My name is Pete Stegemeyer and I am an army veteran that started doing stand up comedy in Afghanistan. A lot of my comedy focuses on my time in the army, and with my journey to get treatment for my PTSD after I got out. I've had a lot of people come up to me after shows to tell me about the issues they're facing and how they can get help now that they know they have mental health challenges, so I'm hoping that making an album available everywhere might help more people and destigmatize asking for help.

I'm recording my debut album, "Pete-T.S.D." at Stand Up NY on November 10 at 7pm with an all veteran lineup and will be donating 100% of ticket sale proceeds and album sales to the HeadStrong Project, which helps veterans get lined up with free mental health providers.

Ask me anything!

Proof: Here's my proof!

Comments: 123 • Responses: 37  • Date: 

Pussypuffwarrior47 karma

are you the one that posted a TIFU about accidental war crimes?

itspeterj30 karma

I am!

Pussypuffwarrior14 karma

haha i knew it

that story was hilarious

itspeterj17 karma

Thank you! I'm really excited for that story to make the album!

whatarewords876419 karma

have you sought help for PTSD? how manageable is the disorder?

itspeterj44 karma

Excellent Question! I was really hoping someone would ask this, thank you.

I HAVE sought help for PTSD, a few times. Once while I was in the Army after my second deployment, but at that time, it was severely frowned upon and the only "counselor" they'd set me up with was my First Sergeant's (my direct boss) wife, so I didn't continue my treatment because it felt like a huge conflict of interest and I was super uncomfortable.

After I got out though, my wife (a therapist) saw me spiral in ways that I didn't pick up on, and helped me find an organization to get help, and I was hooked up with a therapist for many years completely free of charge, and I can't even begin to describe how much that has changed or saved my life.

With help, or a bit of situational awareness, PTSD can be REALLY manageable. A lot of people think that it's only waking up screaming in the middle of the night or having flashbacks, but there's a lot of flavors to PTSD. For me, it typically appears as depression and short term memory loss, and it's important for me to recognize those symptoms so that I can catch myself before I fall too far.

Little things like "oh shit, I haven't showered in a few days" or "I haven't gone outside or seen friends" can really be good indicators that I'm having an episode and therapy has helped me identify the drops so that I can use my coping skills to steer the ship. Sometimes it's scheduling an extra therapy session - sometimes it's making a point to go out for a walk every morning for a week. Those little things make big impacts and it is really manageable if you can stay on top of it.

The most dangerous part of PTSD is people not knowing or not admitting that they have it. Had my wife not noticed, I'm not sure how long it would have taken me. That's a big part of why I'm excited about this album/special. I talk about my experiences and if it can help one person be like "oh shit, that's how I feel" and get help, then what else could I ask for?

whatarewords876412 karma

it’a great to hear that you found a therapist that fits. support following traumatic experiences is important!

my dad was in the forces for over 20 years (navy) and he often talks about the good times. but sometimes, he tells very dark stories too, and it shocks me because as far as i know he never spoke to a professional about it. he was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder a few years back that i often wonder may very well be connected to PTSD, too. over the years, it is becoming more accepted and accessible for people to see therapists and address mental health, but it wasn’t always that way for my dad’s generation. mental health really deserves more awareness…especially for men!

thank you for sharing your experience and journey :)

itspeterj10 karma

It really does need more awareness, especially among men and service members! Even when I was in, getting mental health care wasn't seen as taking care of yourself, it was seen as a weakness that made your platoon less ready to go fight. Luckily now, it seems like senior leaders are realizing that the opposite is true. I hope your dad is okay!

Anders_Calrissian3 karma

Microdose MDMA and the nightmares stop

itspeterj6 karma

I've had pretty good success with medical marijuana. Usually taking a pill/edible before bed makes me not dream and that's been helpful.

I'm definitely interested in trying some kind of microdosing trial at some point in the future though. I've heard many good things from friends that have done it. Thank you for the tip!

Anders_Calrissian1 karma

Keep up the good fight you are doing good work

itspeterj1 karma

Thank you!

KoalaKole12 karma

What made you decide to start doing comedy in the middle of a war?

Also, I've never heard of you, but I just looked up some of your stuff on YouTube. You're pretty funny my dude! I think what you're doing here is great, and I wish you the best of luck in this, and your career.

itspeterj21 karma

Thank you so much!

I've always loved standup comedy, but I never really planned on doing it as a kid. But on my platoon's first flight into Kandahar, we actually had Dave Attell and Artie Lange on our plane for a USO show, and seeing them live and how happy it made everybody watching flipped a switch in me, I think.

