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Tours De Force Live Part 1

Australian entertainers have performed for troops in war zones and peacekeeping operations since the Vietnam War. Their talent and celebrity have lifted spirits and brought a slice of home to service personnel abroad.

In this podcast, hear first-hand the trials and tribulations of entertaining on the front line with host Merrick Watts in conversation with Anthony ‘Lehmo’ Lehmann, Nick Cody and Ami Williamson.

This podcast was recorded live at the Shrine in November 2022 to mark the opening of Tours De Force: Entertainers on the Front Line exhibition.

Listen to part two here.

Content warning:

This podcast is not suitable for children. It contains adult themes and occasional coarse language.


The opinions expressed in this podcast are those of individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Shrine of Remembrance.

Audio recording:

McLean Sound

Audio mastering:

Kris Keogh


Explorations by Reveille

Special thanks 

To all the comedians and performers for their time and generosity. 

For more information on the exhibition, click here.  

We embrace the diversity of our community and acknowledge the Bunurong people of the Kulin Nation as the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we honour Australian Defence Force service and sacrifice. We pay our respects to Elders, past and present.


MERRICK WATTS: Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the Shrine of Remembrance for this very special event: Tours De Force: Entertainers on the Front Line. For decades this country has seen brave men and women travel to war zones all around the globe. Heroes. This is not the story of those people. This is the story of the people they sent to entertain those people. This is the story of Forces Entertainment Please welcome your host comedian, broadcaster and national treasure Merrick Watts! Wow what a wonderful intro. Thank you very much. It's great to be here. I didn't expect that, that's amazing. Ladies and gentleman I'm going to introduce in order our guests for this evening and then we'll get it underway. So first of all, a great friend of mine and a wonderful comedian who's been on multiple tours Anthony 'Lehmo' Lehmann.

Next folk singer and songwriter and ex opera Australia Amy Williamson, please put your hands together.

Comedian, broadcaster and all round great guy, he's done multiple tours himself. Nick Cody, ladies and gentlemen.

Just a couple of icons for you now, Normie Rowe ladies and gentlemen. Jeez, How bad would you feel if you were Lehmo and you see that applause that Normie got. Little Pattie ladies and gentlemen. Television host, both these gentlemen are television hosts, they fight it out amongst themselves with their egos, but they are here this evening to entertain Charlie Pickering and Tom Gleeson, ladies and gentlemen.

First of all, I'd like to say that I think I speak on behalf of all entertainers who have toured and supported our military when I say it is an honour, and a privilege. And this is an opportunity for us to share our experiences with others in gratitude and celebration of all our servicemen and women. In 2000, I went to East Timor on my first tour of performing and I had two life changing moments in that period, sweating it out in the jungles of East Timor. One I had the experience of the importance that our troops play as peacekeepers overseas and two, I got a rash downstairs that I have not been able to get rid of. I've tried so many creams. I've tried everything and it will not go away. But that is the price that I am prepared to pay for peace. In 2019, I flew to Taiji Baghdad in Iraq, where I was informed that I had been identified as a high value target by ISIS. This was the moment that I realised that ISIS valued me more than the Australian entertainment industry. And for that, I would genuinely like to thank ISIS. Ladies and gentlemen we have a wonderful range of performers from several different operational theatres beginning with my friend, fellow comedian and multi-tour performer Anthony 'Lehmo' Lehmann.

ANTHONY ‘LEHMO’ LEHMANN: It is, it's wonderful to be here with the national treasure. Are you ever in an argument with your wife and you say to her, 'I'm a national treasure'?

MERRICK WATTS: I do, that's how sad my life is. Lehmo, first of all, I mean, kind of paint the picture for people who have not been in a war zone. What was your first impression when you entered a proper war zone?

