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VFW Magazine January 2018 : Page 24

WHAT’S IN A NAME? Project9Line earned i ts namesake from a term used on t h e battlefield. Its founder, Patr i ck Dono h ue, sa i d “t h at overseas, t h e way to save your brot h er’s or s i ster’s l i fe w h en t h ey g et i njured i s called a 9-l i ne medevac.” ness about Project9Line and its causes. “What I’ve found is that comedy is one of the best ways,” Donohue said. Cutaia said Project9Line is “different than any other organization” because it’s not run by doctors or therapists. “What I think comedy does for these veterans is just something different,” Cutaia said. “We’re not here to talk to you, to find out what’s the root of things going on with you.” Rather, the comedy workshops help veterans take their minds off of issues in their lives, according to Cutaia. “For some people, it has developed into an entire hobby or passion or a dream,” Cutaia said. “It’s something that will dis-tract. It’s something new to bring to peo-ple that will give them something to look forward to and something to give them-selves progression with.” Lynn said in creating Project9Line , Donohue has “helped countless veterans.” “He’s a wonderful young man,” Lynn said, “and he’s got a lot going for him and he’s helped a lot of people.” Donohue said he gets more satisfaction from his involvement with Project9Line than anything else. “It’s been a lot of hard work and ups and downs, but my life today is great,” Donohue said. “And I have a lot to credit to the [creative] outlets that I choose to par-ticipate in. But also, building Project9Line and helping others has given me more than words could ever describe.” J EMAIL the opportunity to spread medicine, that’s even better than the laughter,” Cutaia said. “It’s something unique.” The workshop lasts eight weeks, but Cutaia said “you can’t really teach com-edy.” “People are either funny or they’re not,” Cutaia said. “It’s showing them how to direct their funniness and how to make something they think is funny, make them develop it into a laugh.” ‘IT’S YOU AND THE MIC’ Seven people graduated from the first eight-week class in 2015, including Donohue. More than 30 veterans have taken the workshop since, according to Donohue, and the final shows at the con-clusion of each course have been held at area VFW Posts. Veterans of “every branch [and] every combat era” form the classes, according to Donohue, who participated because he likes to “lead from the front.” “It was very, very nerve-wracking at first,” Donohue said. “It’s the most-scary thing in the world to just be on a stage. It’s you and the mic.” The class itself is built around creating one, five-minute comedy set for each par-ticipant. The first few weeks, according to Donohue, are spent “learning what makes a joke” and how to take life experiences and turn them into “funny” material. “Then we begin to do those jokes in front of each other and critique each other,” Donohue said. Cutaia explained that he wants veterans to talk on stage as a first step and develop the confidence that’s necessary in comedy. He also teaches “basic rules of comedy,” such as not wearing a shirt with writing on it and putting the mic stand at the back of the stage once removing the mic itself. “Comedy is about your facial features,” Cutaia said. “How you act, how you pres-ent the joke.” They also focus on the writing style and how to deliver jokes. “There are different types of humor,” Cutaia said, “and then little things, too, like you have to put the funny word at the end of the sentence.” Each class “graduates” with a comedy show held at a local VFW Post. The first show was held at Post 433. John Rago, commander of VFW Post 400, participated in the January 2015 comedy workshop. He is a Vietnam-era veteran who served from 1970-72 in the Navy as a sonar tech 3rd class patrolling on the USS Francis Scott Key near Spain. Prior to Project9Line , the biggest audi-ence Rago ever had was “around the kitchen table.” His bit includes his time in the Navy, but also his 43-year marriage. “I rag on my wife a lot,” he quipped. But for Rago, performing in front of a room full of people was “unique.” “The nerves start to get to you after a while, especially the night of a show,” he said. “My biggest fear was forgetting my act and just drawing a blank. That was my worst fear, but again, another thing you have to get over.” Rago said he does not have PTSD, but he saw the comedy workshop “help other guys who do suffer,” noting, however, that it’s “not a cure.” “It helps them deal with the situation and they become more open about it and their whole demeanor changes,” Rago said. For Lynn, comedy helped take his mind off of his problems. He used “pretty current personal experiences” for his rou-tine, which did not include religion, poli-tics or anything “dirty.” “That’s where I wanted to be, and that’s what I did,” Lynn said. “Just the process, it was a lot of fun. There were another 10-12 people in the group, and I knew one other fella in the group and you [were] kind of brought together. It was really a wonder-ful experience.” Rago, who turned 67 in August, said the class of veterans formed a bond and sup-ported each other. “It gives me a chance to interact with the younger guys… [and it] might make them realize they can get through this,” Rago said. HOW TO CONTACT PROJECT9LINE (631 ) 841-1141 25 Un i on Ave. Isl i p, NY 11751 Project9line/ project9line/ ‘MORE THAN WORDS COULD EVER DESCRIBE’ Donohue said the “most important” thing he does on a daily basis is spread aware-24 • VFW  • JANUARY 2018

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