When we left Kandahar for a tiny outpost in the middle of nowhere, we had literally nothing to do for our first few months, so at night we'd gather around the burn barrels and I just started telling jokes and stories and it became a thing. Usually it went well, but sometimes I'd walk people, which hurt extra because there a) was no entertainment alternative at the time and b) people would go on patrol early and you never want to hear that your jokes are less enjoyable than literal war.

Once we got back to the states, I started doing "proper" stand up in clubs and i've been hooked ever since.

OhshiNoshiJoshi10 karma

Is it ok to clap at a show?

itspeterj7 karma

Hahahahaha that's hilarious.

Flabq9 karma

What made you decide to help kill brown people thousands of miles away for oil barons?

itspeterj23 karma

Man, I hear you.

9/11 was the first day of my senior year of high school, and I didn't really have a direction in life at the time, so I thought that enlisting was the right thing to do - especially when you started seeing the Taliban on the news and what they were doing to the people of Afghanistan. I joined early enough to think it was still the right thing, but then we invaded Iraq while I was in Basic training and even I knew that war was fucked up, so I hoped to go to Afghanistan because at the time that one still felt like it was for the right reasons.

Now I realize that I joined the Empire, and it's something that I have to deal with, and I think that is a pretty common sentiment among a lot of veterans.

[deleted]1 karma


itspeterj18 karma

Honestly, I think Tillman is a hero, but less for the fact that he left his NFL contract to enlist, but for the fact that he spoke his mind about his experiences. He's like Captain America - a jacked and handsome golden boy that people use to bang the drum and get people pumped, but also deeply aware of the problems and flaws that existed in the military/government but most people stop at the surface level stuff and just think he's this great patriot. He was, but not for the reasons most people think.

thegreatvortigaunt-11 karma

Can you answer his response please?

What have you tangibly done to make up for the evil/oppressive things you supported and did as part of the US military?

itspeterj13 karma

I did what I could. I started glove and hat drives to provide to local afghan children and handed them out on patrol, and I've donated money multiple times to bring interpreters and their families safely to the united states.

Much of my time in Afghanistan was actually spent building schools for villages and helping to provide villages with wells that provided clean drinking water.

After getting out, I've devoted myself to speaking out against the wars and helping to prevent veteran suicide and have raised thousands of dollars for organizations that help veterans and service members get free therapy.

Is it enough? Probably not - it's not for me, but it's something that I live with and will probably spend the rest of my life trying to make amends with the universe for.

Renzetii-chan9 karma

Heyya Pete! What joke are you most proud of making?

itspeterj16 karma

I love this question! I have a joke that I've written that I'm doing for the first time during my album recording to close out my set and I'm REALLY proud of it. It's very dumb, but the set up for it is a really intense story of a combat operation I went on and I have not made it through telling the story yet without tearing up, but I think if I can make it work, it'll be the best joke I'll ever do.

I also have a joke about needing to lose weight because I'm at risk of losing a leg to diabetes and how my biggest motivator is not wanting to have to tell people I lost my leg AFTER the army that I'm really proud of.

Renzetii-chan5 karma

I see! I’m sure people will find it real hilarious :D

itspeterj7 karma

I hope so!

MsBuzzkillington838 karma

What do army people respond well to comedically, or bad to?

itspeterj23 karma

This is a great question! In my experience, soldiers and service members have some of the best senses of humor of anybody that I've ever encountered, and will typically let you get away with darker material than most traditional audiences, as long as something is actually funny and not just mean.

I think a big reason for that is because so many of us use humor as a coping mechanism - if everything is going to shit on a given day, you're bound to hear some great jokes come out of it. Like one time we had a mine resistant truck hit an IED (everybody was okay) and the driver radioed "shit, I just washed this truck"

scrubbar7 karma

Why do some many people become veterinarians after leaving the army?

itspeterj20 karma

Mostly for the ketamine

WhiskeyWeekends2 karma

Oh shit. That's hilarious because I personally know of someone that was in another country's military only to become a veterinarian after the fact that got addicted to tranquilizers. I didn't know that was a common thing.

itspeterj4 karma

oh, I was joking at first, but that probably does have a kernel of truth to it.

baloonatic7 karma

You ever meet any Nam vets affected by agent orange?

itspeterj11 karma

I have, and it's heartbreaking. It's also deeply terrifying because I think that my generation of vets' agent orange will be the Burn Pits. I just hope that we can do right by everybody, but I'm not holding my breath

WhiskeyWeekends3 karma

Burn pits? I'm assuming something as bad as mass graves, you know. Like mass cremation?

itspeterj7 karma

Thank god, no. I couldn't handle that.

Our burn pits are giant garbage and human shit fires that produced really toxic smoke that is causing serious medical issues in a lot of service members.

Still very bad, but not mass grave bad.

screenaholic5 karma

How are you doing?

itspeterj7 karma

I'm living the dream dude, how are you?

screenaholic4 karma

Doing pretty solid man.

itspeterj6 karma

So glad to hear it!

