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The warriors of comedy

Documentary hopes to prove laughter heals all wounds

Filmmakers John Wager and Ray Reo discuss their new film about the importance of comedy in healing.

Filmmakers John Wager and Ray Reo discuss their new film about the importance of comedy in healing. Photo by Marcy Velte.

— Over the next 10 months, the five will travel to meet with comedy writers to create a personalized stand-up routine about the military, their injuries and recovery. They will then meet with their comedic mentors in New York or Los Angeles to have their bit critiqued.

“All of the mentoring will lead up to a live performance event, potentially on national television. That’s our hope,” said Reo.

Filming began on Thursday, Nov. 17, outside of the Military Courtesy Room at Albany International Airport. The film is scheduled for completion by fall 2012. All of the chosen veterans were present, except for Jones. He was undergoing mandatory therapy before being discharged from the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

The filmmakers and veterans stressed the importance of laughter as the first step to recovery.

Henline said he often uses humor as a way to break down barriers between people who may not understand his appearance, especially children.

“Just by saying something funny and telling the little kid ‘Listen to your mother because I didn’t. She told me to stop making those faces. They will freeze like that.’ Then they’re more welcome to talk to you and learn something,” he said. “It’s one thing if some fireman comes to talk to you about not playing with matches, but if I tell you you’re going to listen.”

Kashnow, Smith, and Rice each said they always thought about doing stand-up, but the email from the Wounded Warrior Project gave them the push they needed to give it a try.

“I’ve been looking for a way to get out of my day job for years,” joked Rice.

Like Henline, Rice was injured by an IED. So was Kashnow, who eventually had his leg amputated below the knee after two years of therapy. Smith now suffers chronic pain in her hip and leg after the helicopter she was piloting was struck during combat.

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