Improv host Howie Nave is heading to Iraq to entertain troops |

Improv host Howie Nave is heading to Iraq to entertain troops

Tim Parsons, Lake Tahoe Action

It takes a lot of courage to be a standup comic, but Howie Nave has never been in a situation like this before.

Nave, the host at The Improv, will be in Iraq from Sept. 21 through Oct. 5 to perform in front of U.S. service members.

Several comics who have performed at Tahoe have entertained the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Scott Kennedy, who recruited Nave to visit Iraq, has been there 18 times.

One commanding officer joked about the important role entertainers play in the war zone: “Whatever it takes to flush out the snipers,” he said.

Nave appreciates the joke enough to use it, but he admits anxiety about his upcoming trip, along with comic Graham “Crackers” Elwood.

“Every now and then when I have a moment of down time, yeah, I get a little nervous, but then Scott has been over there so many times.” Nave said. “I am glad I’m going over as a newbie as Graham has already done a comedy tour in Afghanistan. It has made me get some shit in order that I should have done earlier like put a will together.”

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Nave agreed to the trip after Improv regular John Henton, enticed him.

“Henton told Scott, ‘Well I’ll go if Howie goes because if I’m going down I want to go down, with someone I know,’ ” Nave said.

But a schedule change means Nave will instead travel with Elwood, who does a routine called “Graham’s Crackers” during Nave’s Thursday morning show on KRLT radio.

“I started calling him in November when the writers strike was happening,” Nave said. “Graham was there on the picket line giving the listeners updates. When the strike was finally settled, we enjoyed just our improvisational chats, so we thought it would be cool to continue chatting every Thursday.”

Nave said he’s also motivated to take the trip because his sister Ellen is in the military in Iraq.

Nave said the only directive he has about his material is to avoid politics.

David Alan, who works in the booth beside Nave’s for the station’s AM counterpart, KOWL, is concerned for his co-worker.

“I’m worried I may not see him again,” Alan said. “It takes a lot of gumption to go over there. But I know the troops are going to love him, and it’s an excuse to have two parties: one when he goes and one when he returns.”

Kat Simmons and Scott Fontecchio will fill in for Nave at The Improv while he’s away.

“Comics, being who they are, (have sent me) several e-mails asking if they can have my spot if I don’t come back,” Nave said. “Bastards!”