Combat to Comedy is possible, Armed Services Arts Partnership says

PenFed Chief Information Officer Joe Thomas left, and PenFed President/CEO James Schenck prepare to perform at the Armed Services Art Partnership “Combat to Comedy” event at Carolines on Broadway in New York. Photo credit PenFed Credit Union

Can the military be a stepping stone to a career in comedy?

A recent “Combat to Comedy” performance in New York City proved the answer to that question is yes.

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Alongside PenFed Credit Union, the Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP) performance at Carolines on Broadway returned on Sept. 15 after a two-year hiatus.

“ASAP provides veterans and their families the opportunity to develop new skills, hone their stories, and connect to another supportive community after leaving the military,” said PenFed Credit Union President/CEO James Schenck.

The event featured stand-up comedy from comics Mark Normand, Sal Vulcano, Jo Firestone, and Seth Herzog alongside military veterans supported by ASAP, Schenck and PenFed Chief Information Officer Joseph Thomas.

ASAP is a nonprofit that builds creative communities where military veterans and their families thrive through the arts. Veterans who take ASAP classes build their resilience and confidence, restore a sense of purpose and rediscover the bonds of their service.

Air Force veteran, pastor-turned-comedian PT Bratton said he had an immediate sense of belonging when he discovered ASAP and took its six-week Comedy Boot Camp class. He called comedy a healthy way to process both pain and trauma.

“Being in the military you have to compress a lot of things so that you can continue to do the mission,” he said. “Comedy is a way for you to kind of handle that. If something in my life happens to frustrate me, I can now twist it and turn it and make it funny, but I’m also getting it off my chest.”

Bratton, who is now an ASAP instructor, stressed that comedy doesn’t mask pain, it helps people to deal with it.

“You can be yourself on stage in a way you can’t in any other setting,” he said. “I can get on stage and really say how I feel and it’s socially acceptable. When I get that mike in my hand, I’m able to say it in such a way that the audience identifies with your pain and your struggle. ”

Bratton said veterans who attend Comedy Boot Camp are encouraged to talk about their personal experiences.

“You are getting on stage and telling your truth,” he said.

To date, PenFed has donated over $200,000 to support the 2,000 veterans in the ASAP community. The “Combat to Comedy” performance raised $236,000 to support veterans in the arts.

To see some of the inspiring stories of members of the military community positively impacted by ASAP, watch the videos here. Donations to support the military community through ASAP can be made here.

Reach Julia LeDoux at

Featured Image Photo Credit: PenFed Credit Union