ANTHONY ‘LEHMO’ LEHMANN: So I went over for the first time in December 2005 with Little Pattie, who's here tonight. And it was a big group. We had Little Pattie, Angry Anderson, Becky Cole, Hayley Jensen, who had just been on Australian Idol, and myself and Bessie Bardot. It was a big crew and the Australian Navy band as well. And we flew into Kuwait on a charter flight which is what you do the Australian Army hires or charters a plane from just some random international airline. And we flew-


ANTHONY ‘LEHMO’ LEHMANN: We flew into Kuwait. It was some Spanish airline or Portuguese airline, anyway. And we landed in Kuwait and then we all piled into a bus and we drove out to the desert in Kuwait, where the base was, and my first contact with anything that approximated life in a war zone was over the horizon, we could see the golden arches of McDonald's. And I remember turning there whoever was next to me going, is that Maccas? Yeah, then we got closer and you could see Burger King, and Dunkin Donuts and KFC and Pizza Hut. And we got there and it's like, and then they explained that this is an American base. And we need to make all the Americans feel like they're at home and they ate like they're at home, I can tell you that much. I'm glad they don't do any, you know, football teams do skinfold tests, I'm glad that the American army doesn't do skinfold tests. Because a few of that lot were carrying a couple.  So it was bizarre to me that you had all these creature comforts of home. And literally all the same menus available at all these stores around the base, but it was dusty, and it was isolated. And that gave us a sense, we were in a war zone, although Kuwait wasn't technically in the war zone. And then we flew for a couple of days, we did some shows there. And then we flew from there into Iraq. And that was when we entered a war zone. And I remember, we were flying on a C-130. And I remember feeling quite anxious on the plane, because we're going into a warzone for the first time and I didn't really know what to expect. And you get to sit up the front of the C-130 when you fly in. And (we took turns). And I remember sitting up there and putting the headphones on so I could hear them chatting. And the pilots, by the way, honestly looked about 19 years old. And they're chatting away, and then we're flying in but because you hear everything they're saying, you know, they're just being diligent, but everything scares you. So they going 'Check on side of highway parked van', you know, and then they do whatever their assessment is, and then they'll spot something else, and they'll do an assessment on that. And then we landed in southern Iraq and an airbase called to Tallil, which is in the like in the middle of nowhere. And then we drove we got in a Bushmaster from there. And this is when I really started to feel really anxious because we got in the back of this Bushmaster, and they give you a safety briefing. And they say they go, 'Right, so if the driver, if something happens and the driver is incapacitated, and if the gunner is incapacitated, and if the bloke giving directions, whatever his name is, if he's incapacitated, and then he points the two members of the Australian Navy Band and he goes you two are in charge. And I remember Angry Anderson going 'that's the bloody, that's the bloody lead singer and the trombone player. Can I have a gun?' And they were like 'No, Ango, you can't have a gun'.

MERRICK WATTS: I would rather release Angry Anderson. He's an assault package on his own.

ANTHONY ‘LEHMO’ LEHMANN: Exactly. So we got in the back of these Bushmasters. And we had to drive for two or three hours, Patti might remember more, three hours down to this base called Camp Smitty, right, but we were driving and I got in the back and you crammed into this Bushmaster. And there's like seven of you on one side, seven on the other side, you're facing each other. And it was the first time we were wearing body armour. We were wearing helmets. And we were sitting in there and you can't really see outside of a Bushmaster. And I was just thinking well, 'Wow, I feel like we're quite exposed', which we were. And the Aussie said to me, and classic, I just love this so much about the Aussie troops, they go 'Nah, nah', I'm talking to the guys beforehand, they go 'Nah, we'll be fine'. I said, 'How do you know?' And they said, 'Well, because they love us down here'. They said 'We fly the Australian flag at full mast off the Bushmaster'. And they said it does make a difference because, and I love this story, the Aussies doing a lot of hearts and mind stuff going out and meeting local Iraqis. And they said to the Aussie troops, some people in local tribes had said, your forefathers were here during World War Two. And they treated us really well. And they treated us with respect. So we're gonna look after you. And it was a beautiful, it just really warmed my heart to know that our diggers from World War Two had paid it forward. So that at least we could get to a gig on time and safely.

MERRICK WATTS: And I can only imagine, you know, our troops fighting in previous wars thinking hopefully one day our grandson will be able to travel to a McDonald's freely. Possibly even a Burger King.

