Q&A with military veteran and stand up comedian Bobby Henline
After a decade of being out of the military after serving through Operation Desert Storm, veteran Bobby Henline was inspired to re-enlist after the Sept. 11 attacks. Recovering from an explosion that left severe burns over 38% of his body, he later began to do stand up comedy and was featured in the documentary “Comedy Warriors”, the film “Sophie and the Rising Sun” and the TV series ‘’Shameless”.
This Sept. 10, Henline will be doing stand-up comedy along with other performances in a special Vaudeville-style show at the Fox Tucson Theatre to raise funds for Southern Arizona military and first-responder families. In addition, he is partaking in the 9/11 Tower Challenge activity on Sept. 11 in the University of Arizona Football Stadium.
The Daily Wildcat spoke with Henline briefly about his stand-up comedy career and more for the upcoming event.
Daily Wildcat: What are some of the ways that stand-up comedy has changed your life?
Bobby Henline: I never thought I’d be doing it. I was a funny guy and would do silly stuff...[but] it really gets me to look at myself in a different perspective and be able to laugh at myself more. Stand-up also helps you grow, understand yourself as a person better and be honest with the issues I may have as an individual that I often can share with others that have it in common.
DW: Why was it important for you to have humor throughout the time you were healing and now?
BH: I have had some sort of self-deprecating humor to deal with things. I was never really the smartest kid, so to me, making other people laugh was the way I got attention... even though I, of course, got in trouble in class. That was my strength: to be funny and make people laugh. So I’ve always kind of had that with me. When I got my injuries, I knew that is where I had to go to with my family and myself just to get through it all...
DW: You also spend free time speaking at hospitals, schools and veteran organizations; could you elaborate on your message of healing through hope?
BH: I basically share my story, I share tools of how I’ve gotten through everything.
We are more than who we think we are. There’s more to a person than what they think they are interested in at some point. So, we try to get them to express themselves and also look at me and I say, “Look, if I can do this, you can do this.” Anything is possible, but you have choices you have to make every day. You have to make that choice of mood, the choice to push harder if you really want something, and it all comes down to that.
People often get stuck in the mindset of, “Oh well, what I have in my life right now is what I’ve been given.” But it is not. You have been given your situation and events in your life have happened, but you have choices to make those things better.
DW: How do you feel you’ve inspired not only others who experience a similar situation to you, but everyone who watches your stand-up or has seen you as a speaker?
BH: It is always weird, people tell me all the time about how I have helped and inspired them. I do not label myself as a motivational speaker, I feel I am just being me, trying to help with who I can and it always amazes me.
I think it is because I am opening up and being very honest of who I am and what I went through. I talk about my pain, not just the laughter, my bad and good days and I think that is what really helps people. To be honest and open, it lets them know that they are not alone. When I get that feedback, it’s the most rewarding thing... It is so humbling and honorable that God has given me the strength and courage to be able to share my story and talk about these things. Whether it helps me or somebody else, it is a blessing.
DW: Finally, can you please share more about the 9/11 foundation event?
BH: We’re going to do 2,071 steps up and down the stadium. The event is basically open for first responders and their families and are having two thousand people participate. Then you also have all the supporters who are there. It’s a tribute to Sept. 11.
Sept. 11 is the reason I came back into the military after being out for 10 years. Not because the event, the people who died that day, the veterans, and first responders who died that day, but because of the [Sept.] 12th. That is the day that America was three colors only: red, white, and blue. As a country we stopped all the fighting, bickering, democratic and republic races, and everybody had a flag up. No one argued about it and we all stood together, and if we could do that day more often, that’d be great.
Follow Margaux Clement on Twitter