Presented with the kind permission of Jeffrey Ross
Bret Fetzer review
When standup comedian Jeffrey Ross joined Drew Carey’s U.S.O. show that toured through Iraq during the first year of the American occupation, he took along a video camera and made a clumsy but strikingly intimate portrait of the armed forces.
Performing in venues as different as the Baghdad Civic Center and a camouflaged camp in the middle of the desert, seven comedians (Ross, Carey, Kathy Kinney, Blake Clark, Kyle Dunnigan, Andres Fernandez, and Rocky LaPorte) did what they could to entertain soldiers who suffered sand, heat, and being shot at–but the brief snippets of rough comedy are little more than a sidelight.
The most intriguing aspects of Patriot Act (which, despite its title, is largely apolitical) are the simple conversations with G.I.s, bellhops, translators, and others, who endure a difficult situation with a weary smile and a little glimpse of hope. It’s the ordinary effort of life that comes through, even when surrounded by bombed buildings and armored vehicles. Ross has no great insights, but he proves an affable and earnest tour guide.
New York Post:
THE best documentary to emerge so far from the Iraq War comes from an unexpected source.
It is comedian Jeffrey Ross, a sad sack with a high-pitched voice and a face like Walter Matthau’s.
He’s been around for years and is perhaps best known for his participation in Friars’ roasts.
And now, he deserves to be best known for something else – his personal, videotaped account of a trip he made to Iraq to entertain American troops.
The film he made – titled “Patriot Act: A Jeffrey Ross Home Movie” and running just an hour and a quarter – reveals that Ross is as observant a journalist as he is a comedian, something he might not even realize.
What is clear is this: When he was invited by his friend, Drew Carey, to join him on a one-week USO tour of Iraq in fall 2003, along with a handful of other comedians, Ross saw an opportunity to produce something worthwhile from the experience.
So he ran a camcorder throughout the entire trip and later created this documentary, which is as touching as it is hilarious.
Its hilarity stems from Ross’ running commentary throughout the film, and the performances of the comedians before appreciative crowds of servicemen and -women at bases and camps all over Iraq, some of them on the frontier and within range of enemy mortars.
Although it’s Ross’ movie, he gives ample screen time to all of the comedians on the tour, who besides Carey and himself included Blake Clark, Kyle Dunnigan, Andres Fernandez and Rocky Laporte.
Actress Kathy Kinney, who played Mimi on “The Drew Carey Show” was also on hand.
And writer Larry Gelbart, who wrote 40 episodes of “M*A*S*H,” appears in the movie (but is not part of the tour) to give Ross some sage advice about USO shows. Gelbart should know – he wrote for and traveled with Bob Hope.
The touching part is what Ross learned. “I am starting to get why Bob Hope did this for so long, because these were the best crowds I ever performed for,” Ross says at the film’s conclusion. “Every single GI that I met thanked me for coming, but I should have been thanking them because if anyone got a morale boost, it was me.”
Inspired by the passing of U.S.O. perennial Bob Hope, Friars Club roast-master Jeffrey Ross takes Drew (Carey) up on an invitation to join the U.S.O. in their ongoing mission – delivering punch-lines on the front lines.
Having just bought a new camcorder, he travels to Iraq and captures his rare, intimate, and often times hilarious experience on camera.
Armed with nothing but that camcorder and some jokes, Ross shoots his own life-changing experience as he travels alongside six other well known comics, entertaining battle weary G.I.’s stationed in some of the most remote parts of the Sunni Triangle.