Episode 350 Robin Johnson Humor and Healing Transcript

This transcript is from episode 350 with guest Robin Johnson.

Scott DeLuzio: [00:00:00] Thanks for tuning in to the Drive On Podcast where we are focused on giving hope and strength to the entire military community. Whether you’re a veteran, active duty, guard, reserve, or a family member, this podcast will share inspirational stories and resources that are useful to you. I’m your host, Scott DeLuzio, and now let’s get on with the show.

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Hey everybody. Welcome back to Drive On. I’m your host Scott DeLuzio, and today my guest is Robin Johnson. Robin is an army veteran who after retiring discovered her new mission in helping people, organizations, and communities with humor. And she’s the founder and CEO of the best Medicine [00:02:00] brigade, which exists to provide veteran and military spouse comedians, uh, performance opportunities and heal people with humor.

We’ll talk a little bit more about that in just a minute, but first, welcome to the show, Robin. I’m really glad to have you here.

Robin Phoenix Johnson: Thank you. That was the nicest intro ever. I want you to take all of that and tell my kids how cool I am. Same way. Maybe they’ll respect me.

Scott DeLuzio: They, if they don’t know it by now, um, you know, well, I guess give it some time. I don’t know. They’ll figure it out.

Robin Phoenix Johnson: and 13. Yeah, I’m not cool. I am not cool.

Scott DeLuzio: No, at that

Robin Phoenix Johnson: my daughter would

Scott DeLuzio: cool

Robin Phoenix Johnson: cringe. I’m cringe.

Scott DeLuzio: Oh my gosh. Yeah. And I, it’s like you get, get to a certain age, um, and you no longer know what your kids are talking about anymore. Um, I, I’m, I’m the same way. Sometimes my kids will say certain things. I’m like, what? What in the world are you even talking about? Although, looking back, I probably said stuff like that too.

And my parents were scratching their heads. Um, but at least ours, I think [00:03:00] we, you, you could kind of figure it out. Some of the stuff that the kids

Robin Phoenix Johnson: Yeah,

Scott DeLuzio: days, I’m like, what the hell are you talking about?

Robin Phoenix Johnson: yeah. I need, I need a Google Translate. I need a translation.

Scott DeLuzio: That’s right. Yeah. It, it’s not like

Robin Phoenix Johnson: for having

Scott DeLuzio: translate from like, you know, Swahili or something else that like I’ve never heard of before. It’s, it’s supposed to be English, I don’t know. But anyways, for the listeners who, I don’t know, let’s say maybe they’re living under a rock and they aren’t familiar with you, uh, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?

Robin Phoenix Johnson: yeah. Well, you know, I’m originally from Ohio, O H, uh, and I grew up in a real small town. So I, of course, did what everybody from real small towns does. We’d go to the army. Right, we leave to go to the military. Uh, Seeking Adventure ended up uh, staying way longer than I planned. I thought it was like gonna be a four year deal, you know, get in there and get out, but ended up staying a total of 26 years.

Uh, first initially in the Ohio National Guard and then I transitioned to serve a full career [00:04:00] and on active duty, met my husband in the army. So as an army wife as well, not army wives like the TV show army wives, but like a different, anyway. Uh, we have two kids and now I am living my best life doing comedy, producing comedy, performing it.

And then probably my most favorite. is facilitating therapeutic humor programs using joke writing, using humor and comedy to reframe negative thought patterns. Uh, that is like the most rewarding of all the things.

Scott DeLuzio: You know, before we started this recording, um, we were, we were kind of joking about how, uh, laughter is the best medicine and you, you kind of disagreed with that and kind of reframed my mind, that mindset on that as well. Um,

Robin Phoenix Johnson: I was like, have you ever had a baby, Scott? Like, come on, everybody knows an epidural is the best medicine. Let’s go. Let’s be real.

Scott DeLuzio: you know, I.

Robin Phoenix Johnson: real.

Scott DeLuzio: I can only go with my wife’s experience and you know, the, uh. The desire for the epidural and [00:05:00] the um, uh, the words that she wouldn’t want to say in front of our kids that were coming out of her. Um, yeah, so, so I guess there’s a category of medicines that are, are the best. And I suppose it depends on the situation you’re in.

You probably, as you’re pushing out a baby, a bowling ball of pushing out outta you, you probably don’t want a comedian walking in the room. You want the person with the epidural coming in,

Robin Phoenix Johnson: Yeah. Oh yeah. My husband thought he was hilarious when I was in labor and I wanted to choke him when we had my daughter. And then he wasn’t even there for my son’s birth because he was in Afghanistan. So I was like, which is it? Like, I want somebody who’s, you know, completely annoying me during the process or somebody who’s going to be there at all.

So I, guess you have to

Scott DeLuzio: I guess,

Robin Phoenix Johnson: for the little stuff.

Scott DeLuzio: I guess you got kind of have to balance that out and, you know, be, be grateful for what you got.

Robin Phoenix Johnson: right.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, I, I was actually my first, uh, son when he was born. I was training to go to Afghanistan. I, I was in the, like the train up, so I wasn’t home. [00:06:00] Um, but they flew me back home in order to be there for the birth of, of my son and.

I was totally acting before he was born. Bef I, I was totally acting like the worst parent in the world because I was running through the airport. I was knocking over little kids. I was, I was getting on that plane one way or the other. I didn’t really care. Um, and I did end up getting there probably about an hour before he was born.

It was actually kind of a miracle, the, the way. All the logistics had to work out perfectly for me to get there, um, and ended up, ended up being there. But I, I refrain from the humor, I think. Uh.

Robin Phoenix Johnson: Well, you know, that’s so cool that you had to be there. Like, the virtual lineup, like, that is really special. Uh, my husband was upset that he couldn’t be there for the birth of our son. And, uh, he was like, oh, I’m so upset. I’m so sorry I couldn’t be there. And I was like, well, I’m pretty sure you were there for the conception, so it’s fine.

Like, if you’re gonna miss one, if you’re gonna miss one, that’s The one not to [00:07:00] miss.

Scott DeLuzio: Now what scares me is you said, I’m pretty sure you were there.