Joe4344 karma

Who are some of your favorite comedians?

Also, your album title cracked me up in my office just now.

itspeterj8 karma

Thank you! I have a lot of favorites - Nate Bargatze is up at the top right now, but there's so many that I love. Attell, Patton Oswalt, Ron Funches, Amber Ruffin, Robin Tran, Jay Jurden, Matthew Broussard. There's so many great comics out there and it never stops feeling like I won the lottery when I get to work with them.

legthief4 karma

Do you have a bit in your set about 'veteran suicide' being a contradiction in terms?

itspeterj4 karma

I don't. I used to have a joke in my fundraiser shows that was like "thank you for helping support veteran suicide - well not supporting it, we're not buying ropes" or something like that, but I didn't want a joke to do more harm than good so I stopped using that.

mildside3 karma

Hey Pete! Congrats on living the dream man, will check you out! QQ - we’re you always “funny” or have you worked a process to learn to write / tell jokes? As a musician I’ve always wondered how much we share in terms of the grind. Best of luck!

itspeterj3 karma

Thank you dude!

So, I grew up on stuff like Bob and Tom, and have always liked comedy; but I kind of had to become funny in school as a defense mechanism to win my bullies over.

My joke writing process varies, but usually I try to pull it from real life. Sometimes it's something funny I've said in a conversation that I can turn into a bit, other times it's a longer story. For stories, I write down the beats and then go back over it to make sure there's a laugh at least every 30 seconds ideally and then I kind of make sure it flows, almost like matching the lyrics to the music if that makes sense?

smasherofscreens2 karma

Have you heard about or watched a recently released sitcom called United States of Al which focused on combat vets and if you have, what were your thoughts on it?

itspeterj2 karma

I haven't watched that yet, but I plan on it some time. I feel like a lot of those shows make cheap and easy jokes at the expense of people's idea of vets, but I haven't seen it yet so I can't really speak to it!

Komorbidity_King2 karma


itspeterj11 karma

They're a product AND a currency. They're the first crypto!

Volunteer-Magic1 karma

And the M&M bags ALWAYS have holes in them.

Jalapeño cheese is gold colored for a reason.

And having Spaghetti MRE = being the 1%

itspeterj2 karma

The Spaghetti MRE is absolutely top tier. I liked the Beef Ravioli one a lot too. Even the components and snacks with those ones were elite.

OneSimplyIs2 karma

Do you have any jokes about why some people always seem to get chili mac?

itspeterj3 karma

I don't, but we always got stuck with the omlette one!

ApocalypseSpokesman2 karma

How would you characterize the US Military's effectiveness and readiness to rise to today's geopolitical challenges?

itspeterj8 karma

Bear in mind, I got out in 2014 as an e5, so salt the rim a bit here, but I see us falling behind in a big way due to a few things like poor retention rates and the forced moves every few years. I think we'd be better served by keeping troops that are happy where they are and allowing them to maintain a high level of specialization instead of the jack of all trades, master of none that we had when I was in.

thizface2 karma

Are you ever in LA?

itspeterj1 karma

Not yet, but I'm hoping to get out that way in the near future!

siwet1 karma

I'm an army vet with no out and earned two college degrees. It's been a year and half and I can't get a job. What do I do?

itspeterj3 karma

I guess the first question to ask in this situation is "what do you WANT to do?" What are your degrees in?

What part of the job search is stalling out? Are you getting interviews without offers? Are you getting interviews at all?

MalGrowls1 karma

Did you have some sort of realization that you needed to do this for others in a similar situation?

itspeterj3 karma

I did to a certain extent.

One thing that I prided myself on in the Army was taking care of Joe(my soldiers) and trying to make sure that they felt SOMEBODY had their backs, even sometimes for things as small as disputing a bill with the cable company on their behalf. I didn't want people to feel like they had to fight alone, but at this point I've lost 5x more friends to PTSD (suicide and/or overdosing) than I have lost in combat, and it's devastating. When we were in the army, they didn't really teach us much about the signs of mental health issues. They'd cover basics like "if Joe starts giving all of his stuff away, call somebody" but that's honestly about it.

One of my former soldiers took his life about a month after we got back from a deployment, the day his wife told him she was pregnant (with his child) and I remember getting the news from my commander and the first question he asked wasn't "are you okay?" but was "did he finish his suicide prevention training?" All the army cared about was covering their own asses, and I realized that somebody needed to give a shit, so now that's me. I don't give a shit about checking boxes, I just want to call my army buddies and not have my heart sink when they say "did you hear about so and so?" because it's never "oh man, so and so won the lottery or got married to a great partner."

