Raising spirits and supporting the troops through comedy

By Mary-Lyn Buckley

Talent of all kinds will be encouraged to come out and showcase their skills as Rider presents the first ever Convoy comedy show benefiting veterans, taking place on April 12.

The idea of having a show first began when junior communications major Zane Birnie approached Military Affairs Graduate Assistant Thomas Reddington back in November 2016.

Birnie expressed his interest in joining the military. However, he believed that he would never be able to achieve his goal, as he had been diagnosed as legally blind. After learning he could never enlist in the military himself, he decided he would dedicate his time to getting as close to joining as he could get — honoring veterans, which is exactly what he came to do.

He began urging Reddington to plan a fundraiser honoring veterans, current military students and military dependent students.

Reddington and Birnie developed a friendship and reached out to Melissa Mitchem, a member of the Rider University Improvisation Troupe, who had a comedy show planned. Just by chance, Birnie had experience doing stand up comedy.

“A comedy show is fun,” Reddington said. “College can be a lonely and tough place to be.  Nobody has time to be down or to think about their next test or paper if they are laughing. So, let’s laugh, have fun, raise some donations for a good cause and honor the heroes among us.  What could be better?”

Mitchem was on board to join forces, and Birnie stepped forward, helping her find other emerging acts willing to donate their time for this great cause.

“This year may have just started, but a lot has happened and I think the best way to cope with the stress of everyday life is laughing,” she said. “I also wanted to showcase the Improvisation Troupe, so people know it exists and hopefully want to come out and join.”

As coincidental as it may seem, Reddington and Birnie soon learned Mitchem actually is a military dependent after her father served in the United States Army for many years.

The show will take place in the Bart Luedeke Center theater at 7 p.m., and will begin by showcasing the Rider University Improvisation Troupe, followed by standup comedians Birnie, sophomore sports management major Matt Moran and comedian Tim Eli. Johnathan McBride, an Air Force Veteran, will be the show’s headliner.

Following the show, students, faculty, staff and visitors can stick around for an after party taking place in the Rider pub to enjoy a night of drinks, dancing and music performances from a live band.

Although there is free admission, donations are accepted, and will benefit the Rider Veterans Fund.

Reddington hopes that the installation of the comedy show will bring to light the many issues that veterans and those close to them face on a daily basis.

“The average student should know that veterans and military dependents walk among them as fellow students, staff and faculty,” Reddington said. “Some of them have experienced the terror and horror of combat or, as children, know the anxiety of a missing parent, and the uncertainty and pain of having a parent return home a completely changed person, or not return at all. These people and these issues are not in some other town or county. They are here with us now.”


Printed in the 4/05/17 edition.

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