ANTHONY ‘LEHMO’ LEHMANN: So we drove for three hours through the desert and we got to camp we got to Camp Smitty, which is really just in the middle of nowhere in southern Iraq, and I asked a bloke 'Why is it called Camp Smitty?' And he said, 'Well, because Smitty was the first bloke to camp here'. Well, that adds up. It was actually a Dutch base. Oddly enough, with a very Aussie name but it was a Dutch base, and it was only there for another year after we left Camp Smitty, but we did some gigs there right before Christmas. And so that was my first taste of a warzone. But just how isolated that place was, and how you feel you're, as I said, on the drive, you felt really exposed. And they made the mistake of telling us, because you go through all the safety procedures when you get there, about rocket attacks. We go 'Oh have there been any rocket attacks?' They go 'Oh yeah there was one yesterday'. All right. I guess we'll pay attention then during this.

MERRICK WATTS: And what's it like performing in a war zone? How's it different to doing stand up in you know, in a club in a safe environment? Then again, you know, I wouldn't say stand up rooms are a safe environment all the time. They can be hostile. But what's the first point of difference that you noticed?

ANTHONY ‘LEHMO’ LEHMANN: Biggest difference is the hecklers have guns. Yeah. So that really focuses your attention. Yeah. It's important you bring your A Game. I actually once, in Tarin Kowt, Charlie Pickering was at this gig. We were filming it for The Project. And I was emceeing and I said at the start of the gig, because we were filming it, I said, 'We're were filming tonight' And there was a lot of troops in there, there was like, maybe 300 in there. And we said 'We're filming for The Project'. So I said 'Any special forces soldiers...', because they don't want their identity to be revealed, I said 'You might want to move to the sides of the room, because we've got cameras at the back'. And then I waited for them to move. And what I realised at that time with Special Forces soldiers, you don't see the move, they just appear in different locations. But one guy came down and he sat right at the front, right where this dude is, like, literally that close. And he sat there and he's got a gun on his lap and he pulled a balaclava down. So we had to do this whole gig with a guy in a balaclava in the front row, which is a little intimidating.  But primarily, and on a serious note, the gigs are better than anything you'll ever experience. Because, you know, as you would know, from doing it, they've been living in extreme circumstances, often life threatening circumstances, for months on end, and to have the relief of this entertainment. That is an audience that is ready to explode. And when you perform to that audience, and when you get that roar of that audience, it's just, it's second to none. It's a really special experience.

MERRICK WATTS: What was the highlight of the tours, you've done many tours?

ANTHONY ‘LEHMO’ LEHMANN: Look, it's really hard to identify a specific highlight.

MERRICK WATTS: It's not the latrines is it because that's never a highlight, I'm not going to lie

ANTHONY ‘LEHMO’ LEHMANN: Yeah no the toilets... I mean, I had respect for them having a shower and I went 'You people do this for six months?'. Like just because they're not comfortable living conditions. But I remember, and this is just such a great, wild warzone, almost movie like memory. We're in Kandahar. Again, Charlie and Tom were on this particular trip. And we're both in Kandahar at the time. And they have an area called the boardwalk in Kandahar. And this base, there are 30,000 people on this base. 30,000 people on this base, which is like Warnambool, right? Except not as dangerous as Warnambool. I mean, it's crazy to think 30,000 people in this base. And they had a thing called the boardwalk, which is where all the shops were and they had like a TGI Friday, and all that kind of American conveniences. And if you can imagine like an 80 metres of walk and then 80 metres and then 80 metres so it's kind of in a big square. But not a completed square, it was open on the other side, and in the middle were all the sporting fields. So I was out there one day with Charlie and we were playing cricket with some Afghan kids, we had a cricket bat out and we're playing. While we were doing that, some other Aussies were playing touch football. These English dudes were playing soccer. Some Canadians were playing ice hockey, believe it or not on a cement ice hockey rink, especially sectioned off

MERRICK WATTS: That's commitment

ANTHONY ‘LEHMO’ LEHMANN: Yeah commitment. A bunch of Americans were playing softball or baseball in another corner. Someone else was kicking an Aussie Rules footy around, the sun was out. It was a beautiful day in Kandahar. There were a couple of Americans fly fishing, didn't catch anything. But they had the rods out and they were throwing the lines out, right. And I just looked around and thought it was just a beautiful scene, you know, but in the background, there were Black Hawk choppers just up and then taking off to do whatever they were going to do. And we were right on an airstrip there. So you know, planes were landing and taking off and people were going out to war. But in that moment on that sort of arena that we're in with all those people, it was just a really, it was a big beautiful moment inside what was a, you know, that was a full on war, that was 2010, that war was going on then.

