Actor and stand-up comedian Marc Price — also known as "Skippy" from the 1980s TV show, "Family Ties" — is bringing a comedy show to Grand Junction that includes two wounded warrior veterans who are using stand-up comedy as a means to heal.
"Skippy & The Comedy Warriors" is set to hit the stage Friday at Mesa Theater, 538 Main St. Doors will open at 7 p.m. and the ages 18 and older show is at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $20 in advance and $25 at the door.
The show is free to veterans.
Price, 51, was undoubtedly born into the stand-up comedy business. His comedian father, Al Bernie, did voice-overs for cartoons in the late 1930s and could be heard on the Fred Allen radio show in the 1940s.
"In those days, no one had a TV," Price said about the era in a phone interview. "The real entertainment was on the radio — the whole nation had their eyes and their ears on the radio."
"My dad was a wonderful comedian of yesteryear," he said.
Later, when television became the popular media, Al Bernie made regular appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show, including just before Elvis Presley made his debut on the show.
"In 1956, he's on the week right before Elvis," Price said about his dad, "and he does an impersonation of Elvis. That was the first-ever Elvis impressionist on TV," Price said.
Al Bernie was 50 years old when Price was born and he taught his son — firsthand — how to "do" comedy. Price recalls hanging out as a kid with the likes of George Burns, Robert Klein, David Brenner and Sammy Davis Jr., he said.
"My dad took me to Hollywood when I was 13 and that's when I auditioned for 'Family Ties,'" he said.
Price landed the role of Irwin "Skippy" Handelman on the popular TV series that ran from 1982–89. After the show's run, Price starred in a number of movies, hosted late-night talk shows and worked behind the camera, writing and producing for a number of networks.
"But stand-up comedy is my first love," he said.
Price's credits include opening for funny men Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld and he's toured the comedy circuit for decades performing shows that the Boston Globe says are "wickedly funny."
But now he's on a tour of a different kind — performing comedy with "tour of duty" guys — "American heroes that were injured fighting for the country," he said.
The comedy tour starts WednesdayOct. 9 in Denver and will see 30 cities before Christmas.
It was an unconventional set of circumstances that got one of the comedians, Purple Heart Award recipient, Joe Kashnow from Baltimore, Maryland, on the stand-up stage.
"I found comedy by being blown up," Kashnow said in the phone interview.
"It's bizarre. I was in Iraq in 2003 and was injured on Sept. 17 of that year," he said.
Doctors tried to salvage the limb but Kashnow's right leg was eventually amputated below the knee. Nine year's later, he received an email from the Wounded Warrior Project who wanted to make a documentary film about wounded veterans and stand-up comedy.
"That changed my life," Kashnow said.
Five traumatically wounded veterans were chosen for the documentary, "Comedy Warriors: Healing Through Humor." The veterans were teamed with and mentored by writers and nationally-known comedians Zach Galifianakis, Bob Saget, Lewis Black and B.J. Novak.
After a fast-track workshop in the craft, the veterans performed their short comedy routines in front of a live audience. Some of them did it so well, they became full-time comedians, including Kashnow who met Price through a mutual friend — the producer of the documentary. (The documentary can be viewed on Amazon Prime).
"Even after the hell they've been through, they still remain funny," said Price, "and they help heal themselves through laughter."
As a motivational speaker, Kashnow talks to schools, business groups, social clubs and nonprofit organizations detailing his experiences and struggles in the effort to show what can be overcome with no more than a positive attitude and the determination to accomplish one's goals.
Kashnow's golden retriever service dog, Chico, follows him to the stage, curls up at his feet and does his job as a calming presence.
"Chico is billed as a "juggling dog,"' Price said, with a half-laugh.
A second Purple Heart Award recipient, Bobby Henline, will also perform at the Mesa Theater show. A burn survivor and amputee, Henline too was among the five chosen for the "Comedy Warriors" documentary. The four-tour Iraq War veteran suffered burns over almost 40% of his body when his Humvee was hit with an IED blast in April 2007, according to welldonecomedian.com.
"During his initial six-month hospital stay, Bobby remained upbeat and positive, and relied on humor to get him through each day," the website says.
After his occupational therapist challenged him to try his hand at comedy, he quickly became known as the "Well Done Comedian" on the comedy circuit.
What can audiences expect at the Mesa Theater show?
"Not a refund," quipped Price, but he does offer a "'no suck' guarantee."
"It's a special night and we invite other vets to come out to the show — veterans will get in free," he added.
And that's no joke.