Robin Phoenix Johnson: Yeah, I mean, you know, I like to, I like to keep him on his toes. If you saw our children, you would know I’m just joking because they look exactly like their father. I mean, I don’t even know if they have any of my DNA at all. Like, it’s like, I.

was just, um, like, what do you call it? A surrogate or something just to, like, carry his legacy on because they are identical.

Scott DeLuzio: For the listeners who haven’t caught on yet, I think we’re gonna be injecting a little bit of humor into this episode. We’re gonna be joking around, you know, a little bit. But one thing that I’m a little bit disappointed in is we’re both Army and so we can’t rag on each other for, you know, the, the branches and, and things like that.

Like we, we usually would do if there was, you know, a Navy or Air Force or even worse Coast

Robin Phoenix Johnson: yeah. Especially the Air Force. Like, what do they do anyways?

Scott DeLuzio: Before each episode, though, uh, as we, um, as, as we get [00:08:00] prepared for these episodes, I, I try to, well, I, I joke with my wife that I, I, I do what I call a little light internet stalking.

I’m not a stalker, uh, but I like to take a look at. Um, social media of each guest and their websites and all that kind of stuff. See if they have anything interesting going on that might be worth discussing on the episode. And it looks like you recently visited the White House for their holiday reception.

Um, is that right? Yeah.

Robin Phoenix Johnson: that’s right. Yeah.

super exciting. Uh, I really didn’t know why I got invited. To be honest with you, I just got this invitation and, um, up until the point of getting there, did not realize really kind of what was The reason so, but then found out when the first lady spoke, she shared that they had invited people who were telling stories in new ways. And that was exciting to be included in that group. We’ve worked so hard to tell our stories through comedy and through humor and to create opportunities for other veterans and military spouses to do the same. So yeah, it was, it, was really nice. it was beautiful. You know how [00:09:00] gorgeous the White House is at Christmas or holiday time.

It’s so wonderfully decorated. Everything smells so nice. It was, it was a great time. Yeah, yeah,

Scott DeLuzio: it, it looked like it. I, I watched you post a couple of videos that, um, showed some of the, the decorations and, and things like that around the, the White House, and it looked really cool. Um, you know, and really well decorated. Um, but it, you know, it has to be an honor, uh, to be invited for something that you are doing to help out the, the veteran community, um, and, and helping out, you know, just.

Everyday people with the laughter that they, they get from some of these, uh, comedians that, that are coming through the program too, right.

Robin Phoenix Johnson: that’s very validating. I mean, I will do VFWs and I just this past weekend donated my time to do a holiday party for a union on Joint Base Charleston, which is I live here in Charleston, South Carolina, and, um, you do those types of events. And then you get to go to the White House, you know, it’s [00:10:00] such a, you know, and they’re just gonna, and if you’ve ever done a holiday party for a bunch of sober airmen who are forced to be in their hangar for a potluck for the holidays, let me tell you, that was a rough crowd.

I mean, not that you have to be drunk to laugh, but it’s like, they’re just like this.

Scott DeLuzio: Right. It’s like it better be good, like I’m here. Let’s make it good. Right? And so no, no pressure or anything, but

Robin Phoenix Johnson: no pressure. They’re like, who is this army chick anyway?

Scott DeLuzio: I know, right? Like who invited her, you know?

Robin Phoenix Johnson: Yeah, and I made fun of them, which was also probably a bad move, because I was making fun of the Air Force, but

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, it’s like one on however many people were there. Like that, that probably is not the best move if you don’t want your, your, your car mess with in the parking lot, um, you know, as you’re, you’re up there, right? Um, a, a few years ago, uh, my family and I were invited to the White House and it, um. It was for a [00:11:00] different, uh, cause it was, uh, my brother was killed in action in Afghanistan and so there was a Gold Star family event that was at the White House.

So, uh, but when we got the phone call from the White House, like inviting us there, I was like. This is a scam. Like who’s, who’s calling us from the White House? Like what do we have? You know? And, and so it wasn’t until we got like the official letter in the mail, like inviting us that I was like, oh, okay, well maybe this is real.

But I was still skeptical, like the whole way there I was. I was like, okay, I’m going. I’m in Arizona. And so flying all the way across the country and. Walking up to the White House, I was fully prepared to just be turned away. Like, no, this is a total

Robin Phoenix Johnson: Same. Same.

Scott DeLuzio: I was like,

Robin Phoenix Johnson: I was like, do they know, who

Scott DeLuzio: that was going through my head, which is kind of funny, but, um, but anyways, yeah.

The, the holiday thing that, that you were at the holiday reception, I mean that, that. Definitely an honor, and like you said, validating too, knowing that, um, you’re, you’re being recognized by, uh, [00:12:00] not only the individuals that you’re, you’re serving, but like on a, on a bigger level too, like from the White House, like you’re getting all this kind of recognition.

It’s pretty, pretty validating, which is pretty awesome, I think.

Robin Phoenix Johnson: It is. And I, sorry, go ahead.

Scott DeLuzio: no, no, no. You go ahead. Go.

Robin Phoenix Johnson: I was, well, it was really a pinch me moment. I had been to the white house before, but it’d been a while. I wasn’t even going to talk about this today, but I’m going to talk about it. A year ago, a year ago, I suffered an injury and had to have minor surgery and complications from the surgery.

I developed a pulmonary embolisms and I almost died. Like it was bad, um, really close call. And I was just like there at the white house. And it was like a year ago, everything was almost over. And let’s fast forward. Like now I’m here at the white house. Like, how cool is that? I just felt really just grateful, just very grateful.

And just taking in the moment of all the people and that I got to spend another year here [00:13:00] on earth, and it really motivated me to work even harder and do even more.

Scott DeLuzio: Well, I, I think moments like that make you realize that we all have. An expiration date, if you will, right? Like, there, there, there is a limited amount of time and, uh, you might as well make the most of it and, and do the best that you can with the time that you have available to you. And so, um, you know, you hit the ground running and you’re, you’re doing some awesome work, obviously.

Um, but tell, tell us a little bit about, uh, your experience going from being in the Army to discovering. Kind of the, uh, the benefits of, of humor and, and how did all of this evolve?

