When Variety first approached Noreen Fraser, founder of her self-named foundation, to partner in creating an impact list and event similar to the Power of Women and Power of Youth events, the initial suggestion was to plan a daytime affair.
“I came in for a meeting and they asked me to do a luncheon,” says Fraser, who has been living with metastatic breast cancer since 2003 and created the philanthropic org to fund research for women’s cancers. “I said, ‘The comedians that I work with will not show up for lunch. The only way to do something with comedy is when it’s dark and there’s alcohol!’ ”
Five years later, Variety’s annual Power of Comedy function, presented by TBS, continues to make its mark as not only a celeb-studded soiree that draws endless laughs and droves of A-list talent, but also as a significant fundraising event that raises money for a vital cause, specifically to research less toxic and more precise types of drugs and chemotherapy that will turn cancer into, per Fraser, “a manageable disease.”
“Because of Variety we’ve really been able to see a difference in the outcome of those people who are dealing with this illness and we are very grateful that they have chosen us to partner with,” says Fraser, who also co-created and co-produced the 2008 Stand Up to Cancer TV special that ran on CBS, ABC and NBC and raised over $100 million. “Every year the event has gotten bigger and bigger. It’s the greatest night every year.”
This year’s event, to be held on Dec. 11 at L.A.’s Belasco Theater, promises to be no less spectacular, with over 400 guests expected to attend and a slate of performers that includes Power of Comedy honoree Aziz Ansari, plus Tig Notaro, Jerrod Carmichael, Moshe Kasher and Nick Kroll.
“The foundation has always been about using laughter to boost the immune system,” says Fraser, who posts funny bits with celebrities on her website, including one in which Jack Black gets a mammogram. “It’s about different people doing funny things. And at the end, the payoff is always the same: please go make an appointment for your mammogram and pap smear.”
“We are thrilled to host the 5th annual Variety Power of Comedy event, an evening dedicated to raising money and awareness for the Noreen Fraser Foundation. This year’s featured talent is truly outstanding,” says Variety publisher Michelle Sobrino-Stearns. “We are fortunate to have an amazing group of performers join us in honoring Aziz Ansari. The Power of Comedy is one of the funniest events in the entertainment industry, and Variety is particularly grateful to TBS, our presenting sponsor, for making it possible.”
For Fraser, the Power of Comedy event provides her and others with hope that someday there will be a cure.
“When I was diagnosed I was given a maximum of three years to live,” says Fraser, who has outlived her bleak prognosis by well over a decade. “There are so many types of cancer and they cannot be treated the same. But we’ve made AIDS manageable, and I believe we can do the same for cancer. If they did it, we can do it too.”