Jon Stewart helps celebrate USO at Andrews Air Force Base

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Jeff Ross, an American stand-up comedian known as the Roast Master General, interacts with servicemembers during “A Celebration of Service,” a comedy show presented by the USO, for Military Appreciation Month at Andrews Air Force Base on May 5, 2016. (Meredith Tibbetts/Stars and Stripes)
From Stripes.com
Jeff Ross, an American stand-up comedian known as the Roast Master General, interacts with servicemembers during “A Celebration of Service,” a comedy show presented by the USO, for Military Appreciation Month at Andrews Air Force Base on May 5, 2016. (Meredith Tibbetts/Stars and Stripes)

Jon Stewart helps celebrate USO at Andrews Air Force Base

by: Meredith Tibbetts | .
Stars and Stripes | .
published: May 07, 2016

ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE, Md. — A line-up of top-flight comedians graced a stage at Andrews Air Force Base on Thursday as host Jon Stewart kick-started Military Appreciation Month with the USO.

The Obamas and Bidens began the festivities with a personal “thank you” to the servicemembers and their families.

“Thank you for your service here. Thanks for your service around the world,” President Barack Obama said, adding he hoped to be the “Commander-in-Brief” so servicemembers could enjoy the event.

The start of the night was a light-hearted, more formal affair than the rest of the evening. The Obamas and Bidens, who lauded servicemembers, their families, and the history of the USO, ended the first segment with a cake-cutting and a loud, all-hands hangar rendition of 75th Happy Birthday to the USO.

“You are America’s backbone,” Vice President Joe Biden said to the servicemembers gathered inside the hangar.

They also paid tribute to military spouses for Military Spouse Appreciation Day, which is Friday.

“There’s a famous English poet who wrote, ‘They also serve who only stand and wait.’ So to every family member – I mean this from the bottom of my heart – for every family member of anyone in uniform, we owe you,” Biden said.

The stage was filled with USO tour veterans, including David Letterman (who joked he looked like Walt Whitman with his bushy white beard), Judd Apatow, Mike Birbiglia, Kisten Schaal, Hasan Minhaj, John Mulaney and Jeff Ross.

“We are able to find some great talent that had not only great careers in entertainment and comedy but were really anxious to come here and serve by entertaining troops here at Andrews,” said Alan Reyes, senior vice president of Operations, Programs and Entertainment at the USO and a Navy Reservist.

The comedians talked about a wide-range of topics -- from yoga to the name of the base to political candidates.

Stewart quipped, “It was so much easier to get here than Kabul,” a reference to his USO tours to Afghanistan.

Stewart, who retired from the Daily Show in 2015, has kept busy by lobbying Congress to extend benefits for survivors of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

“Jon Stewart is great, and Letterman is good. I’m just excited to see what happens next,” said Staff Sgt. Dalton McCall, who was there with his 1-year-old son, Jamison.

Reyes said laughter is the best medicine.

“You think about military families and military servicemembers and the trials they go through,” he said. “To be able to take a break, have a laugh and know that that laugh is coming as a means of gratitude for what they do, is a huge way to kick off this Military Appreciation Month.”

tibbetts.meredith@stripes.com
Twitter: @mjtibbs