No Average Joe
Comedy Warrior Joe Kashnow brings his unique perspective to the comedy world
By John D. Adams
The thing is, Joe Kashnow is just another comedian trying to make a living. But he has a leg up on the competition. Actually, he’s got a leg up by being a leg short. Yes, this is a crude attempt at a joke about an Army veteran whose leg was blown apart in Iraq in 2003. And yes, I think it is exactly the kind of joke Joe Kashnow would be the first to groan, then laugh at. That’s the kind of guy he is. And that’s the kind of act, albeit with much more talent, that Kashnow is doing.
A Comedy Warrior
Check out Joe Kashnow’s first stand-up attempt on YouTube. You’ll notice a few things. First: He’s nervous. Second: He slowly builds a story, relating how he was in the award-winning documentary film Comedy Warriors: Healing Through Humor.Third: Joe isn’t nervous anymore. The mildly interested crowd has stopped talking and whisper, “Wait, what did he just say?” “Did he just say that going to war for him was really ‘the bomb’?” “Um, is he missing his right leg?” Fourth: He builds off of the “shock humor” by gracefully inserting accounts of an Army amputee (him) high on Ketamine (literally a horse tranquilizer used for chronic pain), feeling suddenly free. Well, maybe a little too free when you find yourself hobbling down the corridors of Walter Reed Army Medical Center loudly proclaiming yourself the real LORD VOLDEMORT!
It’s the classic humor-through-pathos formula brought up to date by incorporating a story that has become the new normal for many Americans: A wounded soldier comes home to a grateful but ill-prepared nation. Literal years are spent awaiting surgeries and treatments. Grim stuff that Kashnow resolves to joke about. “The comedy gives me an outlet to talk about things I’m dealing with that are kind of socially acceptable. I think that’s what comedy does for anybody,” says Kashnow. “Let’s face it, if you’re going out on a Tuesday to some random comedy club to get people to pay attention to you, you’re probably not the most socially adjusted to begin with.”
PAWS and the future
Last year, Kashnow was honored by the Naples, Florida-based organization, the Celebrity Martini Glass Auction (CMGA). The CMGA (featured in this issue) was able to cut through some of the military red tape and bring the comedian a new partner, his PAWS service dog, Chico. “I couldn’t image how much and how quickly Chico has helped me to negotiate pain, either by activity or just distracting me from my pain. He is an incredible part of my life and I’m so happy to have him.” Joe’s audiences love Chico, too. On February 8, a year after he first met Chico, Joe and his four-pawed pal
performed for the sold-out 2015 Celebrity Martini Glass Auction.
For now, Kashnow must put his rising career on hold. He lives in pain 24-hours a day. He’s been waiting for 2 years to have the desperately needed surgeries, which may relieve the agony. Kashnow touts his involvement with Operation Mend, a UCLA-based program providing wounded veterans with critical care issues. “They have been fantastic. I’ve already met with the surgeon who gave me a realistic idea of what I can expect after the surgery. It is possible that I will be pain free… I would continue with the VA…” He pauses for a beat. (Uh, oh, what’s coming?): “I’d just worry they’d take off my other leg by mistake! Ha! Ha! Ha!”
Visit Joe Kashnow at www.joekashnow.com or www.comedywarriors.com