It takes a commitment to pull off a star-packed comedy benefit show that has raised $18 million and counting for autism-related education and support programs since 2003.
Simply put, Rudd bared his soul and other bodily cavities for the sake of the cause, namely raising money for the New York Collaborates for Autism org. Using a “Wheel of Fortune”-style spinning wheel dubbed “Wheel of Rudd,” the actor invited audience members to spin for the chance to do something to him.
One gave him a slap, one landed on “Travolta face-touching,” a reference to last Sunday’s Oscar telecast, and one landed on “baby bird,” which involved an audience member chewing up a few bites of a Zabar’s roasted chicken and transferring it to Rudd’s mouth, well, baby-bird style. Finally, Stewart pulled rank to ensure that the wheel landed on the “See Penis” wedge. With his back to the audience, after the band members put on blindfolds, Rudd made good on his promise in view of the contestant while Stewart doubled over with laughter.
“Night of Too Many Stars,” which will air as a two-hour telethon on March 8, had plenty of other weird and wonderful moments as it put a surreal and interactive twist on the standard celebrity charity auction format.
Stewart got a few zingers in early by telling the crowd, “I know it’s going to be a great show because Bill O’Reilly and Brian Williams told me it’s a great show.” He also noted that the comedy talent lined up to appear could only be found in one place via the Internet — “on the list of everyone who should replace me on ‘The Daily Show.’ ” (His choice: Benedict Cumberbatch.)
John Oliver auctioned off the opportunity to go out and commit a crime with him. Cameras then followed him and the woman who bid $28,000 for the experience as they went to the liquor store next door and nicked a few bottles of wine and rounds of cheese.
Louis C.K. auctioned off the opportunity to be immediately escorted by him to Times Square in order to take a bow with the cast members of “It’s Only a Play” at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater. Cameras followed that excursion too.
Chris Rock auctioned off the opportunity for him to “sell out” by doing an on the spot commercial for any product of the bidder’s choosing. Fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger ponied up $35,000 to have Rock endorse his underwear line. “The reason I wear Tommy Hilfiger underwear is because it makes your dick bigger,” Rock said, with gusto.
Sarah Silverman and Steve Buscemi also auctioned off suitably strange opportunities. Maya Rudolph, Amy Schumer, Jim Gaffigan, Bill Burr, Steve Carell, Al Roker, Gilbert Gottfried and Bill Nye made appearances. Jon Bon Jovi performed an acoustic version of “Wanted Dead or Alive” with backing vocals from Roker, Gottfried, Will Forte and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. Triumph’s creator, writer-producer Robert Smigel and his wife, Michelle, were the catalysts for the fundraiser in 2003 after their son was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum and they struggled to find treatment options for him.
“My son doesn’t speak much,” Smigel told the crowd, “but he is as whole and as beautiful a person as anybody I know.”
The show-stopping musical number was a rave-up of “Yoda,” a parody of the Kinks’ “Lola,” as performed by Weird Al Yankovic and Jodi DiPiazza, a teenager on the spectrum.
The after-party at the American Museum of Natural History was packed with donors, comics and Comedy Central brass including prexy Michele Ganeless and Doug Herzog, newly promoted to head Viacom’s Music and Entertainment Group. Rudd in particular was getting handshakes and slaps on the back until well past midnight.