By Senior Airman Erica Picariello
50th Space Wing public affairs
On Sept. 24, Schriever Airmen were invited to “Happy Hour” by base leadership where jokes about nagging wives, drugs, sex, drunken behavior and Paris Hilton’s extracurricular activities filled the auditorium of Building 300 here.
No, this wasn’t a social-mixer nor was it a happy hour, in the traditional sense.
“Happy Hour” is a comedy show and alcohol, drug, sexual assault prevention and suicide awareness training rolled into a one-hour presentation by one of America’s top comedians, Bernie McGrenahan.
Mr. McGrenahan has been a guest on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Comedy Central, been featured in the #1 selling comedy book, “I killed,” and is now focusing his comedic talents on supporting America’s military.
“Training put on by military staff are traditional methods — PowerPoint presentations, slides, videos… I’m bringing a totally different, innovative approach to training,” Mr. McGrenahan said. “It’s a stand-up comedy tour to entertain the Airmen, followed by my personal testimony. How my behavior and conduct affected all areas of my work, personal relationships, personal mission in life and the price I paid for excessive drinking.”
Even though the first 30 minutes of Mr. McGrenahan’s presentation is filled with light-hearted quips about the last bit of toothpaste in the tube and below-average cars, the comedy show turns into a serious conversation when the comedian opens-up about his early drinking habits.
“By 10th grade my friends were calling me during the week saying, ‘dude, keg party,” and a few hours later I’d be at the party asking if anybody had seen my pants,” he said.
Mr. McGrenahan proceeded to tell the captivated audience how he lost his college baseball scholarship, snuck into bars underage and received his first citation for driving under the influence of alcohol.
“The officer asked me to lift my left leg off the ground, point to it with your right index finger and count one-one thousand, two one-thousand… and I put my foot down immediately and said, ‘Sir, I couldn’t do that if I was sober.’ I blew over the legal limit at 18 years old,” he said. “I paid about $1,500 in court two weeks later, only spent 30 bucks in the bar to get buzzed that night and my reputation, integrity and honor were damaged for life. Instead of taking a look at that DUI and slowing down, I kept going out with my boys.”
Mr. Grenahan received his third DUI in his early twenties after the suicide of his little brother.
“I didn’t go seek the help of counselors or go to my dad to talk about my brother’s suicide, I went drinking,” the comedian said in a sad tone. “I drove home and was pulled over five miles from home. The judge sentenced me to six months in the county jail and while there I promised my mother that I was going to stop drinking and change my life.”
Twenty-two years later, Mr. McGrenahan still hasn’t had a drink and has one request.
“I pray you guys look out for each other and intervene if someone is out of line,” he said. “Airmen, look out for your fellow Airmen. “
Some Schriever Airmen took this message to heart.
“He delivered an important message and it was outside of the norm,” said Senior Airman Allen Orozco-Castaneda, 50th Comptroller Squadron. “There was passion behind his words and emotion that you can’t get from reading a paper or a power point.”
“Happy Hour” is a 15 year-old program Mr. McGrenahan started performing in colleges and has performed at about 100 military installations in the past three years.
“Military members get credit for training but, they also have a comedian coming out,” he said. “The last three years I brought it to the military and they’ve absorbed it like a sponge.”
The Schriever sexual abuse and response coordinator shared the same sentiment.
“Bernie uses humor to ‘hook’ his audience at the beginning of his program,” said Paula Fraass. “Then when he transitions into his prevention message he isn’t just telling people not to do something but giving a powerful personal message of what his poor choices cost him. I thought Bernie’s combination of comedy and prevention message helped keep the audience engaged so they truly heard the important message.”
For more information on Bernie McGranahan and his testimony, go to www.comedyisthecure.com.