YUMA, Ariz. --
Around the world, in both military and civilian offices, Friday afternoons are spent counting down the hours, minutes and seconds until word is passed for everyone to punch their clocks and head out for the weekend. At the end of a hard work week, Marines wish they had the ability to time travel and reach quitting time early. They pray for anything to make reality stop, time move forward, and the liberty call sound.
Those prayers were answered, Friday, July 26, when a large crowd of eager enlisted Marines and sailors filled the seats of the Sonoran Pueblo club, aboard Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., for an afternoon of laughs and entertainment as part of the Leathernecks Comedy and Entertainment Tour, sponsored by the Single Marine Program (SMP).
“The Leatherneck Comedy Tour started about two years ago. At conferences and in surveys, Marines have been asking for entertainment, things to do at the installation level,” said Michael Brown, the senior Marine Headquarters SMP program specialist and native of Portsmouth, Va. “The Marines love it. They have a good time, they laugh, they’re relaxed, the stress is off for those particular hours and they just have fun. That’s what it’s about – Marines, on their down time, having some fun.”
The enlisted club held hundreds of Marines and sailors from around MCAS Yuma and served pitchers of beer and soft drinks for those in attendance. A high-production level stage and entertainment set was temporarily installed in the hall for what promised to be a fun night of comedy and music.
Hosted by Bill Dawes, a personable and down to earth stand-up comedian with 10 years of experience onstage, the evening was off and running from the get-go. Dawes’ performance made it clear that both the host and the audience were all onboard to have a good time at the expense of every day social absurdities.
“Making [the Marines and sailors] laugh and giving them a show and paying them back for the service they’re doing is the reason I’m doing it – the point of the tour,” said Dawes, who has performed overseas for troops numerous times. “Sometimes, as a comic, you’re pretty much just looking at your navel or just thinking about yourself, but the idea that you can give to something bigger than yourself and contribute to a general sense of well-being in the military is an amazing feeling.”
An introduction and round of applause welcomed Los Angeles native and 2008 Last Comic Standing season winner Iliza Schlesinger. Sporting a black t-shirt with the face of a bald eagle in all its stoic, majestic and patriotic glory, the comedian kept the house laughing through her sharp, quick-witted and upbeat routine.
“The amount of work enlisted service men and women have to do, you all deserve a break once in a while,” said Schlesinger, who performed for troops in Afghanistan with the USO this past Christmas. “For any group of people, the objective is to get you in there, I’ll have some therapy and talk about myself, and make people laugh and forget about how hard their life is or whatever troubles they have outside those doors. Laughter is the best medicine.”
The show’s final act was a performance straight out of LaGrange, Ga., by hip hop artist Bubba Sparxxx. The Southern rapper and his band turned the crowed up a notch and delivered a performance to remember.
“My favorite performer? Bubba Sparxxx - he had a lot of energy and knew how to get a crowd going," said Lance Cpl. Jeremiah Cabbagestalk, a Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron legal administrator specialist and a native of Rocky Mount, N.C.
It was a night of fun, entertainment and a means for Marines to time travel into the weekend feeling great regardless of the heavy responsibilities of daily military life. Whether a motivated young sergeant, a newly-promoted non-commissioned officer, or a terminal lance corporal – the point of the event was to forget about it all and escape.
“This is important because it’s about them, about what they want. It’s not about the leadership and what they want. It’s about that young devil dog, that corporal, that lance corporal, saying, ‘Hey, this is what we want. Not what you want to give us,’” added Brown, a retired sergeant major with 31 years of experience. “It’s all about them.”
A debt of appreciation is owed to comics and entertainers like Bill Dawes, Bubba Sparxxx and Iliza Schlesinger, for being the vessels through which this generation of leathernecks can get away from it all. Speaking to them, the feeling of appreciation is evidently mutual.