How to Tell a Joke in Combat

We start with the basics. Your base is being overrun. Or you have walked into the perfect ambush. Or mortars are raining down and there is nowhere to hide. Or you have run out of ammo and your commo is gone. In each case, each scenario, it is the perfect time for a well told joke.

The first thing you must do is to know your audience. Are they civilians who are shooting at you? Are they uniformed troops? Have they had breakfast? If your joke contains profanity, are they over twenty-one?

All good jokes provide a satisfying punch line. For example: why did the chicken cross the road?

Answer: because the first sergeant said, “Move out, or I will skull fuck you ten thousand times!”

Clearly, a chicken outranks a first sergeant, and thus the joke amuses both the enemy, the first sergeant, and the chicken, who is a lieutenant.

Suppose, in the telling of the joke during combat, you forget the punch line, or remember only the first few words. What to do? In the midst of the hailing bullets, the shrieking shells, the lording choppers in their hell bound descent, simply stand up and politely say, “Excuse me. Excuse me, please. I most humbly request a moment of cease fire. I do apologize. Cease fire. Please.”

Marc Levy’s books include How Stevie Nearly Lost the War and Other Postwar Stories and The Best of Medic in the Green Time. His website is Medic in the Green Time. Email: