Laughing Through Military Life with Comedian Ashley Gutermuth
by Lizann Lightfoot - September 15th, 2022
Tell us about winning the Tonight Show Seinfeld Challenge!
I’m a stand-up comedian and Air Force spouse, and I cause a lot of trouble online! I submit to things all the time. We had just moved into a new house when I saw a call-out for The Tonight Show. I later got an email to sign a release form in case they used my footage in the next round. I didn’t think my clip would be shown, but I watched late at night just in case. And the very first one up was me!
I don’t know how many people entered the contest, but they accept submissions from all over the world. The whole concept was to read Jerry Seinfeld’s book “Is There Anything?” so I did his bit about late-night hosts because from a business perspective, I wanted to give them something to talk about. I didn’t know I was going to be on TV, and didn’t know it was a contest. I did my piece and it went over well, and at the end I was selected as the winner, and Jerry Seinfeld sent me a signed book and tweeted about me!
You recently performed at the Military Spouse MSJDN reception. Why is that organization important to you?
For those who don’t know, military spouses are often horrifically underemployed because we move so much, have certification issues, and fight a lot of mistrust from employers who don’t want to hire us. So MSJDN is a bunch of military spouses who are lawyers and judges and they fought back against this by pushing for legislation so they didn’t have to take the Bar exam every time they moved to a new state! Now there are 43 states with reciprocity of licenses and certifications. There are many professions, like nurses, teachers, etc, that all need more reciprocity for professional certifications. In the end, those state exams aren’t proving anything about professional abilities. They are just generating income for the state.
You’ve moved several times as an Air Force spouse, right?
I have moved to Pennsylvania, Georgia, D.C., Delaware, and Washington, all over. What I’ve learned is that driving across the country is not the time to start a new diet or follow a crazy health fad!
What advice do you have for military spouses who are hesitant to start a creative career?
Creative careers are difficult because you don’t make much money. Start off with the things you really love to do-- I’ve always loved comedy and acting and voice-over acting. Don’t expect to make money right away, but lean into it as hard as you can. Military spouses are so creative and doing amazing things! Leverage what you are doing to help other people, so that it’s more fulfilling in the long-run. Find ways to help people by doing what you like.
How did you get into comedy?
I grew up around comedy, listened to shows with my parents every day, and followed a lot of British comedy. I was in plays and would do bits of stand-up all through school as a troublemaker. I kept going until I could get into Open Mic nights. Now you can get into it via Zoom, there are online shows that are completely virtual. So you can do this from any base! Sometimes people are camera-shy or want to remain muted, but you need to have interaction. Some companies record me doing my set and send that to their employees.
Do you travel a lot?
Yes, I have been all over this year, going to Los Angeles, Oklahoma, Vegas, Colorado. I go to Washington D.C. and New York City a lot because you can hit so many different spots in a night. And I love performing for a military audience because I don’t need to do as much set-up for a joke, since they already know what a PCS stands for!
Laughing Through Military Life Situations
Our CEO, Todd Ernst, is an Air Force veteran. What’s your best Air Force joke?
Here’s an impression of an Air Force pilot at an Army chow hall: “Is this even food? Where’s the organic section?” I’m on a joint Army/ Navy/ Air Force base right now. The Air Force DFAC has steamed fish, and artisanal pizzas that we make by hand. The Army side... doesn't.
You’re new to military life and deciding whether to live on or off base. How do you decide?
I always choose to live on base when I can. Make fun of it if you like, but I choose to do the things I won’t always get to do. Do the things now you won’t be able to do after military life, because you can live off base after retirement.
I love living on base, because it’s fun buying expired cream cheese at the Commissary, or moving the signs for the Generals' parking spaces. And all the walls are the same shade of matte white!
But seriously, it makes for a short commute for the service member, which is nice.
Your civilian neighbor just told you, “I know what you go through because my spouse travels for work.” How do you respond?
"Oh, do you know where your husband is, Susan? Is he trying to do his job in a war zone?"
Although, to be fair, the Air Force does like to get ‘deployed’ to stateside places like Tampa where they stay at the Marriott. But hey, at least they rack up points!
Someone just said “thank you for your service” as a military spouse. How do you respond?
I immediately take off my shirt. Then I salute them slowly, thank them for their service, and walk away slowly. That’s it, haha!
Your HHG just arrived and most of it is broken. What do you write in the claim?
What would I write with? Everything is broken! HHG is Household Goods, or all of your stuff. If everything is broken, that sounds like a standard move. I guess I would say “Thank you for so carefully wrapping my garbage! I love what you’ve done with my couches--we didn’t need cushions anyway!”
We have had many things broken, but don’t bother filing a claim. It’s more tempting to just light it all on fire and move on. My husband has a motorcycle that is a very sentimental albatross, because every time we move I have a panic attack watching the movers take it off the truck and waiting for them to drop it. We did have a part break off of it last time. My husband was upset, but we still didn’t file a claim.
Give us your best BAH joke.
My husband is a full-time Air Force Reservist. So he works every day, but he doesn’t get BAH. We live on base, but actually have to send a check. People sometimes claim “My taxes pay for you to live!” And I think, “I wish you would invest your money better, because my house is a bit moldy!”
We noticed your mission to run and pick up trash. Tell us about that.
I like to repeat things, so I have run at least a mile a day for the past 8 years. I haven't missed a day, even during moves. I will run at gas stations! When I started, I was slow and wheezing, but after the first hundred days I could help pace my husband for his fitness tests! Since then, I have paced other people. If you want to feel good, run for 6 months, then visit a track during a military Fitness Test and just lap them on the track.
I was in a car accident a few years ago, and I went to the hospital on base, where they prescribed me Motrin and told me to keep moving. I couldn’t run as fast, so I started jogging and picking up trash. I have picked up over 1,000 pounds of trash, recycled a lot, and found some pretty disgusting things. I’ve also found keys to the cop cars on base, just laying in the middle of the road.
Rapid Fire Round!
Do you like the British or American version of “The Office” better?
I actually prefer the American version, and I have done shows in Scranton. I guess I like all the characters, but I once did a show where Creed had done a show a few days earlier, which was exciting. Kevin just wrote a book about cooking chili, hilariously enough.
Do your personas have names, or do you freestyle?
They don’t have names, but when I put my sweatshirts on, I have a bunch of 90’s Desert Storm sweatshirts, and one that says “I’m a Proud Navy Wife.” I always get funny messages about that.
What’s your favorite military spouse joke?
What did the military spouse say when her husband came home on time? "Oh my God, what’s wrong?”
My husband says he doesn’t need me to remind him to bring his hat, but I basically have to remind him every day!
We did a PCS Story Contest and got funny PCS stories. What’s your craziest PCS story?
We were supposed to move from Georgia to Washington D.C. We talked to movers at 5 PM saying they would see us tomorrow. Then got a phone call from TMO a few minutes later that they wouldn’t be coming. So we had to do a last-minute PPM or DITY move. We were already doing a partial DITY, so we had a trailer for hauling a car. But I am a terrible mover, I don’t do Tetris or make boxes any lighter. We just started ditching things. We left a giant ladder, and some other good stuff.
Then my husband and I drove separately to D.C. He loves the trailer, but I hate it, so he was driving it, but he blew a tire because we overloaded it so much.
Our cat is still traumatized from that move, because he has to stay in the crate the whole time. So many hotels that allow dogs do not allow cats, so we had to sneak him in a few times.
Who do you follow on social media for a good laugh?
A lot of my friends are comedians. Helen Wilde @HowtheHelen is super funny. I follow Zarna Garg because she cracks me up all the time. I also follow a lot of British comedians.
At PCSgrades, we do reviews and grades of bases. What are pros and cons of your base?
I try to make the most of wherever I am. I’m in New Jersey now, and I love being close to New York City. But the regular civilian neighborhood that borders the base can have unique problems. The house behind ours has 4 roosters! They will wake you up even when it’s dark out. I bought sound-dampening curtains, and they help a lot.
What is the craziest assumption that has been made about you as a military spouse?
Sometimes you get it from other military spouses or relatives who don’t understand what they’re saying when they say, “I could never be you and do nothing all day.” People assume we don’t do anything, even with a full-time job. There are also the criticisms like, “How could you marry someone who kills people?”
When you PCS, how do you get plugged in at your new duty station?
One of the first things I do is go to the MWR page (there used to be magazines) with all the cool stuff happening on base, and I would just start showing up to things like Bingo or karaoke or an ice cream social. Get plugged into the good Spouse groups who aren’t just being mean to each other. Avoid the ones that are just posting pictures to shame others.
Where can we laugh along with you on social media?
I am everywhere, @ashgutermuth, and my website is www.ashleygutermuth.com. I have a newsletter for my shows that aren’t private or sold out. I want to come to your military base, but it would be helpful if Armed Forces Entertainment or MWR will bring me out, so if you’ll have me I will come! And I will be at the Military Influencer Conference in Vegas in October!