline; you can hear the interview below.  To read a full transcript or view the acc0mpanying article, please visit NPR’s website.  We are incredibly inspired by his story and hope you will be, too.  And keep an eye on this blog for upcoming pictures and more from Operation Proper Exit.

Wounded Vet Takes Pain Of War To Comedy Club (via NPR)