Lessons learned in Las Vegas

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by Jody Fuller

Last month, I performed at The Golden Nugget in Old Vegas with my buddies The GIs of Comedy for the Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) Association (NCOA.) For those of you not in the know, an NCO is a corporal and above on the enlisted side of the house.
I have great respect for NCOs, but when I was a young soldier, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the sergeants who couldn’t spell the word “sergeant.” I mean, how in the world does one not know how to spell his own rank? Of course, that changed when I became a lieutenant. Lesson learned. I still don’t know how to spell that, which is why we just go by “LT.” And yes, I did spell it correctly there, thanks to Microsoft Word.
The first time I performed in Vegas was way back in 2005 when I was a finalist for a comedy contest, thanks to many of you who voted for me online. The powers that be selected the top 15 and then you, the public, voted for your favorites. The top 5 received an all-expense paid trip to Vegas to perform in the HBO Comedy Festival. I even got to stay at Caesars Palace for four nights in a fancy room with a hot tub looking out over the strip. It wasn’t The Golden Cherry, but it was still quite nice.
We performed at The Flamingo, and it went okay for me—just okay. I didn’t win the contest, but it was only the thirteenth time I’d ever done comedy. I didn’t feel unlucky at all. Knowing what I know now, I’d have won the darn thing, but I was still green behind the ears.
The second time I performed in Sin City was at a showcase for college and corporate bookers at the South Point Hotel and Casino. I thought I was ready, but when I got there, my agent asked me if I wanted to emcee the event. I should’ve declined, but I went ahead and did it anyway. I didn’t want to, as I was not prepared, and it showed. It had the potential to be a great opportunity. Since then, I’ve learned to always be ready. A wise man once said, “When opportunity knocks, it’s too late prepare.”
The third time wasn’t terrible, but it could’ve been better. A good friend and fellow comedian asked if I wanted to do a guest set at the club where he was performing, so I jumped at the chance. I don’t usually do comedy clubs, but this was different. If it went terribly wrong, at least it would stay in Vegas. Truthfully, I don’t think it was that bad, but it didn’t end on a high note. The penultimate joke went over like Triple 7’s, so I should’ve stopped there. Once again, a lesson was learned.
Last year, my fourth time, I performed at this same NCOA conference, and it did not go so well. I got really drunk during the hours leading up to the  show. I was going through some hard times and decided to try to drink away my sorrows. That’s my excuse. Of course my NCOs always said the maximum effective range of an excuse is zero meters. For the record, drinking only made matters worse. In time, a lesson was learned.
This year, number five, I got the rare opportunity at a do-over. The NCOs in attendance deserved the very best of me, and I tried to give them just that. I always had great NCOs looking after me, and it didn’t matter if I was Private Fuller or Major Fuller. NCOs take care of soldiers. That’s just what they do, so it was a real honor to perform for them. They are family, and they are friends, and I’ll always have faith in the Non-Commissioned Officer, the backbone of our military.
Jody Fuller is from Opelika. He is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He is also a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit www.jodyfuller.com.

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