Robin Phoenix Johnson: Well, I have wanted to do comedy pretty much my whole life, but I just suppressed it. I just didn’t think it was an option for me. And then being a career military officer, I was like, well, I really didn’t feel like I could be my true authentic self so [00:14:00] much the time because you’re certainly not allowed to laugh at certain things that are in it, like, you know, sometimes my mind is dark and I.

think it’s funny, but it might offend somebody and especially in cancel culture and offending people, I actually got in trouble.

Um, I was a battalion commander for something I said, uh, and I’m laughing about it now. At the time, it wasn’t too funny, uh, but it, it is funny. I always had a good sense of humor. Um, I felt like in my circles of friends, my friends knew I was funny, but I just kept staying in and pushing. I wanted to get that 20 years, you know, I wanted to retire.

So I had that behind me. And of course we were deploying all the time. It was a family business for us. We were dual military. I was like, well, we might as well just stick it out. But I think down in like, I had to really go back in my soul, like in my gut. I knew probably at the 10 year mark that I wanted to do something else besides the army and I was being pulled.

I just didn’t have the guts. I was, I, [00:15:00] I was scared, you know, and the army was Comfortable. It’s what I knew and it was easier to stay than take that leap and go, Oh, I’m going to become a comedian. You know, I felt like if I would tell people, would tell people that, that they would just be like, are you crazy?

Do you need to go see mental health? What is wrong with you?

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. That would be a big leap to, to go from, you know, a, a stable, steady career. Um, you know, you’re progressing well through the, the ranks and everything, and then just saying, uh, maybe I don’t want to do this anymore and I’m gonna go be a comedian. It’s like, eh, that probably wouldn’t, like if you were to go to a career counselor, that probably wouldn’t be the advice that they would give you.


Robin Phoenix Johnson: No, I don’t think they would have encouraged it at all. And even when I got out of the military, everyone said, Oh, you were logistics. Go work for Amazon. Go work for UPS or FedEx. Do something logistics. Go work for a defense contractor. Go be a GS. Go work for the government. And it was like staying in that still net.

Same space? I was like, no, like, [00:16:00] I don’t want to do anything military related or government related or logistics related. And I took a job for a little while working for the Military Women’s Memorial, which was wonderful. What a great organization and beautiful. If you’ve not been in Arlington National Cemetery, um, it’s wonderful.

But even then, like, I knew that wasn’t my end all be all. I knew this was going to happen at some point. I just was still trying to stay in a safe space.

Scott DeLuzio: Sure. Well, and that makes sense. You, you want that safety knowing that there’s, you know, a paycheck coming in that you can continue to help, you know, provide for the family and, you know, all the, those other things. Not that that. You, uh, can’t branch out and try other new things, but, but every now and again, it’s nice to have that.

But you talk to, uh, a lot of veterans or I talk to a lot of veterans, uh, through this show and other things that I, I do and. It’s, to me, it’s interesting to [00:17:00] hear the, um, the shifts that people take. Like they, they were in the military, maybe they’re a medic and they get out and they want nothing to do with the medical field and they, they go and do something completely different.

They go work with, I dunno, cars or. You know, whatever, you know, they, they make a, a pretty drastic shift from what they were doing to, um, you know, what they end up doing. Um, and this, I think is probably one of the biggest shifts I’ve heard of. Um, you know, going from logistics, uh, moving equipment and supplies and people and, and everything like that, and getting from A to B and, you know, maybe there’s a seat somewhere in there too.

Who knows? You know, you, you, you’re moving things all over the place. Um. Then you go to, well actually maybe it’s not that big of a shift ’cause you’re, you’re, you’re moving emotions, you’re moving laughter. I don’t know, maybe, maybe there is some connection there. I don’t,

Robin Phoenix Johnson: No, it was a big shift. It was night and day, night and [00:18:00] day.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, I, I was gonna, as I’m saying that, I was like, this sounds stupid. This is a, a big stretch, but I’m gonna finish my thought so I don’t sound like a idiot, but I ended up sound like an idiot.

Robin Phoenix Johnson: You’re all good.

Scott DeLuzio: Um, I, I, I can laugh at myself though. It’s fine. I, I don’t care. It’s fine. Um, so what inspired you to create, uh, the Best Medic Medicine Brigade? And tell us about the, the work that you do with that.

Robin Phoenix Johnson: Well, really it was, I wanted to give more veterans and military spouses an opportunity to tell their stories through comedy. It is one of the toughest industries to break into. I mean, you really, the model’s changing somewhat. I mean, it used to be, you know, you kind of start off in the, The lower levels, you’re just grinding out and dive bars and doing open mics.

And then you slowly move up to being an opening act and then a feature act and then a headlining [00:19:00] act, but getting that.

break or stage time is tough. So I wanted to figure out a way. I was like, you know what, we’re stronger together than. Then Solo, so why don’t we have a community of, of us that are trying to do this and work together and kind of create a name for ourselves.

Um, when I first started Best Medicine Brigade, I wanted it to be the best of the best, and I wanted That when people were looking for a military affiliated comedian or comedian of any kind, I wanted them to go, Oh, let’s call Best Medicine Brigade. They’ve got great talent. Let’s, you know, hire them for our next event.

And that’s how it was started. But now we’re starting to evolve into comedians of all levels of experience. But the original Best Medicine Brigade was all very successful, very. Um, professional comedians that do this for a living, um, this is their business, but now we’re opening it up a little wider in 2024, basically, if you’re anybody who’s military affiliated, a dependent, [00:20:00] or a veteran yourself, or currently serving, and you want to pursue comedy, we are a community for you.

There are some people that I do book and work with that are ready for that, but not everybody is, and I didn’t want to leave out the people who were just trying to get started.

Scott DeLuzio: Now, so, so for the people who are just trying to get started, what does that look like for them? Um, you know, maybe they’ve never done any sort of comedy, uh, on their own, but they want to, they, they know that that’s something that they wanna do. What does it look like when they, they kind of approach you and, uh, you know, what, what can they look forward to?

Robin Phoenix Johnson: Well, one, I think you need to take some sort of class. I mean, nobody, people can be naturally funny, but comedy is an art form and it is extremely precise and it’s a lot harder than it looks. And it’s not even about stage fright or confidence getting up there. That’s a big part of it. Like if you can get on stage and hold a microphone and be just present, that’s a huge win.

