Under the Radar

Action Figure Therapy Raises Brows at the USO

As I reported previously, the guys behind Action Figure Therapy want to do a USO tour in support of the troops. So, they asked the USO.

The USO said, “Send us your press package.”

They did.

The USO said, “Um, thanks but no thanks.”

The AFT guys called and said, why for?

The USO said (and I’m paraphrasing here) “Because we only have famous people the troops actually want to see.”

Now, that’s a pretty simple version, and as you might expect it wasn’t the entire USO they talked to, just one lady. That back-and-forthing really happened though, so Dan Bialek of AFT asked her, “What if we started an e-mail campaign, and asked them [the troops who might be interested in seeing AFT comedians perform] to e-mail you?”

Insert snotty voice here. “Well you could try that.”

“Now, let me make it clear,” Dan say. “I asked this lady specifically, twice, if I should use her e-mail, and she told me very clearly it was okay.”

He put her e-mail up on the AFT Facebook page and asked the fans to respectfully contact the USO on AFT’s behalf (see the partially redacted original letter below). 12 minutes later the phone rang.

“She was throwing a fit because I published her e-mail, said she hadn’t told me I could. She went on about how inappropriate was, and even said ‘one of the e-mails from someone who said he wanted to b***f**k my soul!’ [Note: this is a catchphrase from the UFC Best Buy Teabagging Incident]

Apparently the response from their fan base was, in a tragedy of understatement, substantial. There were many messages that abided by Dan’s request any messages to be polite, but more than a few of them apparently displayed the startling, even extravagant way our troops find to articulate themselves.

Dan, laughing, “I told her we had adamant, animated fans who were highly motivated, but she obviously didn’t’ get it. I warned her she’d get a big response, and we did ask our fans to avoid profanity and be respectful…We took the e-mail down and posted an update…Anyway, I think we maybe burned a bridge there. I mean, ultimately, we respect the USO and everything they do, we really do, but at the same time…the guys that do AFT are smart and funny. Our product may be dumb, but there is a lot of thought in it…we know the difference between what’s appropriate and what’s not. We can do a kindergarten or a biker bar, so why not the USO?”

Dan and the rest of the AFT staff want to make it clear, they weren’t trying to harass the USO or their representatives. They’re well aware the lady they talked to might just as well have been well-intentioned as she might’ve been a snotty functionary. They just want to put together a standup comedy tour featuring the comedians who work on AFT so they can go perform for military personnel stationed abroad. Dan reiterated several times, they are ABSOLUTELY fans of the USO and they did ask permission twice before putting that e-mail up. It wasn't a slam on the USO. As Dan put it, "Our guys aren’t any worse than some of the other comics out there touring."

What they’re hoping now is that someone higher ranking in the military, or in a position of greater authority in the USO, will watch one of the videos, and like it, or at least acknowledge the troops like it in vast numbers.

“I’d like to lay down the gauntlet for someone on high to help us here, to get it that we’re not scumbags so we can do a tour. We’re adults…it wouldn’t have to be over the top profane. We portray these characters, we aren’t these characters. Our fans have done so much for us, and we have such respect for the military…they go off for months or a year at a time to these horrible places, I think we not only could but should inconvenience ourselves enough for a tour.”

Perhaps some of the audience of Under the Radar and Military.com can help out, or know someone who knows someone, or who knows someone who knows someone who wouldn’t mind beating the piss out of someone else (or just putting in a good word on AFT’s behalf with the USO’s powers-that-be or maybe the Joint Chiefs). There are other opportunities, like for-profit companies that do tours similar to the USO, but AFT wants no part of them.

“Listen,” Dan told me earnestly. “I want to do a tour, I want to do it with the USO and I don’t care where we go. I want to perform where it takes them two hours to download the first minute of one of our videos. We’re under no illusions, we know we’re p***ies. We’re just stand-up comedians, but if they’ll let us, we’ll go to the most remote,  nastiest, shittiest places they’ve got.”

They just need permission to do it. It will be interesting to see if the USO is paying attention.

David Reeder is a twenty-three year law enforcement and military veteran who writes in a fervent if desultory and easily distracted fashion for Under the Radar, Kit Up! and Defense Tech when the solipsistic and despotic diligent and talented editors allow him to do so. He is also a contributing editor at the BOLO Report.

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