Punch line hits soldiers right in their mugs
June 10, 2008
GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — A self-confessed former high school and college party animal gave soldiers a sobering message about drinking to excess but washed it down with a big gulp of comedy here Thursday.
Comedian Bernie McGrenahan put on two shows at Grafenwöhr’s Tower Theater as part of his Happy Hour Tour — a series of performances that combine comedy with a message about responsible drinking.
McGrenahan opened up with a few observations about life in Germany.
"Germany is the country where they are so health conscious. I saw a woman this morning buttering her donut … That autobahn’s a trip. I got a ticket for doing 120 (kilometers an hour) and obstructing traffic," he told the crowd.
After the laughter died down he told the soldiers about his high school and college partying, which involved excessive alcohol and marijuana use.
The partying got out of control and McGrenahan served six months in jail after his third drunken driving conviction. His younger brother, Scott, who followed in his hard-partying footsteps, committed suicide, he said.
"I know you guys have been downrange and have to go back again but don’t fall into the trap he fell into … and don’t drink and drive," he said.
The Bronx, N.Y., native said he could never join the Army because if a sergeant woke him up at 5 a.m. saying, "Be all that you can be," he’d reply, "Why don’t you be quiet."
But McGrenahan got to see what soldiers go through downrange during a comedy tour of U.S. bases in Bosnia in 1998.
"I had never seen war up close. I was driving through the streets of Bosnia seeing every building leveled and homes destroyed. Kids would see the convoy and run out of their houses with flowers and fresh fruit and say: ‘Thanks you for being here. Thanks for helping us.’ Then I’d see a cemetery with little kids buried in it," he recalled.
A story about a show McGrenahan did for 20 soldiers on a mountaintop in Bosnia appears in a new book entitled "I Killed," which is about U.S. comedians.
"‘I killed’ means I made the audience laugh. Every day I put a sign up in my hotel room that says, ‘I will kill today.’ Most maids in hotels don’t know what that means," he told the audience.
Alcohol and marijuana can be a way to deal with stress, he added.
"I’m not going to stand up here and tell you: ‘Just say no.’ I’m just telling you watch out for yourself. Have a couple of beers but if you are doing it three or four nights a week, going out for an hour and coming back late, you might have a problem," he said.
Soldiers were invited to McGrenahan’s show by the Grafenwöhr Army Substance Abuse Program.