Giving back to ‘unsung heroes’ through stand-up comedy
By Jessica Hergert
The Bart Luedeke Center (BLC) Theater will open its doors on April 20 for Operation Comedy, a donation-based show to benefit the Rider Veterans Fund.
Previously called the Convoy Comedy Show, Operation Comedy features on- and off-campus talent, including the Rider Improvised Organizational Troupe (RIOT), local comedians Melissa Diaz and Jeffrey Paul, and a special appearance from The Rolling Tones — formerly The Rider Vibes — who will sing the National Anthem.
Thomas Reddington, coordinator of Veteran and Military Affairs and producer of the show, explained the importance of giving back to those who have served for this country.
“This fund is used for helping to defray any unexpected expenses for veterans, the military and military dependents — spouses and children — that would jeopardize them from continuing their education,” he said. “The Rider student body may not be aware of it, but they have heroes walking the hallways along with them.”
The show begins at 7 p.m. after an hour-long information fair in the BLC lobby with representatives from six veteran service organizations including the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (NJDMAVA), the Veteran Center of Ewing, Military OneSource, the Transition Assistance Program, and Veterans of Foreign Wars Student Service Program. Rider’s Entrepreniual Training Program, run by Associate Dean of the Department of Management Ron Cook, will also be in attendance.
Joe Nyzio, a certified veterans service officer from NJDMAVA, will also make an appearance at the info session.
Reddington said, “In the veterans’ world, it is very hard to get your hands on an actual [veteran] officer because they are so busy. And we are going to have one in the lobby.”
Following the fair, donations will be accepted at the door of the theater and the two-hour show will begin.
Senior graphic design major Steven Stein, the host and self-proclaimed “onstage ringmaster,” is excited to get students to come out and see the show.
“I think what happens with students is that we all like to stay indoors. We all just like to stay cooped up in our rooms and not go out and try to have fun,” Stein said. “One of the things about Operation Comedy is the fact that you have the chance to go out and have fun, feel a connection between the people onstage versus the people offstage and to understand those unsung heroes and appreciate what they have done and how they are impacting our Rider community without us really even knowing it.”
Chris Garino, senior communication studies major and president of RIOT, echoed Stein’s thoughts as he prepared the set list of games the troupe will perform.
“It’s such a great cause. It’s here to represent Rider veterans, but it’s also very universal, and it’s free,” he said. “If you’re a Rider student in the area, you really don’t have a reason not to come. It’s just a bunch of students and local talent in the area trying to make you laugh, raising awareness for a very real thing that is on our campus and around our nation and the world in general. I think the best avenue to do that is through a comedy show.”
During intermission, there will be a raffle of prizes, some of them sillier than others as the show’s crew will try to top last year’s canned ham prize, said Garino.
Senior communication major Zane Birnie, a student worker for the Veterans and Military Affairs Office and casting director of the show, has been excitedly rehearsing his stand-up sketch for the show. He believes Operation Comedy boils down to one word: “fun.”
“We are part of something way bigger than ourselves,” Birnie said. “We are trying to make something memorable.”
Once the show is over, attendants are invited to an after-party in the pub hosted by the Rider Veterans Association.
Those involved encouraged veterans, students and faculty alike to attend the show and hopefully have some laughs.
“We’re just making memories, one joke at a time,” said Stein.
Published in the 4/18/18 edition.