Local veterans using comedy, arts to overcome personal battles

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – It was a packed house at Virginia Beach’s Sandler Center Saturday night.

Full of roaring laughs, clapping and - most importantly - jokes.

“My mom shopped where all the thifty moms shopped…the neighborhood grocery store,” Army Veteran Crystal Gibbs told the crowd.

Gibbs isn’t a comedian, but she took over the stage Saturday. To her, the event is bigger than just getting laughs.

“I wanted to do something that would take me completely out of my comfort zone,” Gibbs told us after the show.

The jokes are helping Gibbs overcome her own battles on the home front.

“[I had] slight depression about being older and where my life was going and reflecting back on things that happened in the past,” she explained.

She was one of several veterans who took part in the Armed Services Arts Partnership Graduation Comedy Show.

“It’s a great outreach,” Instructor Melissa Duke told News 3.

The program was created to help reintegrate veterans and military families back into their communities through arts.

“[They] find a way to let a lot of their inner-self out,” Duke said.

It also supports the ones battling issues like depression and PTSD. ASAP offers classes in improv, storytelling, writing and comedy.

The comics who took stage told stories about personal situations, some happier than others. Experts say changing your perspective on a negative situation can help you cope with your problems.

“Some of that goes into laughing at yourself or laughing at a situation,” Licensed Professional Counselor Jill Nardin said.

It might be surprising but experts say a quick chuckle or a laugh that makes your stomach hurt does the body good.

“It really does something to change what’s going on in the body and the brains system when you’re looking at the difference between laughter or being sad and angry,” Nardin explained.

For the graduates, getting in front the mic was the first step in their healing and looking at life with a bit of humor.

“Laughter is the best medicine,” Gibbs said. She says she feels she has now overcome her depression.

For more on ASAP, click here.