Salute to laughter

Veterans comedy troupe to perform at library


Just in time for Veterans Day, a group of veterans, who are also stand-up comics, will perform a free show at the Patchogue-Medford Library.

It’s the first time that members of Veterans Comedy Assault will perform at the library.

But these funnymen are no strangers to the spotlight.

Since their first showcase in 2015, they’ve performed across Long Island before veterans’ organizations, at local libraries, and at the Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts and Theatre Three in Port Jefferson.

Friday’s bill includes John Rago, a 73-year-old Navy veteran from Coram, who spent two years on active duty in the 1970s and another seven years in the reserves.

Some of the other five performers include 88-year-old Air Force veteran Art Schill and Manny “Tugboat Manny” Erias of Patchogue, a former Navy reservist and tugboat deckhand who is comedy director for Project 9 Line, the veterans’ organization out of which Veterans Comedy Assault grew.

Erias started performing stand-up a decade ago and has carved out a thriving career with performances at high-profile venues like Mohegan Sun resort, NYCB Theatre at Westbury, and the Borgata in Atlantic City. He just got back from several shows at a comedy club in Naples, Fla.

Erias, 51, said comedy helped him through some tough times in his life.

“It’s very rewarding. I can’t describe it,” he said. “Comedy is what keeps me ticking.” 

Rago, who will MC Friday’s show, said his act touches on his time in the service, but also life in general.

“My wife and I are married 50 years, so there’s a lot of material there,” Rago jokes.

A retired appliance repairman, Rago was working for an organization that helps homeless vets when he learned of a stand-up comedy workshop for veterans offered by Project 9 Line.

Rago took the course in 2015 and was hooked.

“I love it,” he said of performing. “I’ve always tried to make people laugh since I was a kid. I was always the family comedian.”

“It’s our way of giving back,” he adds.

As for what the audience at Friday’s show can expect, “They can expect to be entertained and have a nice evening of clean comedy,” he said.

Erias agrees the audience will be in for a lot of fun.

“We’re going to rock the house,” he said. “It’s a special day because it’s Veterans Day.” 

IF YOU GO.....

What: Veterans Comedy Assault comedy show

Where: Patchogue-Medford Library, 54-60 East Main Street, Patchogue

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Admission: Free

Register at