But this [00:21:00] is an art form that takes a lot of practice. So I would say take a class, whether, um, I love, love, love Armed Services Arts Partnership, ASAP, ASAP. org. They have a comedy boot camp as well as other courses you can take. But that’s probably the best one that I know that’s around that is no cost to veterans.

They do such amazing things in the community through arts. Uh, you know, with veterans and bridging that signal divide. Uh, there’s other ones, though. I mean, most comedy clubs offer courses. There’s online courses. There’s, you know, Famous Comedian 2 Masterclass. But at the end of the day, you have to learn the science of joke writing.

There is a formula. There is a way. To do jokes, you also have to learn timing and how you let, you know, use your body, your physicality on stage. There is so much that goes into it. Um, yeah, it’s, it’s kind of like saying, Hey, I want to be an NFL player and you’re like, okay. That’s a great goal, but you have to practice, you have to watch tape [00:22:00] back, you have to, um, have special coaching, you have to train to be in the gym.

It’s a, it’s a whole thing. Um, now if you just want, if that’s if you want to do it professionally, if you just want to?

have it as a hobby. Different story. You could, you could treat it like you treat going to yoga or playing golf. You could just go have fun with it. But if you really want to do this as a profession, it is a full time, full time endeavor.

Scott DeLuzio: Well, if I treat it like I. Treat playing golf, there’s gonna be a lot of drinking involved so that it might make it funnier

Robin Phoenix Johnson: Yeah. There’s a lot of that in

Scott DeLuzio: or, or it might be a total flop too, who knows? Because that’s the way my golf game goes. It could be really great one day. It could be totally terrible the next. So, um, you know,

Robin Phoenix Johnson: Don’t worry. That’s how I feel about my comedy too.

Scott DeLuzio: well, and that’s true. Uh, uh, you know, not like I, I’m, I guess just thinking of, of the folks who maybe are just getting into it, um, if you go out. And you have a flop. It doesn’t mean that the next time it’s gonna be a flop, because you probably learn [00:23:00] something from that experience too, and you can take it and improve your, your performance and, and, and take it from there.

But you’re right, there’s, there’s all sorts of levels. There’s people who’ve been doing it professionally for, you know, the longest time and, and they, um, you know, have had time to refine their, their performance and, and everything like that. But there’s also people who, um, who need that. Uh, need those classes and need that little extra, uh, help just to, uh, get them to that first step of, of stepping on the stage for the first time.

Um, you know, ’cause you don’t wanna just walk out there and be totally devastated when nobody’s laughing or, or worse or booing you off the stage because you’re just not delivering it in a way. Like you said, there’s a formula in a way that, um, is going to generate the laughs. Right.

Robin Phoenix Johnson: Yeah. I mean, it’s just

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. Um, so from what you’ve seen, uh, working with, with some of these people, how does the humor serve as a, [00:24:00] a tool to improve their, um, I don’t know, maybe their mental health, their, their mental wellbeing and, uh, you know, uh, reframing maybe negative thoughts and, and things like that.

Robin Phoenix Johnson: like you watch Jim Gavigan, Jerry Seinfeld, like any great comedian, they take normal everyday life. And they make fun of it. And when you do that.

you feel more optimistic about outcomes. You feel more in control. It makes situations that are terrible seem less terrible. I mean, Jim Gaffigan, one of my favorite things that he does is he talks about his wife’s brain tumor.

That’s a pretty serious thing, you know, and he’s, and he makes light of it in such a tasteful way, but still kind of dark and kind of funny. And he said, Yeah.

like the doctor said, it was like the size of a pear. And he goes, but the worst is grapefruit. Like grapefruit, tumor size of grapefruit is the worst kind of tumor.

Is it, which makes sense. Cause grapefruit is the worst fruit. And it’s just a funny joke. And then he goes on to say, like, do you ever wonder like why doctors are talking about. [00:25:00] tumors, like as fruit, like who decided that we didn’t know what centimeters are? Um, so it’s just really clever, um, and it’s, and that’s the thing about using humor and joke writing and comedy is you take something that might really be a trigger or upsetting And you just flip it.

You’re like, okay, well, what’s, what’s funny about this? How can I laugh about it instead of get angry? And then by doing that, you train your mind. I don’t like to say mental health, resiliency. I mean, when we say suicide prevention, I like to say psychological performance. Uh, and. One of the people that I work with in developing the program is a mental skills coach for the Colorado Rockies, Dr.

Doug Chadwick. And it’s really like treating people like they’re athletes and life is a sport, okay? How do we toughen up that mind to be stronger? And we do that by giving them these tools to rethink and re see things in their day to day life.

Scott DeLuzio: I like how you said that [00:26:00] the, the, uh, psychological, uh, performance and, and trying to get, um, your, your mind right with that. And, um, you know, the jokes can be about things that are serious and, um, some of the best jokes, the, some of the things I, I find myself laughing at the most are those serious type of of things.

Um, even just. Everyday situations in, in your own life, you can just find things that are funny. Um, like my, my son just talking of, of tumors. My son had a, uh, a growth, uh, in his leg and they did the x-rays and the scans and all that kind of stuff. And, um, on the, uh, the X-ray, you, you take a look at it and it kind of looked like a head of broccoli, like at, at the top of it.

When he was younger, he was, he was unique in this way. He loved eating broccoli as, as a, a little kid. I mean, he’s still, he’s 14 now, but, um, you know, he [00:27:00] loved eating broccoli and even still, he’ll, he’ll eat it, eat it up. And I was like, oh, well that’s just, it makes sense because you just ate so much broccoli, it just started growing inside of you.

Right. It’s like kinda like, um, you know, when, when you’re a little, you’re, you’re. Parents might’ve told you if you eat the seeds of a watermelon, you’re gonna get a watermelon grown inside of you. So I was kind of just making a joke like that. But, um, to the same point, uh, that you were talking about before, about like using fruits or, you know, vegetables or whatever to describe the size of, of these different growths, um.

Instead of using like centimeters or, or whatever,

Robin Phoenix Johnson: Yeah.

Scott DeLuzio: figure that out. It’s like the other thing we said was, you know, Americans will use anything other than the metric system to describe the size of

Robin Phoenix Johnson: It’s so true. That’s so true. You know, the, the realization that this was a best medicine or, I mean, it’s not really the best medicine, like we said, it’s up to you, but my mother in law was diagnosed with cancer and, um, we were all caregiving for her and it was, um, hard to see her go through the chemo [00:28:00] and through the treatments and to, um, struggle, but I would try to make her laugh.

