Travis Howze was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder after heÂ was injured in a warehouse fire which claimed the lives of nine otherÂ firefighters in 2007.
Today, the nationally headlining comedian uses comedy as his outlet. He will be on stage Saturday, June 28 at Jackie Knight’s Comedy Club at Gypsy’s Corner Bar in St. Augustine.
“Having only been doing comedy for fun at the time, I changed gears and hurled myself into full time where I now tour 30-40 weeks per year,” Howze said.
“I was diagnosed with severe Post Traumatic Stress after being assigned to the body recovery team of my fallen brothers. To this day I still battle by symptoms and use comedy as an outletÂ â€”Â it’s my medicine.” Read the rest of Totally St. Augustine’s interview with Howze below.
Tickets are $12 per person. Ben Jones will open the show, which begins at 9 p.m. For reservations, callÂ 904-461-8843. Go toÂ thegypsycomedyclub.com to view the comedy club schedule.
INTERVIEW WITH TRAVIS HOWZE
Travis Howze: In 1996 I enlisted into the United States Marine Corps after high school. I always wanted to be a Marine, policeÂ officer and firefighter, so that’s what I set out to do. I never considered stand up comedy as a profession …Â it just kind of happened. After my 4-year enlistment was up with the military, I went back home to South Carolina where I would work as a police officer for twoÂ short years and firefighter for eightÂ years. I wasn’t cut out to be a police officer, but I was very much so every bit of a firefighter, â€” it was home for me!
In 2005 while working as a firefighter for the City of Charleston, S.C. Fire Dept. I started flirting with the idea of performing stand up comedy. I was always a naturally funny and silly guy, and when I would watch comedians on TV, I would think, “I can do that!” I was voted class clown in school, always joking around while I served in the Marines, constantly getting in trouble for joking around as a police officer, and I was the biggest prankster at the fire house. Comedy has been calling me my entire life!
Totally St. Augustine: Tell us about losing your fellow firefighters in 2007.
Travis Howze:Â June 18, 2007 everything changed instantly. Our department responded to a furniture warehouse fire on the west side of Charleston. This fire would claim the lives of nineÂ of my brothers, all nineÂ whom were my friends. That night I was assigned to the body recovery and identification team. We had to go in, locate their charred remains, dig them out of the twisted steel and pull them out of that building. I will never be able to fully describe what I saw, smelled,Â tasted in the air that night, but I will never be able to forget it. Shortly after the fire, I would begin to have severe nightmares. I would have reoccurring flashbacks several times per day. Plagued with post traumatic stress, depression and survivors guilt, my symptoms would become so severe that it would cost me my career as a firefighter, the only thing I really truly loved.
Totally St. Augustine: Is that when your comedy career began?
Travis Howze:Â Feeling alone, I turned to comedy and left Charleston in my rearview for a while. I worked every stage that I could because when I was laughing and performing, I would forget the past for a little while. It truly was my medicine, it took away the hurt, even if for a short time. Weeks on the road turned into months, which turned into years. After years of honing my skills and jokes on stages from everywhere to Alaska, L.A., New York and down to the Bahamas and everywhere in between, I have been able to bring many smiles and laughs to many people. I now tour the country 20-40 weeks per year doing what I love again, telling jokes and making people smile.
Totally St. Augustine: How are you doing now?
Travis Howze: Over the past 7 years since that fire, I have never once taken medication for my problems. I refuse to let a pill make me happy. When I need a pick me up, I take to the stage. However, after the fire, I turned to alcohol to cope with my problems. I was binge drinking for several years afterwards. I am now proudÂ to say that I haven’t taken a drink in twoÂ years. I am now married to the most wonderful, supportive wife I could ask for and have a daughter who is my entire world.
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