01 April 2013

No Foolin': Blogger Announces 2013 Mil-Humor Awards

Despite today's date, this is not a drill. This is not a joke. I take military humor very seriously.

I grew up on a diet of military cartoons and humor. In the 1970s, I read Bob Stevens' "There I was ..." comics, which were located on the last pages of my father's issues of Air Force Magazine.

I read "Humor in Uniform" department in Reader's Digest, long before I could fully appreciate some of the jokes.

I read my grandfather's "Beetle Bailey" paperbacks whenever I visited him in Arizona.

After I grew up, I joined the U.S. Army. During my time in uniform, based on marketing insights gained as a civilian magazine editor, I learned to sneak jokes and humor into lessons-learned communications. Alongside "DOTMLPF" topics such as "Doctrine, Organization, Training, Materiel, Leadership and education, Personnel, and Facilities," I would include messages and stories overtly labelled "Humor." No encryption. Everything in the clear.

When confronted regarding the technique, usually by senior-ranking officers or NCOs, I'd tell them this: "If someone says something was funny, I know that they've read the document and might pass it along to a friend or colleague. If someone says it wasn't funny, at the very least, I know they read the document closely enough to find it."

To my superiors' credit, much more than my own, I was never told to knock it off. They got it. Or, at least, they got it enough to go along with it. Who says you can't institutionalize humor? Or use humor to promote institutional change?

As with every lesson, however, the usual caveats apply: "Sample of one, N of one. Your results may vary. Void where prohibited. And choose your targets and moments carefully." Above all, remember Sherpatude No. 26: "Humor is a combat multiplier. Except when it isn't."

Readers of the Red Bull Rising blog are already familiar with the observation that there is no apparent venue for recognizing military-themed parody, satire, or other quality commentary found on the Internet. In the past, discussions have gotten hung up on issues of format, rather than intent. How does one compare military-themed blogs and websites, for example, to web comics, comic strips, and editorial cartoons?

By focusing on the humorous ends, and not the means.


***** General rules *****

  • Entries must have been published or posted on the Internet between April 1, 2012 and April 1, 2013. Posting on Facebook or other social media sites is an acceptable form of publication, as long as the hyperlink provided is accessible.
  • Entries must be submitted by the copyright holder of the work by sending a 9-line entry format message (see inset, at right) to: awards@redbullrising.com. Deadline for submission is May 1, 2013.
  • Only one entry per category per author or artist.
  • Entries will be judged on factors such as originality, creativity, humor, and effective delivery of a military-appropriate moral, message, insight, argument, or criticism.
  • Given the experimental nature of this project, there is no entry fee. But there will be prizes.
  • By submitting the entry form, all contestants agree to allow their work to be displayed on the Red Bull Rising blog free of any obligations to the copyright holder of the work.
  • All parties, regardless of military, veteran, or civilian status, are encouraged to participate. Prize-winners, however, must have a U.S. mailing address for prize delivery. APO addresses are acceptable.
  • Judges' decisions are final.
  • The judges reserve the right to substitute awards, or to decline to name winners in one or more categories, should circumstances require.
  • Winners will be announced not later than Sept. 1, 2013.

***** Categories *****

  • Best Humorous Short Video on a Military Theme: Submit links to videos of 7 minutes in length or less.
  • Best Comic Strip or Cartoon on a Specific Military Topic: Submit three examples of a cartoon, editorial cartoon, or comic strip related to a specific military topic of the creator's choice. Examples: "drones," "Reflective Safety Belts," "counterinsurgency doctrine."
  • Best Military-themed Comic Strip or Cartoon: Submit three examples of a cartoon, editorial cartoon, or comic strip that represent the creator's best work during this period.
  • Best Short-Form Humorous Writing on a Military Theme: Submit humorous work of 750 words or less. Essays, blog posts, short fictions, poetry, and war stories are acceptable.


  1. I can relate to you insering humor in your messages. I used to do the same thing... a one liner joke or off the wall comment. Not to be funny, but to see if anyone actually read the damn thing. I was please at all the phone calls and emails asking WTF. At least they were reading them.

  2. GREAT project! I, too, loved Humour in Uniform, Beetle Bailey, etc. Can't wait to see the results!

  3. Very cool. We will definitely throw some toons your way, sir! This is a great idea.

  4. Just submitted our entries! Excited to see the turnout. Thanks for putting this together.

  5. Well done on your recommendation!! I am not even going to investigate for other Irish contenders - you are the understandable winner and I will make that clear to the judges :)
    This post was a marvelous example of your implausible photography. I watch, enjoy and study.


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