Taking a political stand on the war in Iraq, whichever viewpoint it is, has nothing to do with patriotism. Nor does it have anything to do with emotionally supporting the troops on the ground in Iraq. Those young men and women are strangers in a strange land, doing on a daily basis what is largely a thankless job. Sure, pundits at every point of the political spectrum in the States talk a lot of talk about the troops, but precious few are willing to actually walk with them. It’s much easier to deal in platitudes and rhetoric than to actually support the troops.
Comics on Duty, founded by Richard Davis, has been supporting US troops stationed overseas since 1992. The revolving tour has performed nearly 250 shows at 80 sites inside Iraq and over 300 throughout southwest Asia. They’re compact shows, featuring a few comics for each tour, but they serve to boost the morale of troops working in hostile conditions.
We Love You, Mrs. Bevins follows stand-up comics Danny Bevins, Sarah Tiana, Dave Mishevitz and John Bizarre as they perform for troops throughout Iraq as part of the ongoing Comics on Duty World Tour. These aren’t A-list comedians by any means—they’re up-and-comers with a few TV appearances under their belt. Truth to tell, they’re often not even that funny. It doesn’t matter. They’re not playing to suburban audiences here. They’re working the room in remote parts of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the jokes are geared to that audience. A viewer in Iowa isn’t apt to get a joke about the daunting obstacles of using a porta-potty in Iraq.
The comedy bits are only a backdrop for the film’s message, however. The central meaning of We Love You, Mrs. Bevins lies in its title. At every stop on the tour, Danny Bevins explained to the troops that he was sending a video postcard to his mom, and asked the soldiers to merely say, “We love you, Mrs. Bevins.” It’s a recurring theme that threads through the entire film—at shows and during interviews with individual soldiers. Far from being hokey, it’s something that rings with a universal resonance.
The simple phrase, “We love you, Mrs. Bevins” humanizes the sacrifices of the troops serving in the Iraq War. There’s a sincerity that shines through every time a soldier says it before the camera. Some say it almost with a chuckle, others with the hint of a tear in their voice, but they all see “Mrs. Bevins” as the personification of all they hold dear. She’s why they’re there, she’s why they make the best of deplorable conditions and she’s their reason for coming home.
We Love You, Mrs. Beavins isn’t a great comedy work. I don’t think it was intended as such. Don’t misunderstand—there are some good gags along the way. But it’s more of a video log tracing the journey of four comics discovering the everyday truths of war from the viewpoints of those who live it. Along the way, we find the soldiers fighting the fight can still find humor in the ludicrousness of their situation. Now if only the politicians at home could get the joke, we might find a way out of the quagmire. In the meantime, it’s good that Comics on Duty are supporting the troops with words that actually mean something on a visceral level.