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Veteran Laughs

Comedian Christopher Cannon didn't decide to help out the Wounded Warrior Project after witnessing some catastrophic event or seeing a United States Army buddy get hurt--all it took was CNN and a story on the Wounded Warrior Project to prompt him to put his 17 years of comedy-performance experience to work in an effort to help out his fellow veterans.

"I've come to the point where I'm not gonna get a TV show. I'm a club comic, so I wanted to go a different direction," says Cannon.

That direction: the creation of Comics for Courage, an effort that Cannon began brainstorming last year and which he hopes will turn into a national comedy tour. Comics for Courage will not be a typical dirty-joke night at the comedy club; all of the benefit show's proceeds will go directly to the Wounded Warrior Project, which provides physical and mental support to wounded veterans.

The nonprofit organization's goals are to raise awareness and aid from the public while providing programs and services to assist injured military men and women.

"It's a way of performing comedy and giving back," says Cannon. "I think anyone who served, whether it be during war or not, has that desire to look out for fellow vets."

For the show, Cannon called on two friends, Gary Hood and Walt Maxam--also comedians and veterans--to complete the lineup. Together, they will be putting their best stuff out there in an effort to prove that laughter--and, sometimes, being a smartass--can help a good cause.

The tour effort is beginning in Tucson at Laffs Comedy Caffe next Thursday, Feb. 12. The ultimate aim of the show is to educate the audience about the WWP and the services the organization provides to wounded personnel.

"We can't rely on (Veterans Affairs), because there are so many (wounded veterans)," says Cannon. "They (the WWP) need as much help as they can get. This is a money thing, and the government is not going to provide it all."

Cannon served in the United States Army for five years, and was stationed in Germany and Texas. He says he decided to join the Army for the same reason that many men and women sign up: He wanted to give back to his country.

While at Fort Hood in Texas, Cannon would make trips to Austin to perform his act. "It's just something that I've always wanted to do," says Cannon about comedy. "A lot of people want to do certain things; I wanted to be a standup (comic)."

He has spent 17 years as a comic, with appearances on Sirius XM and Comedy Central. He's even opened for Ellen DeGeneres.

Cannon says he didn't decide to support the Wounded Warrior Project just because he was once in the Army; however, he says that being a veteran undeniably touched him. "We have a special connection that can only be experienced by serving," says Cannon.

Cannon and fellow comedian Gary Hood both point out that the benefit effort is not partisan in any way.

"This is something really close to all our hearts," says Hood. "It's not Democratic or Republican; it's not political. ... It's just about soldiers who got hurt, and it's good to support them."

Hood served in the Air Force during Vietnam. He's been a comedian since 1973, and he says comedy has been his only job. Hood will stick to his regular act for the Comics for Courage show, which he describes by saying: "I'm kind of a smartass."

Adds Hood: "Your grandma probably said this: 'Laughter is the best medicine.' And it's true."

Cannon says he has dedicated himself full-time to turning Comics for Courage into a nationwide tour. He hopes that over the next year, the trio can do one or two shows a month.

"Our goal is to do 24 shows in a year," says Cannon. "I wish I could do 60 of these things a year. ... As Americans, we owe these people."

Comics for Courage takes place at 8 p.m., next Thursday, Feb. 12, at Laffs Comedy Caffe, 2900 E. Broadway Blvd. Tickets are $15 each, or $25 for two. For tickets, call Laffs at 323-8669. For more information, visit the Comics for Courage MySpace page or the Wounded Warrior Web site.

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