When comedians use crass degradation of our military to gain cheap laughs

Earlier this month, I went with a group of friends to see a comedian.  (I won’t say the comedian’s name.  I don’t want this post to be mean spirited—that’s not what this blog is about.)

I was looking forward to a night of adult company, good conversation and hearty laughter.  Because let’s face it, we all need a good laugh every now and then.  After all, laughter has been proven to boost the immune system, lower stress, decrease pain, relax muscles, prevent heart disease, improve mood, ease anxiety, strengthen relationships and much more.

My friends came through with the good company and adult conversation.  But what happens when the headlining act doesn’t bring on the laughs and the comedy show only manages to go from bad to worse?

This woman delivered first one, then another, raunchy, off-base and downright distasteful joke until we were practically begging for something, anything, to laugh at.  I wasn’t sure if I should grimace or smile at the sheer stupidity of trying to reach an audience by talking about, uh *clear throat uncomfortably* let’s just say male parts in female faces and forget some of the more vulgar things.

After talking about the horrors of dating and live-in ex-boyfriends who complicate casual sexual relationships, she really pushed the envelope too far for me when she joked about veterans. I had to stop myself physically from walking out when she said of people with PTSD and veterans, “You know, Vets.  They’re the worst. They’re the ones who hide in the corner and have the secret bunkers in the basement in case of government conspiracies.”

While it’s all well and good to laugh at human absurdities, and at times to turn our oddities upside down and even bring them back to ourselves, there has to be a line in the sand, a bar too high to scale. For me, it’s the veteran.  They’re not a joke.  A veteran who risks his life to defend your country, your family and your life and in the process suffers severe psychological trauma is nothing to laugh at.

The Nebraska Department of Veteran Affairs gives these statistics on the military and PTSD :

More than half of all male Vietnam veterans and almost half of all female Vietnam veterans have experienced “clinically serious stress reaction symptoms.” PTSD has also been detected among veterans of other wars. Estimates of PTSD from the Gulf War are as high as 10%.

According to a RAND study reported by Veterans and PTSD “at least 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have PTSD and/or Depression.”

In this short post, there is no way I could address all the specifics of veterans and PTSD.  For instance, “Veterans and PTSD” goes on to tell us that “50% of those with PTSD do not seek treatment.” And what about Traumatic Brain Injury which can mimic Post Traumatic Stress Symptoms, how do you separate the two?  I encourage you to look into the statistics and investigate for yourself. But know this, our veterans who have suffered with, or are currently suffering with, PTSD and who have lived and survived what Judith Lewis Herman, M.D. calls in her book, Trauma and Recovery, “An affliction of the powerless. . . rendered helpless by [an] overwhelming force” are not a joke.

I think as intelligent individuals we all need to conscionably and consciously think about what we say in public forums.  That said, let me just say to all you comedians who go for the cheap laugh, PTSD is no laughing matter. Period.


A Note on PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder):

Psychological trauma is an affliction of the powerless.  At the moment of trauma, the victim is rendered helpless by overwhelming force.  When the force is that of nature, we speak of disasters.  When the force is that of other human beings, we speak of atrocities.  Traumatic events overwhelm the ordinary systems of care that give people a sense of control, connection, and meaning . . . Traumatic events are extraordinary, not because they occur rarely, but rather because they overwhelm the ordinary human adaptations to life . . .  They confront human beings with the extremities of helplessness and terror, and evoke the responses of catastrophe.

—Judith Lewis Herman, M.D. Trauma and Recovery.


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4 thoughts on “When comedians use crass degradation of our military to gain cheap laughs

    • Phil, I though about it. Ultimately, it didn’t feel like the right thing to do. That’s not what this blog post is about. I try to empower others – we’ve all made mistakes. To name them publicly would be spiteful or mean and that’s not who I am. It’s more important to me to get the message across.

  1. I myself was wondering where you saw this ‘crass act’. I understand you taking the high road and not naming names, and respect that. I know you focused on PTSD, but sexually inappropriate jokes (targeting either gender) are a turn-off to me in general. Hopefully this comedian can come up with tasteful chuckles for a more sophisticated audience.

    • Irena, No worries. It was an adult only crowd but yes it did bother me too and that is why I mention it. I thank you for drawing our attention to it by pointing it out.

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