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VFW Magazine January 2018 : Page 22

Veterans celebrate after completing their comedy performance in September at VFW Post 400 in Farmingville, N.Y., as part of Project9Line ’s comedy workshop. The workshop is one of a variety of arts-related activities the group organizes to help veterans. VETERANS COMEDY ASSAULT The success of Project9Line’s comedy class spawned a comedy team, Veterans Comedy Assault, according to Patrick Donohue, the nonprofit’s founder. Separate from Project9Line , veterans who have graduated from the organization’s comedy workshop perform pro-bono and paid shows. So far, the troupe has trav-eled to Connecticut and Pennsylvania. “We didn’t really know how to collectively market our services … I wanted to separate from Project9Line so that way we could act independently,” Donohue said. Going into the class, Vietnam-era veteran John Rago said, he expected to just do his five-minute routine and “go through the class.” “But after the show was so much fun and everybody had such a good time that a lot of us said, ‘This is really neat, we have something here,’” Rago said. “Maybe we can carry on with this and help other organizations raise money by putting on a comedy show. So we continued.” Brian Cutaia, a founding Project9Line board member, suggested starting a com-edy class. Cutaia has been a standup come-dian for more than a decade, having won the Long Island Funniest Person contest in 2007 at McGuire’s Comedy Club and has been featured on Sirius satellite radio. “It was a great cause, and then it became something a lot more than just doing it for a friend,” Cutaia said. “It became — ‘Wow, we’re really making an impact on these people’s lives.’ ” When Cutaia was younger, he said, he wanted to be a comic but later realized “the lifestyle isn’t really all it’s cracked up to be.” “It went from a dream to a hobby that I still do all the time,” Cutaia said. “Maybe I was supposed to start comedy to even help these guys.” Sid Lynn, a member of VFW Post 400 in nearby Farmingville, N.Y., participat-ed in the most recent comedy workshop. A former VFW District 1 commander (New York, 2014-16), Lynn said those responsibilities conflicted with taking the course sooner. “At the end of two years, I really needed to take my focus off of some other things in my life that I was going through, and I knew that Project9Line was there,” Lynn COMEDY AS A CALLING said, “and I knew that comedy was some-thing I’ve been interested in. So I just fig-ured that the both of them would go well. Getting away from some issues I was experiencing with some very mean, bul-lying people and just helping me with that.” Lynn, who served as a pole lineman in Vietnam from February 1967 to May 1969 with the 40th Signal Bn., 1st Signal Bde. He said his only comedy experience prior to the workshop was with family and friends. “I expected to have 10 weeks of a good time, culminating in a show,” Lynn said. “I was looking for a nice time to intermingle with other veterans and just put myself in a different venue than I’d been in for the last few years.” Cutaia said the experience has been good for him, too. He said he has developed beneficial relationships with veterans who have participated in the workshop. “I’ll teach them how to say a few jokes,” Cutaia said. “They’ve taught me 10 times more than I could have ever taught them.” But at first, Cutaia said, he was worried about bringing comedy to Project9Line because being on stage — and possibly not getting a good reaction — can be “very disheartening.” “Laughter, they say, is the best medi-cine, so when you’re able to give people 22 • VFW  • JANUARY 2018

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