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Army-Navy 2017: Quick slants with comedian and Marine veteran Rob Riggle

By SEAN MOORES | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 8, 2017

PHILADELPHIA — Millions of fans know Rob Riggle, 47, from his work on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” from roles in countless comedic films such as “The Hangover,” “Step Brothers” and “22 Jump Street,” and from his contributions to the “Fox NFL Sunday” pregame show. Fewer are aware of Riggle’s 23 years in the Marines and Marine Corps Reserve, from which he retired as a lieutenant colonel in 2013.

Riggle, who is moving into dramatic roles with the forthcoming military-themed film “12 Strong,” took time to speak with Stars and Stripes on Friday afternoon at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

What makes the Army-Navy Game such a special event?

I kind of view it as a homecoming for the whole military. You get a lot of veterans, older veterans, Korea, World War II guys coming back, Desert Storm guys coming back, visiting with their old friends. I, and my buddies that I served with, always treated it as a reunion weekend. We’d fly in on Friday, hang out, go to the game on Saturday and hang out Saturday night, and everybody flew home on Sunday. It was just a great weekend of bonding and reconnecting and also seeing the younger group of veterans coming through. It’s just an inspiring weekend, a very patriotic weekend. I enjoy it.

How did your military service prepare you for a career in comedy?

You know, there is no direct link. People ask that all the time. They’re like, “So how did the Marines help you with comedy? It didn’t. (Laughs). It didn’t. At all. Where it helped me was with the intangibles of having a thick skin, tenacity, dealing with rejection, not giving up, having fortitude. Mental toughness. Emotional toughness. You don’t need physical toughness (for comedy), but those things. Because you get rejected, nonstop, and it’s very subjective; there’s no real reason why you got rejected. You just get, “Not you,” Not you.” Even though you might have nailed the role, or nailed the audition, they don’t like your face, they don’t like your hair, whatever. You have to have a thick skin and you have to be able to bounce back from rejection and adversity. And you also have to have a mindset of “I’m not gonna quit until I accomplish my mission.” So you learn those intangibles in the military, and those intangibles are what carried over.

Who’s funnier, Jon Stewart or Terry Bradshaw?

Oh, that’s tough. Tough. That’s apples and oranges. They’re funny in their own ways.

How so?

Jon is a comedic genius. He’s a smart, smart man. Very funny. He can play anywhere, do anything. He’s one of my comedy heroes, obviously. He was a great boss. I learned a lot from him, and he was a great mentor to me. Terry is a great man. He’s a very sweet man, very funny. He is exactly who you think he is. He wears his heart on his sleeve. He’s a genuine guy, and I like his realness.

How do you see the game shaping up?

They’re both coming in with winning records. They play with passion. All bets are off. Even if they were coming in with … one was 9-1 and one was 1-9 … still I would say all bets off, because they play with such passion. Look, I’m a Marine; I’ll be rooting for the Navy. I just want a good game, like everybody else.

moores.sean@stripes.com
 

Retired Marine Lt. Col. and Hollywood comedic actor Rob Riggle, right, was on hand Friday, Dec. 8, 2017, for the pre-game media event hosted by USAA ahead of Saturday's Army-Navy game.
MICHAEL S. DARNELL/STARS AND STRIPES

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