By Airman Thomas S. Keisler IV, 31st Fighter Wing / Public Affairs
/ Published May 08, 2020
A microphone sits on a stand at Aviano Air Base, Italy, May 7, 2020. Senior Airman Trey McClain, a diagnostic imaging technician with the 31st Medical Support Squadron performs stand-up comedy in his free time. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Thomas S. Keisler IV)
Many U.S. Armed Forces members have passions or hobbies that help to relax and clear the mind from daily work stresses. Since his senior year of high school, Senior Airman Trey McClain, a diagnostic imaging technician with the 31st Medical Support Squadron, has made stand-up comedy his passion and relaxation technique.
“I was never the class clown or anything and actually I was a very quiet kid,” said McClain. “I got into stand-up comedy because I was always such a huge fan of it and felt like it was something I could do.”
His love of watching and performing stand-up comedy gave rise to many memorable experiences throughout his pursuit to become a stand-up comedian. He has also had many significant accomplishments throughout his time as a performer.
“I have so many great memories, being that I’ve been in the military for the majority of my stand-up career,” said McClain. “But, I would say performing for Kevin Hart, opening for Tank and recording my first comedy special are my top three.”
Life is full of challenges and how someone overcomes those challenges determines how they grow and improve their life. For McClain, comedy was that relief and his way of overcoming those obstacles.
“Every hardship from breakups to financial struggles, even bombing on stage has made me a better comedian,” said McClain. “Before I performed my first college show I asked an older comedian how he manages to not get nervous and he responded ‘They’re just people.’ We are all just people, imperfect and flawed in our own ways. So the more I go through, the more I can identify and relate to an audience full of people.”
A key role in helping McClain pursue his career in comedy is his continuous and unbreakable faith in his religious beliefs.
“I find my inspiration for comedy from God. I know it’s a gift that He gave me and I want to be a good steward of it and make him proud,” McClain said.
Being in the military and pursuing a career in comedy can both be challenging tasks. McClain has learned and benefited from experiences in both careers.
“Being a comedian has made me comfortable speaking on stage and allowed me to be confident enough to host various award ceremonies and events on base,” said McClain. “The military has allotted me the opportunity to travel, meet new people and gain fresh insights that otherwise would’ve taken me much longer to get living in Alabama.”
Being a comedian can be an ever changing adventure, with different audiences, new acts and new locations. McClain thrives out of his comfort zone when performing stand-up.
“The thing I love the most about being a comedian is the excitement it brings and the push it gives me to live life every day,” McClain said. “I’m an introvert and a homebody, so comedy drives me to get out of my comfort zone more than I normally would because I know that new experiences birth new material. My favorite comedian, Karlous Miller, was asked ‘How do you become a good comedian?’ He responded ‘Put as many things in your head as you can.’”
While pursuing a career in comedy can be an adventure that brings many new and exciting experiences, it can also be nerve-racking for McClain. Even with nail-biting fear before he gets on stage, his motivation and confidence excels when he's performing.
“I’m always nervous all the way up until I get on stage,” said McClain. “When I’m on stage I feel like I’m more myself than anywhere else. Sometimes I watch recordings of my sets and realize that I’ve become the person I was always such a huge fan of and it’s a great feeling.”
McClain has had many great accomplishments during his pursuit to be a comedian. He practiced continuously and was able to overcome many obstacles and roadblocks, leaving him a more confident Airman and comedian.
“My goal for comedy is to be a traveling comedian. Whether it be at a church, college or comedy club, I want to perform in a new city every week. I want to get really good, gain the respect of my peers and help younger comedians the way I wish someone would’ve helped me.”