Laughing Through Baghdad: Comic's Home Movies of War

By Adam Buckman

From The New York Post, May 26, 2006

THE best documentary to emerge so far from the Iraq War comes from an unexpected source.

It is comedian Jeffrey Ross, a sad sack with a high-pitched voice and a face like Walter Matthau's.

He's been around for years and is perhaps best known for his participation in Friars' roasts.

And now, he deserves to be best known for something else - his personal, videotaped account of a trip he made to Iraq to entertain American troops.

The film he made - titled "Patriot Act: A Jeffrey Ross Home Movie" and running just an hour and a quarter - reveals that Ross is as observant a journalist as he is a comedian, something he might not even realize.

What is clear is this: When he was invited by his friend, Drew Carey, to join him on a one-week USO tour of Iraq in fall 2003, along with a handful of other comedians, Ross saw an opportunity to produce something worthwhile from the experience.

So he ran a camcorder throughout the entire trip and later created this documentary, which is as touching as it is hilarious.

Its hilarity stems from Ross' running commentary throughout the film, and the performances of the comedians before appreciative crowds of servicemen and -women at bases and camps all over Iraq, some of them on the frontier and within range of enemy mortars.

Although it's Ross' movie, he gives ample screen time to all of the comedians on the tour, who besides Carey and himself included Blake Clark, Kyle Dunnigan, Andres Fernandez and Rocky Laporte.

Actress Kathy Kinney, who played Mimi on "The Drew Carey Show" was also on hand.

And writer Larry Gelbart, who wrote 40 episodes of "M*A*S*H," appears in the movie (but is not part of the tour) to give Ross some sage advice about USO shows. Gelbart should know - he wrote for and traveled with Bob Hope.

The touching part is what Ross learned. "I am starting to get why Bob Hope did this for so long, because these were the best crowds I ever performed for," Ross says at the film's conclusion. "Every single GI that I met thanked me for coming, but I should have been thanking them because if anyone got a morale boost, it was me."

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