MERRICK WATTS: It's amazing when you have those moments where you forget that you are in a war zone. And then when the reality comes back and you go, 'Oh, my God, this is, you know, there's a lot of danger around here'. But you kind of you miss that for a little bit. What about, you know, the moment where you have felt in peril, like proper in peril? Because I know most people who have travelled overseas have had a moment where they've gone 'Wow, that could have that could have actually been very, very dangerous'.

ANTHONY ‘LEHMO’ LEHMANN: Well, one quickly one interesting one, and Pattie will remember this from Baghdad, but we were in Baghdad in 2005. In the city of Baghdad, you heard gunfire 24 hours a day. Like it was a constant pop, pop in the back like 24/7. And you heard explosions. You know, every day, you heard explosions as well. And there were constantly six Blackhawks in the sky flying in pairs. So you felt like you're in a war zone. Then having said that, I didn't feel particularly scared in Baghdad. The two moments I had both were on the same day. In Kabul, we went from the airport, and we were going up to a base called Carga, which is sort of up in the hills a little, just out of Kabul, and we were driving up in Bushmasters again, and they always say in Bushmasters, when you're driving through the streets, you've got to keep moving because no one was sitting target. And we were sitting down in the Bushmaster. I was in the front seat. I was in the passenger seat. And so I'm filming it, and it was really cold and been snowing. And we got near the base where we were going and we had to stop. We couldn't keep moving and we stopped. And there were some local Afghan dudes just standing there and one guy had in his hand a snowball. Or what he said was a snowball, right? And the two gunners standing at the top of the Bushmaster were yelling at him, because he was threatening to throw it at the Bushmaster. And the two gunners are going 'put the snowball down', it's such a weird thing to hear, 'put the snowball down'.  War's kicking off. And so they're yelling at him and he's like going, 'Oh, what are you going to do?' And they're like really - Imagine the decision making too of the troops in that moment. Right?


ANTHONY ‘LEHMO’ LEHMANN: You've got to stay cool. And eventually the guy just drops it and it was a snowball. Then on the trip back from Kaga, this time I was in the in the body of the Bushmaster, not at the front, and we're driving along and I asked the gunner later what happened, the guy who was there, so his legs were here right next to me and he was at the top of the Bushmaster. A white Toyota Corolla pulled up right next to the almost leaning on the side of the Bushmaster and was driving along. So he said he thinks, 'Well, he could have 100 kilos of explosives in his boot, could have, right?' Because I asked him afterwards, I said, 'What was your decision making process?' And he said, 'Okay, so my first thought is, I can't shoot him because that's an overreaction because I actually don't know what's in his car'. He said, 'I can't even throw a flare down because I feel like that's an overreaction as well'. And he's trying to work out what to do. And what I heard inside the Bushmaster, he yells out 'Water bottle!', and someone passes him a water bottle and he literally threw the water bottle on the bonnet of the car, and then the guy drove off.

MERRICK WATTS: Well, just as a warning

ANTHONY ‘LEHMO’ LEHMANN: Just as a warning. So at the end of that day, I thought this isn't a bad war. They're throwing snowballs at us and we're throwing water bottles at them. This is the kind of war I could deal with.

MERRICK WATTS: Lehmo, I'm going to say thank you for being a part of this and I'm going to ask you to pass the mic over as i welcome two of our next guests who have both been overseas on multiple tours. First ex-operator, ex-opera singer for Opera Australia, not operator. She's not an ex-operator, although maybe she is, they are stealthy. Ex-operator, ex-Opera Australia and folk singer songwriter Amy Williamson ladies and gentlemen, joined by Nick Cody, comedian, broadcaster.


MERRICK WATTS: Ami, first impressions of being in a military environment. What impressed you?

AMI WILLIAMSON: Well, I have to say the very first was that I saw no Rambo's anywhere, nobody that looks like you know what you think with all the movies imagery that you're constantly bamboozled with, you know. I never met anybody that was like that, over there, which, you know, was a real surprise and a delight.

