19 April 2017 | jonberk-59534
A compelling look at the impact felt by comics doing a USO tour
Audiences watching a documentary about stand-up comedy expect to have a few laughs. However, they likely don't expect to find themselves reaching for a tissue as the film moves forward. I Am Battle Comic, directed by Jordan Brady, manages to weave those great moments of comedy in with several moments of sadness and immense respect for the troops seamlessly.
I Am Battle Comic follows five stand-up comedians: Don Barnhart, Jr.; Slade Ham; Bob Kubota; Jeff Capri; and, the director of the film, Jordan Brady. They travel to military bases with the USO to perform for the deployed troops. The film inserts interviews with other stand-up comedians who have toured previously for the USO to get the sense of impact these shows have on the comedians and, in turn, they have on the soldiers.
Brady is a one man crew with this film and still manages to perform. The amount of coverage he gets while traveling and during the performances is impressive. The visuals never get stale and there are some great aesthetic choices made for the interviews. The interviews are used to gain perspective on why a comedian would put their lives at risk performing for the troops and the impact the audiences of these USO shows has on the comedians. A lot of the more emotional moments of the film come from these stories and offers a chance for Brady to flex his filmmaking muscle.
George Lopez and Shawn Halpin both tell stories that cause them to get choked up. Brady allows the emotion to sit on screen and allows the moment to linger. It resonates more as a result and the impact these tours have had the comedians is seen on their faces. These interviews mixed with the scenes of the comics on the current tour interacting with the soldiers on base and old footage of prior USO shows with Bob Hope and Robin Williams really paint the picture Brady is attempting to convey. These soldiers' lives can be pretty bleak and the USO shows offer them a moment to relax and laugh, feel a connection to their homes, and find hope for the future, even if it's fleeting.
The film isn't all serious of course. The film rides like a roller coaster in ways where you'll be at the height of comedy and then flow into the intensity of an interview. There is an ongoing parrot joke that is sure to make you smile. Bob Kubota may have phrased the camaraderie among the comedians best when he said they were a "band of comic brothers." Each has a story and a reason they do these shows and their journey is documented rather well.
I Am Battle Comic is a very well made documentary that allows for the comedy to come, but doesn't shy away from the gravity of where it is being done. It's been said that laughter is the best medicine, and there is strong evidence that it's especially true in the case of the USO shows. I Am Battle Comic earns the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.