And even when it was like the hardest situations, at one point, uh, we had to call 9 1 1, and when the paramedics came, uh, she was in quite a bit of pain, so I was holding her hand, trying to comfort her while she was, um, while they were taking vitals and such. And I squeezed her hand and I said, you know, Kathy, if I would have known how sexy these paramedics were going to be, I would have pushed you down those stairs a long time ago.

And she just started laughing because of course I didn’t push her down the stairs, she had fallen. But, uh, and she just started laughing. And, uh, for a moment, I believe that she wasn’t thinking about her pain. Like it was just, it was a welcome distraction. Um, and I think that’s, that’s when it started and it clicked to me.

Uh, that was. It’s in like the fall of 21, and she passed in January of 22. And that’s when I resigned from the Military Women’s Memorial and said, [00:29:00] I have to help more people than just my mother in law work through their pain and their challenges. Uh, I knew. Without a doubt, that was my calling. And I said, I got to be brave enough.

And it, it was really her because one of the last things I’m Sure.

I think it’s the last thing she ever said to me is she squeezed my hand and she said, thank you for making me laugh. You need to do this for more people. And that was it. That was like my marching orders. It was like, yes, ma’am. Like, and, um, so I just felt like that was.

A sign, and it had to be done, and interestingly enough, she passed on, um, 1 22 22, and then a good friend of mine passed from suicide on 6 22 22, and, um, like everything along the way, the number 22 has just been present, so I don’t know, maybe, maybe this podcast needs to air on the 22nd, I don’t know,

Scott DeLuzio: can, we can maybe play around with the schedule and see if we can get that out on the 22nd or, um, you know, may [00:30:00] maybe, maybe we can hold off until like the number, the episode number has 22 in it somewhere or something like that. Maybe, maybe we can get it out there. But, um, but it is interesting how, how.

You get those, um, you get that calling, uh, you, you know, someone says something and it, it just kind of triggers something. It’s like, yeah, that, that’s what I’m meant to do. Um, and here you are and you’re, you’re still still doing this and, and you’re putting out, um, you know, great effort to get all these people out there using comedy.

Um. You know, in, in a great way. Right. And, and you mentioned, um, uh, heal as well earlier, I believe. Uh, and how you, you use the humor to improve, uh, you know, mental health and all, all that type of stuff. Uh, could you tell us a little bit more about that and how, how that works?

Robin Phoenix Johnson: Yeah, Best Medicine Brigade is a comedy production company, talent management company. So I manage Ashley [00:31:00] Gutermuth. If you know, know her, she’s pretty popular comedian out there. She’s Air Force Best of the Year, wonderfully talented. Uh, but then we have a whole group of Comedians and we travel around the world.

We’re actually getting ready to do nine shows in Japan and 13 in Europe. Uh, so we’re, we’re really being requested a lot and not just for military audiences. We’re, we’re really doing shows for everybody, corporate America. Whoever will have us. Uh, so we’re doing a lot of stuff there, but Hilarious is a workshop or keynote speak, uh, speaking event.

Um, so I do that. I teach for the Institute for Defense and Business. I do a problem framing through humor course. I also do, um, uh, improvisation course that’s for business leaders and these workshops and these, these speeches are about. Healing through humor in the sense of how do you get those tools in your kit bag to strengthen your psychological performance?

It’s very much [00:32:00] based on a lot of things, just like I mentioned earlier about being an athlete and training your mind, but it’s fun too. Like it’s educational and entertaining. It’s very. infused with a lot of comedy. So we’ve been, we’re actually booking 2024 now, and it’s so busy, but it makes my heart happy.

I did a TEDx on it for the Department of Veteran Affairs this year, which comes out soon. Uh, and ever since then, people were like, what is this? Like, we want to talk more about this. And it’s not, it’s not just, like I said, it’s not just for veterans, first responders, nurses, teachers, like any demographic that just needs, um, pick me up, because life is hard.

Scott DeLuzio: It is, and especially I think during the pandemic, the last few years, uh, things got unnecessarily harder for some people where people were isolated and kept away from other people and it just. Was wearing on a lot of people and, and unfortunately they had nobody to turn to. They had [00:33:00] no, you know, they had social media maybe to go onto and scrolling through that, but it’s like there’s no physical in-person, you know, uh, conversations that were happening, it was all over Zoom or, you know, whatever your, your video platform of choices.

But, um, you know that that’s about as good as it got for some people. And so, you know. People’s mental health kind of took a toll, uh, during, during that time. And now that we’re able to, you know, do a little bit more, uh, than, than we were before then, you know, you’re able to get out there and, um, uh, you know, share the humor and, and enjoy the laughter and, and everything and, and laugh together because, you know, yeah, stuff might be serious, but you can also make it pretty funny, you know, uh, which I think is great.

Um, for the, the, the folks who are looking to get involved with, uh, like Best Medicine Brigade and, um, you know, see if, if there’s any [00:34:00] opportunities for them to, um, you know, be supported through that. Uh, what are some of the steps that they might have to take to get in there? Obviously you mentioned, you know, for starting off, uh, you know.

Take some lessons, but you know, if someone’s a little further along the path, um, you know, are there opportunities for them to, uh, be represented or, or get involved somehow, uh, with, with the organization.

Robin Phoenix Johnson: Yeah, we are getting ready to redo our website next year, and so it’s going to be very much a community of support, but there’s also going to be a place where they can put their headshot, their bio, and a link to their video, which is essentially telling people who want to book them like what their comedy is like, and then um, an email or website to where they could reach out to them directly so that we’re not the middle person.

Um, if they want, now I produced quite a bit of Sorry, I was hearing a bunch of feedback, so I’m just giving it a minute.

Scott DeLuzio: Okay. Yep.

Robin Phoenix Johnson: I produce [00:35:00] quite a few shows myself, um, and I do Use the talent from the brigade, but it’s pretty competitive. Um, it’s a pretty, I mean, I, I rarely will give opportunities to beginners for a paid show for when I have a client who’s asking me to come in to do a showcase, I want people who’ve got lots of experience and who are doing it.

