Jarryd Goundrey describes himself as ‘Australia’s least decorated soldier’, but fortunately he’s also one of the funniest.
Originally from Perth, Jarryd did some time at Kapooka but spent most of his career in Townsville at the 2nd Battalion, RAR and deployed to East Timor in 2007/2008.
After seven years in the infantry and a post-army stint as a chef, the 36-year-old is now mining his experiences in Defence and the kitchen for comedy gold.
“Generally, I was the funniest guy in every platoon I was in,” he said.“I told good stories and I didn’t mind adding 10 per cent of ‘not truth’ onto them.”
With a gift for making his colleagues laugh, Jarryd decided to give comedy a crack.
“On a Tuesday night there was an open mic comedy show down the road from where I worked,” he said.
“It was a train wreck. Anyone could sign their name up.”
After watching from the audience for two months the former mortar specialist stepped up – and bombed.
“I was talking to some of the other comedians afterwards and they were talking about their jokes. I was like, ‘Oh, I should probably get some of them, that sounds pretty crucial’.”
But Jarryd soon found his stride and decided to quit his job to become a comedian full-time. Unfortunately, his decision coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic and both comedy and kitchen work quickly dried up.
“I went nearly bankrupt trying to keep that afloat, but I did,” he said.
Jarryd began sharing his stories on social media and his tongue in cheek takes on army life saw his TikTok blow up and attract millions of views.
“I left the military and I felt like I didn’t really do enough to identify as a veteran,” he said.
“When I started doing comedy and talked about (my service), it attracted my community back to me.”
As well as providing a wealth of material, Jarryd said the army helped prepare him for the challenges of life on stage.
“Like heckling,” he said.
“I don’t care. What are you going to say to me? I’ve been through basic training.”
He also found support through the not-for-profit Prince’s Trust Australia which helps veterans and Defence spouses set themselves up in small business.
“I’m the manager, I’m the product, I’m the social media guy, I’m the PR person when it goes wrong, I’m HR when I’m not looking after myself,” he said.
“I felt self-conscious about what people would think about going into business for myself to be professionally goofy, but having people like this allows you to actually legitimise it and galvanise what you’re doing.”
Since January 2022, Jarryd has been back in comedy full-time and sold out his first solo comedy show with the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
“I did a show at last year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival about my time in the military,” he said.
“Veterans came, and they were like, ‘That’s funny, that’s so true’. But then civilians came, and they were like, ‘What? Is that true?’”
Jarryd has found that humour is a great way to connect with veterans who have struggled to unpack some of the challenges they face.
“I’ve started talking a lot about the mental health issues that veterans face within my comedy and on the internet and people started reaching out,” he said.
“I think a lot of people that serve will put their service on a pedestal,” he said.
“They will say, ‘That was my peak’, and that induces a lot of depression.
“Doing comedy has given me pride in what I do with myself now and what I’ve become. It’s 15 times more powerful than antidepressants. It’s self-worth.”
Jarryd is now focused on using his platform to both entertain and educate veterans and the community on the importance of mental health and support.
Jarryd’s Australian tour kicks off this month and includes key garrison towns like Wagga and will raise money for the Australian National Veterans Arts Museum (ANVAM).
“If it all finished tomorrow and I could look back on my career and I’d done that tour, that’s all I could have ever asked for,” he said.
“But if I can get that done, then I’m happy to make a new challenge and just keep pushing and just keep growing and keep challenging myself.”
Jarryd Goundrey’s show will hit the Thirsty Crow in Wagga on 1 September, and you can find out more here.