MERRICK WATTS: You sound disappointed.

AMI WILLIAMSON: Well, no, I was delighted, because I think we get constantly bamboozled with that image of the macho army man, and, you know, and it gets tedious. America likes to constantly put that out. And I just met humble, professional, disciplined, men that just kept lifting all my stuff. It was so amazing.

MERRICK WATTS: Sorry, were you in a warzone or at the Hilton?

AMI WILLIAMSON: I, you know, I was listening to the stories, and, and not once did I feel in danger, even when I had to go in, you know, through the dangerous zones. And, you know, I had the burn gear. And I remember asking 'Why, why am I putting on burn gear?', you know, but I never once felt in danger, just I think, because the way the army works, as far as I saw, was just very methodical and careful and thorough, and, and I really appreciated that and so I never felt in danger at all. And I just had great shows, and the soldiers were so enthusiastic. And I always went out into the crowd during my show and danced with the soldiers. And, and so they got to see, you know, I said, 'Who wants to dance for me?' and I always got at least two up. They loved watching their colleagues dance in front of hundreds of other, you know, it was a big deal.

MERRICK WATTS: In front of other troops, because that had something to hang it on the next day.


MERRICK WATTS: That's what they were gonna do.

AMI WILLIAMSON: If you can't dance, you're not gonna dance in front of hundreds of men, are you?

MERRICK WATTS: They can't they can't blame being drunk either that's the biggest problem.

AMI WILLIAMSON: That's right. That's right.

MERRICK WATTS: They're doing it sober. I think it's actually the first time anybody's ever seen Australian males dance sober, so well done. Should've recorded that.

AMI WILLIAMSON: That's right. I don't know how it happened, but I always got an American, you know, soldier and an Australian soldier, either side, nice work if you can get it, I know.

MERRICK WATTS: And what was the response or reactions from the troops of you being there as a performer and the performances themselves? You know, because I know that they're very, very grateful. But how do they kind of show that when you're performing?

AMI WILLIAMSON: Oh, well, again, you'd think they'd be, you know, outrageously raucous because, you know, majority, rightly or wrongly, are men and you know, you're up there and you could think well maybe, you know, that's a night out and they'd go crazy. But again, they didn't, they were respectful and, and they clapped in all the right places. And there wasn't you know, I had more heckling at a pub in, you know, Balmain as you do.

MERRICK WATTS: You're lucky you left there alive. Nick, what made you want to go and enter a warzone to perform for our troops as a comedian?

NICK CODY: Well, tax free pay aside, I thought...

MERRICK WATTS:  And it's quite a hefty...

NICK CODY: That's rare. That's rare. You know, a government cashie. No, I've had numerous, numerous members of my family on both sides, on my Mum and Dad's side that have both served. Ex Army members, Air Force and Navy. And there's no way I'm brave enough to do any of that stuff. So I thought if I was lucky enough to be asked, I'd be very honoured to go over. And you know, I got to go to Afghanistan a few times and perform on the HMAS Melbourne off the Horn of Africa. It was at sea. And these are places that you don't think you're ever going to be able to go and see them. So to be up to see those parts of the world while doing something that is as much fun as our job gets to be.

MERRICK WATTS: So basically you wanted to go on a Contiki tour?

NICK CODY: Yeah, and I was like 'Guys, what do you think of Kabul into Baghdad into Jordan?'

MERRICK WATTS: But you actually you spent a Christmas overseas performing, didn't you?

NICK CODY: Yeah. So 2015 I was over in Afghanistan doing gigs there and the only hard gig, like the toughest one was on Christmas morning. We did a show and it was about minus two outside in Kabul and snowing, everyone standing around. And I said, 'Are you guys pumped up?'. And they said, 'Not as much as we are for our two beers'. And that's fair, because some of these guys, they don't get to have a beer for, you know, six months, nine months and on I believe Anzac Day and Christmas day, they get two beers. And I remember, after lunch that day, everybody's lining up for their drinks. And there was, I believe, Stella, there was VB, and there was Cascade Light. And the VB and the Stella were moving, they were shifting units. And a guy in front of me had his two beer tokens. And he said 'Two Cascade Premium Light, thanks'. And the lady handing out the beer said, 'You really want the light beer?' And he said, '{bleep} absolutely not. Two VB'. Tough, tough job for the Cascade Light salesman over there in Kabul.