But every once in a while, I’ll put in a newbie in, just for five minutes as an opener, just to give them that practice, to give them that rep. Um, but it just depends on what the level of the show is. Is it something that I’m doing for free? To get the word out or is it like a client that’s paid good money for to see a good show and then I’ve got to bring the A game.

I gotta bring my A list comedians

Scott DeLuzio: That’s right. Yeah.

Robin Phoenix Johnson: Yeah.

Scott DeLuzio: So, so, okay. So, so you’re, you’re looking to, you know, kind of book out, book out these shows and kind of match the talent to, [00:36:00] you know, the, the shows that they’re, they’re looking for. Right? So, um, now are there any, you know, mental health providers involved with the process of creating any of the programs that you offer?

Robin Phoenix Johnson: Yeah, Actually, Dr. Jeff McNeil, he was the longest serving Army operational psychologist. He just retired. Uh, he is one of my clinical advisors, really helps on that side, because I’m not a physician, you know, I’m not a psychologist or mental health professional. Uh, and then Doug Chadwick, Dr. Doug Chadwick, who is the mental skills coach for the Colorado Rockies, West Point graduate.

Uh, both of them are, for some reason, I don’t know why I don’t have any other branches of service yet. Not yet. Uh, but they’re both advisors. And again, like I really rely on to help make the program, um, You know, just more credible and make sure I’m approaching correct. We don’t claim to be treating patients.

Um, we are not, I am not offering a substitute or replacement for traditional therapies. This is designed to complement [00:37:00] traditional therapy. It’s supposed to be an extra thing to do, just like. Going to yoga or meditation or doing Tai Chi isn’t going to cure depression, but it is going to give you relaxation.

It’s going to give you focus. It’s going to give you an outlet. So I’d like to think that it’s an enhancement to an existing like whole health wellness protocol.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, and I think with any sort of, uh, supplement to, you know, a, a therapy or, or mental health program that you might be involved in, um, you know, whether it’s, I. Painting or songwriting or gardening or comedy, you know, and no matter what the, the medium is that you’re using, um, I think the benefit that you get from it, at least from the conversations that I’ve had with other people who have utilized some of these other, uh, modalities, uh, they, you, you’re, you’re more, you’re present.

You, you’re in the moment. At that point, your, your mind’s not drifting off [00:38:00] to, uh, you know, the, the negative things that you might have in your mind. You’re, you’re here and you’re in the moment, and, and with comedy, you’re in a funny place. And, you know, it’s kind of hard to be depressed when you’re, when you’re laughing or making other people laugh.

And in that, that kind of situation, it’s, it makes it, you know, almost, uh, you know, I don’t wanna say depression proof. That’s, that’s probably not. The the correct clinical term, but I’m not a doctor either, so I’m gonna use it.

Robin Phoenix Johnson: Well, even if you’re not doing this for mental health, it makes you a better leader because being, being funny or humorous or having a touch of humor makes you a, um, a little more vulnerable, but also it’s built trust within an organization. Um, it also, is just really good. There’s a lot of physical benefits to laughter, but like biological benefits to laughing, uh, especially for like decreasing, you know, the stress hormones.

And, um, [00:39:00] Yeah.

it all, it’s, I, I feel like sometimes you’re like, Oh, laughter, ha ha ha. Like it’s, it’s good for you. Okay. That’s, you know, but it’s really good for an organization to laugh together. That’s why I love comedy. Shows. If you go to a comedy club, it’s intimate, right? You ever been to a comedy club that’s spaced out?

No, it’s packed. They pack it like sardines. They want to get as many seats in there. It’s tight because there’s something about the experience and, and they dim the lights. It’s always dark, right? And the lights all on the stage. Because people feel safer when they feel like nobody else can see them. Um, there’s some psychology behind why the lights are supposed to be darker and also for the lighting folks.

But, um, and then the reason that it’s so powerful is that laughter just goes through like a wave of energy. I’m going to be doing this podcast and I’m going to be talking about, um, clients through the space. And there’s something so wonderful about laughing together. You ever be next to somebody that laughs and they have like a funny laugh, like a unique laugh, and then [00:40:00] that makes you laugh harder because of the way they’re laughing at the thing that was funny.

It’s an experience. So that’s why I like doing these for corporate audiences too, like for conferences and stuff. Cause I’m like, don’t cut yourself out. This is a great, I usually get a book to go right after lunch. Or like to either open or close the session. Um, And, then sometimes they’ll put me during the day to do the speaking. and then in the evenings I’ll do the comedy show. So that’s fun.

Scott DeLuzio: and you, you get that, um. I, I don’t know if camaraderie is the right word, but when you’re together in, in a session like that where there is, um, you know, the, this funny situation going on, you, you kind of bond a little bit more too, right? Like, if you’re there with those people, uh, who you know, you, you can laugh about it years later.

Remember that, you know, that, that joke, that so-and-so told and, um, you can laugh about it. And I, I think that’s just even in everyday situation, you don’t have to go [00:41:00] to a comedy club necessary to. So to, uh, enjoy that you, you can get that kind of benefit, uh, just through everyday situations that are just funny.


Robin Phoenix Johnson: Yeah, there’s some risk aversion though. I mean, there’s a lot of, I still see a lot of leaders in government that are afraid of comedy. They’re afraid somebody is going to get offended. Uh, so there’s that, I mean. Our Best Medicine Brigade shows can be corporate clean. Um, I do a lot of corporate stuff, so I have to be corporate clean for that, but I am, by trade, I would consider myself a PG 13 comedian.

My jokes are edgy. I don’t typically swear or do anything raunchy, but I’ve got some edgy jokes that are like adult related, but they’re nothing like You know, some of the, comedians that are really out there, uh, we have comedians that do everything. I have some comedians who are church clean. I’ve got a handful, not very many.

Um, I have a bunch that are corporate clean and then I have PG 13 and then R as well. But really in order [00:42:00] to be in the brigade, my kind of bar is if you can’t do 20 solid good minutes of clean, you’re probably not ready to perform with the brigade. Because it is so much harder to be clean than to be dirty as a comic.