A lot of the symptoms of PTSD and depression are REALLY hard to see in the army because it's already an environment where your baselines like sleep and diet are all fucked up. Everybody has to be up at the same time, and on weekends of course it's not unusual to sleep until like noon because you're running on fumes for much of the week or skipping meals because you have a detail that you need to do instead.

Even when I got out, I'd sleep in until like 930 and never realized that that was bad because I thought I was just "sleeping in" because I was used to waking up at 5, but for a normal person that'd be like waking up at noon. If my wife wasn't a therapist and able to see the patterns before I did, I don't know if I would have caught on because I didn't know that something was wrong. I thought everybody was always just angry and tired because that's how shit gets done.

So now, I feel like I need to talk about it so that other people can see the patterns in their own life. Or sometimes I'll get somebody after a show that just identifies with the material and is like "oh man, I'm so glad I'm not the only one going through that." Hearing people tell me that is the best feeling in the world, and it keeps me out here doing it.

It kind of feels like right now is my time in the guard tower and if I'm the only one that sees smoke, I'll just keep screaming fire until people hear it and get to safety. I really hope that doesn't sound pretentious, it's just the easiest way to describe it in my head.

lal0cur41 karma

We have a lot of epic veteran dipshits selling racist coffee, making tacky clothing lines, and running avengers themed political campaigns. Why do we need epic veteran comedians?

itspeterj14 karma

I love this question. 

First,  despite my roots as an infantryman, I'm very much not an "epic vet bro"  and I don't want to try to market myself as such.  I don't want to be the "army comic" I want to be a "comic that was in the army" if that makes sense?

For the first several years I did stand up,  I purposely avoided mentioning the army at all. I didn't want to make it feel like I was pandering or trying to get clapter just because of my service.  I eventually did write material about my time in the army but try to make it from the perspective of my experiences,  not just freedom bullshit. I've found my voice.

That said, I do want people to know I was in the army now, because I try really hard to be open about my mental health struggles and how I got help for it and I want to destigmatize asking for help.  My hope is that some vets might check out my album because of the army stuff, but that's mostly because I want them to hear my message and maybe recognize some of the issues in themselves and decide to get help if they need it.  I'm hoping that I get through to them,  vet to vet. 

And unlike the vet bro brands, I don't take profit from my ticket sales. Everything I make gets donated to Organizations like HeadStrong Project to help set vets up with free therapy. 

Muted-Sundae-89121 karma

What is common between my parents and VA?

I never get their approval.

itspeterj2 karma

haha that's incredible

Muted-Sundae-89122 karma

Thanks man. Did my time back in 2008 with 2 rcr , Afghanistan. As a young Lieutenant, I learnt quickly the value of platoon "clowns" . They were much needed to keep up the morale of men, especially on particularly shitty or boring days.

I hope you realise your value. It is immense. Good luck.

itspeterj1 karma

Thank you. That really means a lot. As the platoon clown, I always wanted like a cool callsign like "joker" but everyone ended up calling me shit like stegalicious and steggypoo.

RolandIce1 karma

Are you more fun than possibly dying now?

itspeterj2 karma

That 100% depends on how you almost die. I'm happy to say I'm now much more fun than war, but still much less fun than say skydiving or drunken gokarting

Huntergatherer3000-2 karma

Can jet fuel melt steal beams?

itspeterj3 karma

Why would jet fuel want to steal the beams?

uberjam-2 karma

Why aren’t politically conservative comedians funny?

itspeterj3 karma

I've thought about this a lot, and while I'm by no means THE comedy authority, here's my theory on why so many conservative comics blow:

1) They're utterly predictable and one note. How many specials called "triggered" can they possibly make? And why do they ALL have jokes about safe spaces and snowflakes? It's practically a meme at this point, but they all keep doing it.

2) There's a LOT of money in it, and it is WAY easier. Their typical audiences don't give a SHIT about hearing new jokes or ideas, and it honestly doesn't need to even be that funny, they just want to laugh. One thing that I learned when I started doing club shows in Kentucky is that there is a BIG difference between making people laugh and being funny. Making people laugh is way easier; you can get up on a stage, tell the exact same jokes every time and get cheap, but loud laughs. I'd see comics do sets that absolutely killed and walk off the stage feeling like a total hack pretty frequently. That's why it's so god damned funny to see them market themselves as "too dangerous for netflix" when they're doing the safest "comedy" they possibly can.

I think a lot of these older conservative comics just don't want to update their acts because not doing so pays a lot of money, especially now that they can politicize everything and get a built in audience that just wants to hear Jeff Foxworthy keep telling "you might be a redneck" jokes.

That said, I think you're going to see the same thing in the next few years from some on the left that keep doing shitty trump jokes and go after clapter instead. It's just more prevalent now with conservatives.