MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- More than 500 Combat Center Marines, Sailors and family members packed the base theater March 22 for a night of laughs and entertainment.
Comedians Drake Witham, Jeff Hodge and Jimmy Della Valle took the stage during the Comedy Connection event, sponsored by Marine Corps Community Services. The show spanned two hours and was limited to patrons 18 years and older.
“I had a really good time,” said Pfc. Robert Perez, who attended the show with fellow Marines of 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. “I think we all did. I liked the last comic especially. He was dirty, and I liked that.
“It’s great to have shows like this for the Marines because it’s good to be able to go and have a laugh,” said Perez.
All of the Los Angeles-based comics, who met for the first time backstage, said that their first visit to Twentynine Palms was a memorable one and they hope to return.
“These comedians were absolutely wonderful,” said Kelly Coe, MCCS special events coordinator. “They were very well-received by the crowd and they loved being here. I really enjoyed watching them.”
Coe said although the crowd has grown with every comedy show MCCS puts on, this was one of the biggest she had ever seen.
“These guys were all great, but we don’t want to have the same comedians back every time, unfortunately,” said Coe, who has already begun planning the next show for September. “We try to vary the different styles of comedy so that we are able to reach everybody.”
Coe said she hopes the next show is even bigger, but judging by the big laughs received during the show and smiles as people exited the theater, it may be hard to top.
Hometown: St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
How many years have you been performed? 15 years
What got you into doing comedy? “My friends and classmates thought I was funny. At college, a classmate got me thinking about performing since architecture didn’t seem to be working out. The journey has been amazing. If you had told me as a kid, I would never have believed that I’d be living in Los Angeles as a comedian.”
What was your initial impression of the Combat Center? “It was big! It’s amazing to think about the war and to see Marines back here doing their daily routines. Life goes on. I hear about a lot of the Marines from Twentynine Palms out in Iraq and Afghanistan but there are still a whole lot left.”
Where have you toured overseas? “In November 2005, I traveled to eight countries in 23 days in the Middle East. That was quite an experience.”
What do you like best about doing military shows? “How appreciative they are. Athletes and celebrities are worshipped by people, but really the people in the military do amazing things and that should be reversed. I was genuinely shocked at how appreciative service members are. Their sacrifices allow us to do what we’re doing.”
How was the show for you? “I really liked it. I was actually surprised at how vast the theater was. It’s up in the same class as some big university theaters. We had about 500 people in the theater and everyone came here to laugh. I’d come out here again in a heartbeat.”
Hometown: Arlington, Va.
How long have you performed? Four years.
What got you into doing comedy? “People always told me I was funny. I worked at a newspaper in Dallas and I did comedy at an office party. I didn’t have an act so I did impersonations of my editors. It killed with everyone except for the editors. There isn’t a comedy college or firm, and it took while to get going.”
What was your initial impression of the Combat Center? “It was like being back in Iraq with mountains.”
Where have you toured overseas? “I toured in Iraq and Kuwait for 10 days in 2004, and I’m going back this fall. I went to a lot of different forward operating bases in Iraq and the crowds were good. But it was weird being in a war zone and doing comedy. It really hits you when they tell you they lost someone that day and they need a laugh.”
What do you like best about doing military shows? “It’s always a good crowd and there are jokes they will all get. You can make fun of them as a group or the other services and they enjoy that. If you open up with jokes for them they notice the effort, and it’s a great time.”
How was the show for you? “It was a great show. You’re not sure sometimes when you’re the first guy up and don’t always know what’s going to go, but it worked out really well.
I hope I can come back. It was a great crowd and I had a great time.”
Jimmy Della Valle
Hometown: Brooklyn, N.Y.
How many years have you been performed? Started in 1991, took a few years off, started again in 1997
What got you into doing comedy? “Watching Eddie Murphy got me into it when I saw him perform. I’d always been a funny guy in school. I was actually kicked out of Catholic school in 5th grade.”
What was your initial impression of the Combat Center? “It’s a little isolated, but a great base. You even have a street named for me!”
Have you ever toured overseas? Not yet, I haven’t been overseas, I’ve been working on my film career. I’d like to go soon and something is in the works.
What do you like best about doing military shows? How thankful they are when we do this when we should be thanking them. They are genuinely excited for a show. At a base like this, especially Marines, they know it’s coming and the show was well promoted. I’d definitely like to come back.
How was the show for you? It was great, I had a great time here. Everyone seemed to love the whole thing, and I got to close it out on a high note. The way comedy works sometimes is the first guy has to get out and set a tone, second guy kicks it up a notch and that third guy brings it to the highest level. We all complimented each other and it made for a great night.”