It doesn’t mean you have to be always clean, it just means you have to be able to be clean for 20 minutes.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, the, the the raunchy side is, is almost like a cheat code for, uh, for, for comedy because it, it’s unexpected sometimes and, and that’s what makes things, uh, makes things funny. And then, then it’s like, oh my gosh, there, this, we’re, I guess we’re going here. And, and that’s, that’s where the situation is, right?

Robin Phoenix Johnson: it’s so subjective, you know, there’s people who love different comedians And different styles, just people who can’t stand, I mean, I know somebody who can’t stand, um, you know, Burt Kreischer, I know people who can’t stand, you know, uh, what’s her name, Wanda, but anyway, because the sound of her, I mean, I love them all, I appreciate all of [00:43:00] their art forms, but there’s some that are just not my, I mean.

Style, like I wouldn’t say certain things, like I’m not, I’m not a Whitney Cummings, right? I’m not going to talk about my personal female areas the way she does. Just, that’s not me, but I think she’s very talented and I can see some people like her, some people don’t. Uh, but it, is very subjective and there are people who don’t like my comedy and there’s people who love my comedy.

So to each their own, I hate broccoli. Clearly your son likes broccoli. So we all know what we like and don’t like. Yes,

Scott DeLuzio: it’s like music choices too. Like some people like, like country, some people like rock, some people like, you know, metal or, you know, alternative, whatever kind of things. It’s like, it doesn’t mean that. Any of that other stuff is bad, it’s just not for you. And same thing with comedy, I suppose, is that there’s certain comedians that, and I know what you’re talking about too, ’cause there’s some comedians I’ve heard and I’m like, it’s not even funny.

I, I don’t, I just don’t get it. You know? And, um, there’s others that, um. [00:44:00] I laugh, probably harder than I should, and it, and it’s great, you know? Um, so where can people go to get in touch with you? Learn more about Best Medicine Brigade, if they want to, maybe if they wanna book, uh, some of the talent that’s there or that, uh, anyone who wants to get involved with, uh, heal areas as well.

Um, you know, where, where can people go?

Robin Phoenix Johnson: bestmedicinebrigade. com and they can go and see most of our talents on there now. We still have some people we’re adding to the roster there, uh, but that’s the best place. We, Ashley Goodermuth, the whole team there, we’re all ready to go for 2024. I recommend booking early, especially. For some of our, um, highly requested comics, like they’re already booking some into 2025.

So, and, and it’s always, it’s always Military Appreciation Month and Veterans Day. I want to just say, even though they’re military affiliated, I would say like 80 percent of their material is not about their military experience. [00:45:00] I mean, you take Ashley, Uh, you know, for example, or Dwayne Wyatt or PT, but they talk about so many other topics than, than just the military, so I wouldn’t, um, necessarily pigeonhole them into that.

Um, yeah, and then hilarious. org, that’s H E A L A R I U S. That is where they can find information on the therapeutic humor side of things. Uh, yeah, I would love to come do some workshops, get, I’m actually trying to do more speaking this year than I am comedy shows. I don’t know if that’s. If that’s going to work out for, um, long term because every time I say that I get like more bookings to do comedy.

I’m like, well,

Scott DeLuzio: I think you’re secretly trying to get more bookings for comedy, and you’re just saying this so.

Robin Phoenix Johnson: no, I, I love speaking to at conferences and events and for corporate audiences. The, um, you know how most companies have like a veterans affinity group or employee resource group. I love those, but [00:46:00] I keep getting calls to do comedy and I’m like, man, and the, and the talks are funny. They have jokes on them too.

Scott DeLuzio: Well, so you’re, you’re getting a little bit of the best of both worlds in, in the talk, so,

Robin Phoenix Johnson: I know.

Scott DeLuzio: For any of the listeners who might be involved with any of those types of groups that would be interested in, um, these types of talks, definitely reach out. Uh, I’ll have the links for, uh, both, uh, the Best Medicine Brigade and, uh, hilarious in the show notes of this episode.

So you can, uh, check that out and, um, get involved or reach out and book somebody if that’s what you’re looking for. Um, but, but definitely. Utilize that talent because it’s out there, they’re funny. Um, and, you know, it’s, it’s maybe a, um, a different way to enhance a, a corporate event or, or something like that, which might otherwise be kind of dry.

Um, but you introduce comedy and then [00:47:00] everybody kinda, um. It kind of gets a little more loose and they, they might be able to make the rest of what might otherwise be pretty dry, might make it pretty fun. So, um, you know, definitely consider, uh, in incorporating that, right?

Robin Phoenix Johnson: Thank you. Yeah,

I think they should. We all need to have some more humor in our life.

Scott DeLuzio: exactly. Um.

Robin Phoenix Johnson: case, you learn to tell a better story at a dinner party, or you get, like, to enhance your own speaking with a little humor.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, I, and everybody wins, I think with, with that, right? Uh, as long as there’s humor going on, um, you know, we, we all win.

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So, um, I want to, um. Do another segment here, um, that is called, um, is it Service Connected? Um, and this is a little bit, this is a way I introduce humor into a lot of the episodes that I, I do.

Sometimes the episodes can be kind of heavy, a little dark, and you know, it. Helps to lighten the mood a little bit at the end and, and, and introduce a little bit of of humor, but I created this segment. Is it Service Connected? Uh, and if you’re not familiar with it, is it Service Connected is basically like America’s Funniest Home Videos, uh, military edition where we watch, uh, something funny or, uh, stupid that service members do.

And then we, then we laugh about it first, and then we, we try to see if there’s, uh, you know, any possibility for, uh. Service, connection, uh, disability or anything like that. Um, because a lot of times these people are, um, slipping on ice or they’re, you know, falling down the stairs or doing something stupid that we can always laugh about.

Uh, I don’t think [00:50:00] anyone gets too, too seriously injured. Uh, but, um, again, I’m not there, so I don’t really know. But I’m gonna share this video with you, uh, right now, um,

Robin Phoenix Johnson: Do it.

Scott DeLuzio: And it’s a, um. For the audio only podcast listeners, I’ll try to describe it as best as I can. Um, so short, short clip here. Uh, looks like we’re looking out, uh, the side of a helicopter, uh, flying over maybe desert, desert landscape.

Um, and we’ll see what happens. So let’s take a look. Okay, we got, oh, he’s not an off, we got a nodder

Robin Phoenix Johnson: Oh, snap.

