Subscribe
Los Angeles-based comic and writer Jennifer Rawlings, in foreground, appeared Tuesday night at the Galaxies Club on Sasebo Naval Base. Rawlings and fellow comedian Andres Fernandez toured Japan last week, performing in Morale, Welfare and Recreation department facilities in Sasebo, at Atsugi Naval Air Facility and Yokosuka Naval Base.

Los Angeles-based comic and writer Jennifer Rawlings, in foreground, appeared Tuesday night at the Galaxies Club on Sasebo Naval Base. Rawlings and fellow comedian Andres Fernandez toured Japan last week, performing in Morale, Welfare and Recreation department facilities in Sasebo, at Atsugi Naval Air Facility and Yokosuka Naval Base. (Greg Tyler / S&S)

SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — With most of Sasebo’s ships at sea, the audience numbered only 30 Tuesday evening as Jennifer Rawlings and Andres Fernandez prompted heavy bouts of chortles, snickers and belly roars at Sasebo’s Galaxies Club.

Nonetheless, in a world in which daily life is laced with anxiety and stress, uncertainty and even stark danger, “laughter is definitely one of the best medicines,” quipped Petty Officer 3rd Class Devin Wright, a serious fan of stand-up comedy.

Both Los Angeles-based comics, on an MWR tour to several U.S. bases in Japan, say a feeling of patriotism and gratitude to military personnel was a large part of their motivation for touring United States Navy bases in Japan.

“People serving in the military aren’t properly thanked most of the time. They are over here all the time, so for us to travel 20 hours to come and give them some laughs … that’s the least we can do,” Rawlings said. “To me, they’re heroes every day.”

Fernandez, a 38-year-old Cuban-American quipster, said, “These guys put their lives on the line a lot of the time. And it means a lot to them, and to me, for us to come here on these tours and attempt to create laughter.”

A native New Yorker, Fernandez said his comedy routines mainly draw on experiences in his own family, cultural differences among people, conflicts between genders and generations.

“We’re Americans, and my mom is Dominican-born and raised in New York. But my dad is really the ‘ethnic’ one. So a lot of my humor has to do with my take on my dad and the way he was … which was not like all the other dads in the neighborhood. I mean, my dad trims the hedges with a machete,” he quipped.

“In a comedy show like that in a club, you expect a little off-color language,” Lt. Cmdr. Patrick Smith said. “But his show was basically clean. He talked about kids and family, and picked fun at himself.”

Wright said he particularly enjoyed Fernandez’s routine, saying, “He is the funniest comedian I’ve seen in a long time, and I go to a lot of comedy shows.”

Degen went even further, calling Fernandez the funniest he’d “ever” seen.

Fernandez, a father of two, said comics Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor influenced him most.

“My friend and I snuck into this theater when we were kids. I was expecting to see a movie but instead this one guy comes on stage, and just started talking about his life. It was Richard Pryor,” he recalled.

“That’s the day when I realized I wanted to do the same thing with my life, and that’s what I’ve been doing,” he said. “That’s also why I don’t really do much topical stuff; it has nothing to do with what I do. It’s about what I’m feeling.”

Rawlings credits female comics including Phyllis Diller and Joan Rivers for initially influencing her to pursue a stand-up comedy career. Among favorite male comics, she cited Dennis Miller for the “way he cracks his jokes.

“I also like the comedy material of George Carlin, but his material more than his style. The style I prefer is more like Bob Newhart’s … or Bill Cosby’s,” said the native of Salina, Kan. “But then again, I didn’t even know stand-up comedy could be a career until I became one … there aren’t too many comedy clubs in Kansas.”

Like Fernandez, Rawlings draws on personal experiences. “In my acts I talk a lot about growing up in Salina, and I talk about being married, which is such a give-and-take relationship. I mean, my husband puts up with my mood swings and in return, I don’t stab him in his sleep,” she joked.

“I also talk about my kids. My daughter’s name is Courtney, and my three boys all have Biblical names: Joshua, Noah and Satan,” she said.

Both also performed at Atsugi Naval Air Facility’s Club Trilogy on Wednesday and at Yokosuka Naval Base on Thursday and Friday.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up