MERRICK WATTS: You're not shifting units. If you've just got one till and you're on the light beers, it's going to be a slow day.

NICK CODY: And there's no brethos

MERRICK WATTS: Well when I was asked, when I was getting my two beers as well as a performance, they said, you know, 'Are you gonna go fast or slow?' And I said, 'What do you mean?' They said, 'Well, either what you do is you get your two beers, and you scull them really quickly to try and get a little bit of buzz on for a minute. Or you kind of peter them out over the night'. And I said, 'You guys have really had a lot of time to think about how you're going to drink two beers', like I've ever thought about how I'm going to drink two beers before.

NICK CODY: And it's been too long in between beers for them when they're like, 'You know what's better? If you let this VB sit'. Let it air a bit. Get those flavours out. Before that first trip, sorry, I got asked, and I thoroughly enjoy a beer and I thought, 'What does this entail going over?' They said 'You'll need vaccinations and you need to pass a physical'. And I thought 'All right, well, how far off until the physical?' and they said three months. I didn't have any beers for three months. Push ups every day. I was running. Turn up to the thing just jacked, just ready to go. I'm ready to pass this physical. And they took my blood pressure and said 'Yeah mate, you're right'. And I went 'I can do so many push ups now' and they're like 'What?' But I still remember the doctor, he said 'Mate, this is the comedian's physical. Chris Franklin passed this and he had scurvy recently.'

MERRICK WATTS: I think sometimes you've got to prepare yourself mentally. And sometimes you need to prepare yourself physically before you go into it. Ami, what about the preparation, like, did you spend a lot of time thinking about a particular setlist to perform for troops you know, have you got a grab bag of of hits that you use? How do you select what you're going to use?

AMI WILLIAMSON: Obviously, it's a very, you know, niche kind of a gig. It's not like your other gigs. I just wanted something to make them homesick but not down. So I sang 'Better Be Home Soon' by that Australian group. And ACDC. Angry and I did a few wild things on stage and climb through chairs. And yeah, I even fell onto the stage getting onto the stage once, that was very embarrassing/


AMI WILLIAMSON: No, but I did try and find a Near Beer when I got home because they were called Near Beer.

MERRICK WATTS: Non Alcoholic Beer, so I had Near Beer- for anybody doesn't know what it is, you're lucky. Near Beer is not beer. It's, it's near to beer but it's not like a non alcoholic beverage.

AMI WILLIAMSON: It should be called So Far from Beer

MERRICK WATTS: Yeah. Well, when I was in Iraq, a couple of soldiers 'Aw come back to our you know, our hooch', and I was like 'Aw yeah, this is good,' and they said 'We're gonna have a couple of brewskis' and I went 'Great, this is awesome'. I go back there, and it was the shittiest cubby house I'd ever seen in my life in an old tank den in Iraq, and, and there was a guy there, just sitting down wearing a dress. And I said, 'I don't want to point this out. What's the deal there?' and he goes 'Lost a bet'. I went 'Okay, well, fair enough'. And he goes 'Do you want a Near Beer?' And I said, 'I don't think it's going to erase the memory but sure. Let's see if it goes anywhere'. But did enjoy mingling with the troops as well?

AMI WILLIAMSON: Yeah, that was amazing. And again, I just was expecting to meet a different type of person, you know, they were just so I'd almost go so far as to say they were a shy group of men, you know, like, they weren't sort of eager to sort of demonstrate how many muscles they had, more's the pity. Yeah, just they were they were just a delight and so grateful for us being there and yeah, lots of fun and yeah.


AMI WILLIAMSON: Yeah so polite.

MERRICK WATTS: Yeah, it's because, you know, they're professionals. That's what you know, I think, in an environment as an entertainer, you're used to being around people who've got very, you know, relaxed rule, sets of rules. I mean, we have no such rules.

