MIGHTY 25: Ashley Gutermuth uses comedy to tackle hard issues
Ashley Gutermuth can turn just about anything into a joke and has spent the past few years helping the military community not only laugh, but heal.
“My parents always said I was basically born 40,” she laughed. “I was never really into cartoons as a kid but chose Mel Brooks movies instead. Both of my parents were helicopter mechanics. The pilots and the flight nurses would go off and sleep in their own little room while the mechanics got all greasy and toiled away. My parents always told me to stay away from pilots and then I grew up and married one.”
Gutermuth’s father is an Army veteran and her childhood consisted of spending time in the hangers with her parents or her grandmother’s house. Both experiences shaped her personality and insatiable passion for comedy.
“I think both of these things turned me into a comedian. My grandmother wouldn’t let me go to bingo nights until I could prove to her I would behave but I mostly got a pass because of my hidden talent,” Gutermuth explained. “I can find four-leaf clovers, like I can find them to the point where I could give you a bouquet of four-leaf clovers and you're like, this is worthless now because there's too many. She would have me find four-leaf clovers and then she would press them to sell at bingo.”
Her grandfather, a Korean War veteran, would bring her to play golf, and she played baseball until she wasn’t allowed on the boys' teams anymore. Between spending time with her family, you could find Gutermuth with her best buds, Greg, Jeff and Jeff. As she got older though, the innocence of hanging with the boys would change.
“In middle school, things got rough. Girls were either calling me gay or accusing me of trying to steal their boyfriends. Then a bunch of them began threatening to stab me and that wasn’t fun,” Gutermuth shared.
The Pennsylvania native spent her high school years in a private Christian school. “I was raised Catholic so I was looking around at this ‘non-denominational’ school wondering when communion was but kids kept asking me if I was saved,” she laughed. “I remember trying to go to the superintendent to figure out how I could graduate early when I was only a freshman.”
As soon as she graduated, Gutermuth went to England for a stretch to work and go to school. She returned to the States and began attending Embry Riddle, all the while writing and sketching comedy ideas in between. It was here she met her husband, who happens to be 20 years older than her.
Gutermuth became a stepmother to his young son, Will, which would sideline her comedic aspirations so she could be a full-time parent. Recently, the couple took him to his Naval Academy orientation.
“They asked which one of us was enrolling,” she smiled. “There’s definitely been some funny stuff paired with hard things like moving every two years or managing constant custody issues. It definitely all took a piece out of me.”
But, she’s found it.
“I was doing some voice acting, which was a challenge on an Air Force base but I kept writing. Eventually, we got stationed somewhere that allowed me to get back into stand-up again even with my husband deploying or gone TDY,” Gutermuth shared. “I slowly started making military spouse jokes and it was going well, so I kept doing it while making videos for social media at the same time.”
It exploded and the military community couldn’t get enough of her very real and very funny jokes at their expense. Despite naysayers warning her she’d get her husband into trouble, she persisted. And, he approved.
Once Gutermuth built her social media following and began doing more and more stand up, it opened up the doors for her to use the platform for good. “I like being able to uplift other people and shine a light on the very real issues our military community is facing,” she explained.
Currently she’s on tour with the Best Medicine Brigade, a part of HEALarious, a group of veteran and military spouse comedians using laughter to impact mental health. When she started hearing from followers that food insecurity was impacting families, there was no stopping her. From writing to making videos, she put the issue at the forefront for military leaders. Her work led her to be chosen as the 2023 Armed Forces Insurance Air Force Spouse of the Year ™.
Gutermuth also does a lot of work with the American Legion and recently released the newest Blue Star Families Military Lifestyle Survey. She’s busy. But you can find her running three miles a day picking up litter – something she’s done for the last eight years straight, even in 105-degree weather.
Though she gets recognized a lot these days, hearing from people about how her comedy has impacted their lives has meant more than any recognition.
So, what’s next for Gutermuth?
“I’d like to take over the world,” she laughed. “Roombas for everyone!”