ANTHONY “Lehmo” Lehmann is proud to be known as Australia’s No. 1 “combat comic”. The 49-year-old comedian has a long history of entertaining Aussie troops abroad and now he is part of the ABC’s 100 hours of coverage of the Invictus Games.
Lehmann will co-host the nightly Invictus Games Tonight alongside Chris Bath. Panellists are gold-medal winning Paralympian Dylan Alcott and former elite Commando Damien Thomlinson who was severely injured in Afghanistan in 2009.
Lehman has spread laughter at army bases in East Timor, Iraq, Kuwait, UAE, Afghanistan, Egypt, Qatar and on a number of naval ships around the world.
“The first trip I ever did was in December 2005 and I said yes purely because I thought it would be a fun adventure,” Lehmann says. "It was only when I got there (to Iraq) and met the troops and saw the type of people that are and the conditions they work in and the sacrifices they make — I fell in love with them. It is one thing to go to a comedy club on a Saturday night and tell a few jokes but a whole other thing to perform for someone who has just spent four or five months risking their life on a daily basis. I kept putting my hand up saying I want to go back again. Now I’ve done seven trips in total and I’ve got another one set for next year. The best complement I ever got was when someone said ‘for two hours you took us back to Australia’.”
The ABC is pulling out all stops to give the Invictus Games, established four years ago by Prince Harry (HRH the Duke of Essex) for wounded, injured and ill veteran and serving defence personnel. Prince Harry and wife Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, are in Australia for the event.
500 competitors take part in 11 adaptive sports: archery, athletics, indoor rowing, a driving challenge, powerlifting, road cycling, sailing, sitting volleyball, swimming, as well as wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby.
As well as the opening and closing ceremonies, there are documentaries, and special Invictus-themed episodes of You Can’t Ask That, Catalyst, Gardening Australia, Play School and Giggle and Hoot! Invictus Games Today will be the nightly flagship show with results and features on the competitors and the family members and friends who support them.
“Heart will be the cornerstone of the show and there will certainly be lighthearted moments — it will capture the spirit of the Games,” Lehmann says. "When someone leaves the defence force their journey is far from over. Many people carry injuries that you do see and a lot of people carry injuries that you don’t see (like Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome or PTSD).
“I want people watching to be educated but I also want them to be inspired. When they see people like Special Forces sniper Garry Robinson who was in a Black Hawk helicopter crash and suffered a serious brain injury, fractured multiple bones, had his left leg amputated below the knee and lost three mates and to see where he has going himself to on his path to recovery — that is what is possible within this world. Damien is also a remarkable individual. When you consider what he has been through — losing both his legs in Afghanistan (after his unit drove over an improvised Taliban bomb) — he is a deeply inspirational individual and a cool bloke.”
Invictus Games Tonight is Bath’s first major foray back into television since leaving Channel 7 at the end of 2015.
Bath was part of Seven’s hosting team for the 2000 Olympics, and also presented news and Sunday Night. In recent times, Bath has fronted an evening show for ABC Radio in Sydney.
“To me, the Invictus Games is an opportunity for Australians who haven’t served to say ‘thank you’,” Bath says. “A lot of people who serve have a real civic imperative. They feel really drawn to serve their country. This all came from Harry’s service in Afghanistan. He was on a chopper taking home very seriously injured British servicemen and he was thinking ‘what can I do to help my military family’. The privilege of being a prince gave him an extraordinary opportunity to set something up. He didn’t have to but he has and it has meant so much to so many people around the world.”
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