Scott DeLuzio: and, and he just realizes it and he real,

Robin Phoenix Johnson: Oh, man.

Scott DeLuzio: so he’s flying with no ipro. Um, so that is probably not,

Robin Phoenix Johnson: that matter.

Scott DeLuzio: what’s

Robin Phoenix Johnson: Where is his reflective belt?

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. And he, he didn’t have his reflective belt, which would’ve protected him against anything anyways. Um, so he should have had that at [00:51:00] least. Um, but yeah, the ipro goes flying off. Um, I don’t know how it didn’t like fly off everybody else.

Maybe they were like constantly adjusting and, and fixing it, but

Robin Phoenix Johnson: yeah, he might have, you know how you always were losing the plastic things? yeah.

Scott DeLuzio: yeah. Maybe, um.

Robin Phoenix Johnson: the nose grip, I always, people were always missing or losing their nose grips. Um, yeah, remember the sundust wind goggles, the big ones and like the foam around them and they had

Scott DeLuzio: Oh yeah.

Robin Phoenix Johnson: and you had to wear them for like aerosol school and I don’t know what else I wore them for, but I use them a lot on deployments because of the sandstorms.

Scott DeLuzio: Oh yeah. Yeah. I, I remember some of the, the sandstorms that would come through and, um, just like breathing that, oh, I, I can like taste it still, you know, we had these. We, before we left, we, we, uh, just in like one of the pxs that, that we happened to go into, I saw these, uh, like neck [00:52:00] gator things and something just triggered me.

I was like, I should get something like this. I might need it, you know, to cover up my face or something. And so once I realized that there was these dust storms that would come through, which I had never experienced anything like that before, before going on deployment,

Robin Phoenix Johnson: Yeah, me either.

Scott DeLuzio: I, I put the, the, the thing up. So it was like I, a little bit of protection.

It wasn’t great. But then, and then that with the, the goggles that you were just talking about, um, helped protect a little bit, you know, from, from some of that dust. But man, that was, that was gross. But,

Robin Phoenix Johnson: And then you would take the goggles off and you would have like the outline of where

Scott DeLuzio: Oh, yeah, yeah. Your face would be

Robin Phoenix Johnson: else.

Scott DeLuzio: dirty, covered in dust, and then like, everything, like around the eyes, it’s almost like a reverse raccoon. Um, because you, it was all like clean here and, and dark all over here. Uh, from all the dust. It

Robin Phoenix Johnson: the worst, worst weather I’ve ever been in. It was, a sandstorm in Kuwait. it was yeah, [00:53:00] terrible. I mean, and

then, you know, in Iraq, we had them too, but for whatever reason, it was in Kuwait and it was 03. It was right before the invasion. Yeah.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. And um, I, I was in Afghanistan in 2010 and, uh, part of our, our mission was securing the. Um, one of the border areas, uh, between Pakistan and Afghanistan, uh, to allowing, uh, vehicles to, to pass through primarily. Um, because that was, uh, like a main, uh, point where the, uh, the NATO supplies would come in from, they’d get offloaded on ships and Pakistan, they’d drive through and that’s where they, they would come through.

So we kind of have to secure that area. Um. And we couldn’t really move from that area like that, that was where we were stationed and positioned there. Um, and I remember standing there seeing the dust storm coming towards us and just like, well, this is about to suck. You know, like we we’re gonna have like zero visibility and we’re outside the wire.

[00:54:00] We don’t know who’s walking up to us. Um, you know, it, it was kind of nerve wracking, you know, when, when you have that kind of disability, uh, visibility, um, you know, reduction and, um. And you can’t really

Robin Phoenix Johnson: Yeah. You couldn’t, you couldn’t, you couldn’t drive anywhere. You had to walk everywhere and you couldn’t see where you were going. Like we would form a chain and hold on to each other because we, and then I remember one time I ran into Constantino wire or triple strand because I didn’t, I was disoriented because I couldn’t see where I was going.

That was terrible. I got stuck in that thing. Yeah. I mean, you can’t even see here like this close.

Scott DeLuzio: No, I know you, you, you could barely see, like if you had your hand like this close, like just a couple inches away from your face, you couldn’t see it ’cause it was just so thick. But, um, I know, uh, I’ve been on many helicopters, uh, during that deployment as well. And I know when they land in a dusty area, um, which that video looked like it was kind of dusty, underneath that sand

Robin Phoenix Johnson: That’s lot of sand

Scott DeLuzio: So I’m guessing that guy, as he’s getting off that helicopter, he’s [00:55:00] probably. Getting some sand in his eyes, um, if

Robin Phoenix Johnson: Scratch retina. I feel like it’s service connected. I

Scott DeLuzio: I think so.

Robin Phoenix Johnson: You know, I think so.

Scott DeLuzio: You know,

Robin Phoenix Johnson: gonna go with, I’m gonna go with

Scott DeLuzio: they, didn’t, get him glasses that fit good enough, you know, they, they had to make sure, um, that, that those glasses fit and they clearly didn’t. I mean, yeah, he was nodding off, but maybe, maybe that’s

Robin Phoenix Johnson: probably buy a nice

Scott DeLuzio: too.

Robin Phoenix Johnson: but what was that?

Scott DeLuzio: Maybe he has some sleep condition too, that, that could be surface connected.

Robin Phoenix Johnson: Sleep. There you go. That that video is his evidence for his VA claim for sleep. Some sleep underlying sleep disorders. He’s about to get a hundred percent right there. That kid. Uh, yeah. Yes. And yeah, I’m all for it

Scott DeLuzio: I’m for it too. Why not? Um, anyways, thank you again for taking the time to, to join us to share a few laughs and, um, uh, for all the work that you do, uh, to help bring comedy, uh, and help out, uh, folks in the process [00:56:00] to, to get their, uh, comedy out there into the world. So thank you again.

Robin Phoenix Johnson: My pleasure. Thank you, Scott, for having me on here. Have a great rest of your week.

Scott DeLuzio: Thanks, you too.

Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to support the show, please check out Scott’s book, Surviving Son on Amazon. All of the sales from that book go directly back into this podcast and work to help veterans in need. You can also follow the Drive On Podcast on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and wherever you listen to podcasts.

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