AMI WILLIAMSON: That's exactly right. Yeah. Generally speaking their level of discipline is so much higher

MERRICK WATTS: Well, it's not hard to be higher than the entertainment industry.

AMI WILLIAMSON: Oh well speak for yourself.

MERRICK WATTS: Yeah well, I am. But it's, it's funny when you see like, everybody is like, buttoned down, and everybody's got a role and a purpose. And you just go 'My God, if only the rest of us could learn from that'.

AMI WILLIAMSON: Yeah, and just the contrast of getting dressed up, and then walking onto rubble. You know, I just remember my high heels being constantly dirty and dusty. And, and just the contrast of trying to look like an entertainer in the back of a truck with dust everywhere.

MERRICK WATTS: Was it hard getting prepared before show like that?

AMI WILLIAMSON: Well, we had the boy's toilets. That was often our dressing room.

MERRICK WATTS: I'm sorry to hear that.

AMI WILLIAMSON: Yeah. So it can only go up from there. I figure.

MERRICK WATTS: Nick, you also met SAS operators for the first time when you were in Afghanistan. And I know that you've forged friendships with some of those blokes that you met overseas as well.

NICK CODY: Yeah, had a few at my wedding and great mates to this day. But the first time I met one, so again, I hadn't had a drink for three months in the lead up to it super fit, thought, 'Here we go. Warzone Cod. Lock in son'.

MERRICK WATTS: Blood pressure normal

NICK CODY: And flown over and the first gigs were in Tarin Kowt, I believe. And that was a massive, maybe eight or 900 troops there, mainly Australian and American troops. And the highlight of that night were Bliss n Eso were performing. And at one point, Jonathan, who's Bliss from Bliss N Eso, he said, 'Everybody put your guns in the {bleep} air'. And the Americans did. And the Australians didn't and he stopped the concert and went 'Woah, woah, woah, why don't you put your guns in the air?' And an Aussie in the front row said 'Too many forms if we do that, mate'. I go 'Nanny state's gotten over here, has it? All right'. But that night, some of the SAS guys stuck a few of the few of the entertainers offered to take them back to their quarters. And I I missed out and the next day, we're in Kandahar, and one of the guys came up and said, 'We heard you haven't had a beer for three months. We heard you missed out last night. You're not missing out tonight'. And I said, 'Well, good luck, gents. Because I'm surrounded by people whose job it is to get me from this gig back to the accom'. And after the show we were packing up. And I had a speaker and I was gonna put it on the back of a ute. And you could go around the whole sort of area where the show was on or you could cut through a little alley on the side of the building. And it's dark. It's about 11 o'clock at night. And I turn into the alley with a speaker and there's a guy right there and I went 'Oh, shit' and I dropped the speaker. And he said, 'G'day mate, I'm one of the boys. I'm in charge of coming to get you back to the bay,' and I was just freaking out, I was like 'Oh, Jesus, Jesus Christ'. He goes, 'Are you alright, mate?' and I said 'Are you a part of the SAS?' he said, 'Yeah'. And I said, 'Do you know how many people on this planet, their last image is turning around the corner and you're there'. And he said, 'I've never thought of it like that but yeah, heaps I reckon'. Anyway, he just grabbed the speaker and took it back and yeah. They took us out shooting, well they wanted to take us out shooting on the base one day and they got us all into a car and drove us out to a range and then someone's turned up on a four wheeler and just said 'Boys, we've gotta go right now'. And they said 'Sorry, everyone we know we were meant to take you shooting right now but something's on,' and naive me said 'What's on?' And one of the guys that had taken us out hops on the back of the four wheeler and just pointed out to a mountain range and he said 'There's a bloke out there that is yet to realise he's in for a really bad day'. 'All right, have fun, boys. Godd luck.'

MERRICK WATTS: Ami, you said you weren't fearful at any stage when you were on tour because you felt secure within the camps and within the base and around the soldiers, yeah?

NICK CODY: Yeah, yeah. Just even when they said 'Put on the burn gear'. I just thought you know, maybe that's naive. But I just my whole interaction with the army was just so thorough and careful that I just thought I won't get hurt.

MERRICK WATTS: Well, Nick got scared carrying a speaker. That's why he can't work at JB Hi Fi

NICK CODY: I'll get you a new flat screen mate. This one's broken.

