You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Comedians KO cancer at punchline party

Comedy Impact Report 2012: The Power of Comedy

“I am a big proponent of laughter, and I really believe that laughter can heal,” says Noreen Fraser, founder of the Noreen Fraser Foundation and its signature charity event, Variety’s Power of Comedy show, whose third annual gala will be held Saturday night.

Honoring “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane, who lost his mother to cancer, and hosted by Joel McHale, the laff-oriented evening features standup from such comedy stars as Bill Maher and Patton Oswalt — a formula inspired by Fraser’s philosophy about the relationship between hilarity and healing.

But Fraser’s foundation is about far more than just bringing the yuks. Established in 2006 as a fundraising organization targeting breast cancer, the foundation shifted its focus to combat and raise awareness of all forms of women’s cancer after Fraser learned of the efficacy of fighting these different manifestations together. To reach its goal, the org engages in targeted funding, which it uses to enable various cancer-combating projects and also to raise awareness about the importance of early detection, enlisting men in the cause through its Men for Women Now campaign.

“If you can put it in the hands of the men to ask the women in their lives that they love to get an appointment for their mammograms, that’s a very positive way to reach people, and it’s been very successful,” Fraser says.

It all comes together at the Power of Comedy event, where stars graciously perform for a more-than-worthy cause — raising awareness about the importance of cancer detection — while reminding MacFarlane of how hilarious (and employable) they all are.

“When he asked me if I would be in ‘Ted,’ I put myself in a catapult and threw myself at his house with enthusiasm,” McHale says. “He was way too nice to be as powerful and talented as he is. And in conclusion, cancer sucks ass.”

Like McHale, Maher joined the lineup at the behest of his close friend MacFarlane, but says, “I am really doing it for the charity,” hoping a well-meaning cause doesn’t mean he has to mellow his act.

If the first two years of the benefit are any indication, unexpected and irreverent moments are likely to abound. In the inaugural event, the audience was treated to a surprise guest when Helen Mirren showed up unannounced to present honoree (and “Arthur” co-star) Russell Brand with his award. “She is beyond cool,” says Fraser, referring to the venerable Oscar winner. “So that was very, very exciting.” The next year, the comedic musical act, the Dan Band, wowed the crowd with an unexpected number about mammograms and Pap smears — living proof that Fraser’s message is best served with a smile.

Popular on Variety

More Biz

  • Barron HiltonBarron Hilton 1990

    Famed Hotelier Barron Hilton Dies at 91

    Barron Hilton, a famed hotelier who helped expand the Hilton Hotels empire and a founding owner of the Chargers NFL football team, has died, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation announced. He was 91. “Today the world of hospitality mourns for one of the greats. Barron Hilton was an incredible family man, business leader and philanthropist. [...]

  • Patrick Whitesell and Ari Emanuel WME

    Endeavor Targets Sept. 27 for Stock Debut, IPO Video Tells Company's Origin Story

    After years of preparation, Endeavor is set to make its formal Wall Street debut on Sept. 27, when its stock will begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Endeavor has targeted Sept. 26 for the final pricing of its shares. The stock will trade publicly the following day. Earlier this week, Endeavor said its [...]

  • Netflix - Apple TV

    Netflix Stock Drops After CEO Acknowledges 'Tough Competition' Coming From Disney, Apple

    Netflix shares fell as much as 7% Friday to a nine-month low, coming after CEO Reed Hastings commented that the November launches of Disney Plus and Apple TV Plus will introduce a “whole new world” of competition. Hastings, speaking at the Royal Television Society conference Friday in Cambridge, England, said, “While we’ve been competing with [...]

  • Charlie Rose Sexual Harassment

    Charlie Rose Sued for Sexual Harassment by Longtime Makeup Artist

    A makeup artist who worked for Charlie Rose for 22 years has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit, accusing the former CBS and PBS host of years of unlawful behavior toward female employees. Gina Riggi alleges that Rose was verbally abusive with her and would often make derogatory comments about her weight. She also alleges that [...]

  • Rob Stringer

    Sony Music Chief Rob Stringer on Sustaining Growth and Recovering From the 'Dark Times'

    The Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference, now in its 28th year, gives top executives at major companies the opportunity to make their case to investors — and the Goldman analysts the opportunity to keep things on the up and up. While the analysts don’t necessarily grill the executives, they don’t lob softball questions either. That was [...]

  • Frank Grillo'Avengers: Endgame' Film Premiere, Arrivals,

    Matt Phelps Tapped as President of Joe Carnahan, Frank Grillo's Warparty

    Frank Grillo and Joe Carnahan’s Warparty productikon banner has appointed Matt Phelps president of the company. Phelps will head the Los Angeles office and be responsible for overseeing all film and television projects. “We searched long and hard to find the right fit for Warparty and felt that Matt embodied everything that we were looking [...]

  • Jack Gilardi, Longtime ICM Partners Agent,

    Jack Gilardi, Longtime ICM Partners Agent, Dies at 88

    Jack Gilardi, a longtime ICM Partners agent who represented such stars as Burt Reynolds, Sylvester Stallone, Jerry Lewis, Charlton Heston and Shirley MacLaine, died Thursday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 88. Gilardi was known for his gentlemanly style, love of the Los Angeles Dodgers and his skill at representing top actors. He [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content