Taking a cue from SAG and AFTRA, Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada is attempting to start a nonprofit foundation to assist comedians in need of medical assistance.
Masada is launching the Laugh Factory’s Academy of Comedy & Art with two benefit performances Wednesday starring Martin Lawrence, Damon Wayans, George Wallace, Mark Curry and others.
The club owner will open the fund with a donation of a few thousand dollars next week and could be depositing as much as $ 7,500 if the benefits sell out.
A board of directors comprising comics and managers will meet every two weeks to review requests for assistance and determine amounts of money to be doled out.
Masada said he has approached doctors and dentists to get services donated or reduced fees but he has no commitments yet.
“Clubs are getting notoriety but without the comedians we are nothing,” Masada said. “I want to give back to these people. When I hear about their problems and that they have no insurance, it breaks my heart.”
The idea for the academy germinated when two comedians approached Masada, himself a former comedian and actor, for help. One had been in a car accident and needed dental work and the other had an intestinal disorder.
“The homeless learn how to survive,” he said. “People in showbiz don’t know how to survive or how to solve problems. … Plenty get a TV or a movie job and insurance (through a union),” but most of the comedians working strictly standup are not covered.
Masada, an immigrant from Israel who found the Laugh Factory in 1979, has held annual AIDS fund-raisers and feeds about 800 homeless people each Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Masada is also offering free seminars monthly for aspiring comedians. He suggests comics in need of assistance write to Jimmy Brogan in care of the club.
The benefit concerts start at 8 and 10 p.m. Wednesday at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood. Tickets are $ 15. For info on the concert or the academy, call (213) 656-1336.