MERRICK WATTS: Was that legitimately the most, you know, kind of terrifying moment? Because as I said, you know people have got experiences of being quite scared

NICK CODY: Kabul airport at the end of 2015. On that Christmas trip the base was connected to the airport and one day Robbo, Ian Robinson Lieutenant Colonel who was in charge of Forces Entertainment, he, they took us through a drill, if there was an explosion at the camp, and so they put on a siren. He's like, 'Alright, everyone,' he's so relaxed, I love him, he goes 'Alright, everyone, come with me. Come on, let's walk down. We've got to get in this room'. He ticks all of our names off. He said, 'We've got to sit here until there's another siren'. And about 20 minutes later, that siren goes off. And he said, 'All good. We know what to do'. And I said, 'Yeah', everyone says, 'Yes', we go about our day, do the gig that night and the next day we're walking on the base. And there's just a louder sound of this massive explosion from I don't know which direction, but just this boom, and Robbo looks around he goes, '{bleep} that's not a drill. All right. Come on, everyone. We're going into the room'. But he always said to me that it's like if you're scared of going out, if you're scared of going out on a Saturday night in Surfers Paradise, imagine being surrounded by 2000 people whose job it was to get you through that night in Surfers Paradise. Yeah, yeah, sign me up for that.

AMI WILLIAMSON: I was just gonna say it's a need to know basis too, you know, I, I was very much the last person they were going to perhaps throw up ideas about what to do with. So I'm thinking, I'm lying there in the, in my bunk thinking, 'Yes, that sounds like a bomb not very far away. But I'm guessing they're not going to come in here and say, Amy, what should we do about this?'

MERRICK WATTS: Ami, we'd like your perspective on this

AMI WILLIAMSON: Like, what type of bomb was it Ami?

MERRICK WATTS: Because I had, I've had a couple of experiences where I thought I was, you know, in imminent danger. But I think one of the weirdest ones that was actually not the enemy. It was actually an American. When I was in Taiji, and we were performing there, and there was a guy in the audience who was sitting quite like right in the front row. And he was on his own. And he was young, and he had glasses on, and I'm not going to lie, he just looked like one of those American guys where you just go, you are not screwed in properly. You know what I mean? Like you just you look terrifying. And he was skinny, and he was small and stuff like that. But he was a he was a soldier. And he was also an officer. And I clocked that he was an officer. And, you know, there's guys around with like machine guns and heaps of weapons everywhere, and you're performing in front of them. And there's this one guy down the front, this American officer, and he's just got a sidearm. He doesn't have a long arm. He's just got a sidearm there. And I looked at him and I thought this looks a bit weird. I said to some of the other troops, 'That guy looks a bit weird', and they go, ‘Yeah, he's not screwed in properly’. And I went, ‘Oh, that's good’. And then when I get up, I realise he's got a teddy bear. A teddy bear sitting on his lap. This is an officer in the army, and he's got a teddy bear sitting on his lap. And he's on his own.


MERRICK WATTS: Yeah. Yeah. Like radar. Only terrifying. And I'm just going ‘Why would a soldier have a teddy bear sitting on their lap, like the teddy bear was watching the show?’ And I got a bit spooked by and I got up on stage. And I said to this guy said, you know, ‘Obviously you're an officer in the American army’. He said, ‘That's right’. And I said, ‘You’ve got a teddy bear there’. And he said ‘That's right’. And I said, ‘And they've given you a firearm?’, and he said, ‘That's right’. And I said, ‘Because in my country, we wouldn't give you a pen {bleep} license’. And you know what he did? He said, ‘You want to see it?’ and pulled it out. There's like 100 people around that just went ‘No!’.

NICK CODY: Maybe the Aussie troops want to bring Teddy's but there's too many forms. Had to leave it at home.

MERRICK WATTS: Nick Cody with Ami Williamson, thank you very much, we’ll pass the mic.

MERRICK WATTS: Thanks for listening to part one of Tours De Force Live. Part two, featuring Normie Rowe, Little Pattie, Tom Gleeson and Charlie Pickering is available now so download when you’re ready. Lest We Forget.