Toeing the line between comedy and dignity was the theme of the evening at nonprofit global health organization Jhpiego’s “Laughter Is the Best Medicine” event at the Beverly Wilshire honoring newly appointed Paramount Pictures CEO Jim Gianopulos and his wife, Ann, for their work to benefit women.
Al Madrigal and Jamie Denbo performed stand-up sets, while Tom Papa served as emcee for the evening. Denbo reprised her profanity-laden role as Beth from “The Heat,” while Madrigal brought down the house when he accidentally revealed to the children in the audience that both the tooth fairy and Santa Claus aren’t real.
While the theme of the night was ostensibly comedy, the nature of Jhpiego’s work – to prevent women’s mortality due to childbirth in developing countries – injected a sobering note into the evening. Lastina Lwatula, a nurse midwife from Zambia who is also a Jhpiego nursing educator, shared stories of educating nurses in Tanzania, emphasizing that home births – a trendy choice here in the United States – can be a death sentence in Africa. Fortunately, Jhpiego works to improve access to medical facilities and trains medical staff to respond when women are brought in post-home birth.
Melina Kanakaredes, “Guiding Light” and “CSI: NY” actress who is a close friend of the Gianopulos family, presented the Elyse Bila Ouedraogo Award to the couple and said that Ann and Jim’s values and goals are very similar to those of Dr. Theodore M. King, who founded the organization 40 years ago.
“When you know something, you spread knowledge. When you’ve accomplished certain goals, you go after new ones. And when you’ve done well in life, you give back. That’s Ann and Jim,” she said in her presentation speech.
President Donald Trump’s proposed foreign aid cuts were also not without mention Monday evening. Both Dr. Howard Mandel, Chairman of the International Advisory Board and prominent Los Angeles ob-gyn, and Jhpiego CEO Leslie Mancuso felt the proposed cuts could hinder the progress of the org.
“Our annual budget is $385 million, and $140 million of that comes from USAID. So if the Trump cuts come through, we’re on the chopping block of some place within $100 million every year up to $120 million every year. That’s a big level,” Mandel said.
The evening also saw several stars in attendance, including Vin Diesel who wore an “I Am Groot”-emblazoned green leather jacket, Dean Cain of “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman,” the cast of TV Land’s “Teachers,” as well as Kyle Richards of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” and actress Mena Suvari.