Comedian helps service members, civilians laugh their way through training

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Comedian Bernie McGrenahan performs his Happy Hour — Comedy is the Cure show for Stuttgart audiences at the Kelley Theater April 18, providing comedic relief and mandatory Army Substance Abuse Prevention training. Photo by Greg Jones.

By Greg Jones
USAG Stuttgart Public Affairs Office

Comedian Bernie McGrenahan performed his “Happy Hour — Comedy is the Cure” show for Stuttgart audiences at the Patch Community Club and Kelley Theater April 18, providing comedic relief and Army Substance Abuse Program training all at the same time.

The performances began with a comedy show that transitioned into a very frank discussion of alcohol abuse and all of the problems it can cause. McGrenahan shared his own experience with multiple driving under the influence charges, even jail time, as well as his own brother’s suicide due to alcohol-related problems.

McGrenahan uses comedy to lighten the mood and deliver an inspirational message. He laces a tale of personal struggle with humor and comedic relief in a routine that goes from “laugh out loud” to “wipe away tears” and back to laughter again seamlessly.

“The combination of humor and a story helps get the message across. It impacts the audience better than some other methods of training, like PowerPoint,” McGrenahan said.

Part of McGrenahan’s motivation for sharing these personal stories is to reach out and help service members and others in military communities cope with the many challenges they face.

“The military has been so kind to me, and they do so much, both those in uniform and those in civil service,” he said. “I wanted to come out and give them a few laughs as a way of saying thank you for all you’ve done.”

The performance was deeply engaging and definitely stirred responses from the audience members, some of whom were in tears. According to McGrenahan, he usually receives very personal emails after the shows from service members or others who were touched by the performance.

“Half my work starts after the show, answering emails, responding to comments on my blog,” he said. “There’s something very powerful about a recovering alcoholic sharing his experiences with others struggling with alcohol — they open up more to each other, and I can use this to reach out and impact them in a positive way.”

The performances were part of McGrenahan’s 2014 European tour, which also included shows at Baumholder, Ramstein, Wiesbaden, Ansbach and in Belgium.

The Stuttgart shows were the highlight of U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart’s Army Substance Abuse Program observance of National Alcohol Awareness Month. ASAP’s other activities included outreach and education efforts at the Panzer Exchange April 22-24 and other events in the Stuttgart area.