Noreen Fraser, TV Producer, Crusader in Fight Against Cancer, Dies at 63

Doreen Fraser Dead
Getty Images for Variety

Noreen Fraser, a producer of television shows including “Entertainment Tonight,” ABC’s “Home Show,” and “The Richard Simmons Show” who devoted her life to raising money for cancer research, died on Monday in her Brentwood, California, home, surrounded by family, after a 16-year battle with stage IV metastatic breast cancer. She was 63.

Fraser founded the Noreen Fraser Foundation in 2006 — its goal is to raise funds for translational research into women’s cancers, bringing treatments to patients more quickly — and was co-creator and co-producer of the “Stand Up to Cancer” telethon that aired in 2008. The telethons became an annual affair.

Fraser was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001. She volunteered her time producing and directing short films focusing on cancer issues. As president and CEO of the Fraser Foundation, she summed up her commitment in a message on the NFF website in which she declared, “I have made cancer my business.”

The first “Stand Up to Cancer” program aired on ABC, NBC, and CBS and in more than 170 countries on Sept. 5, 2008. The second aired on Sept. 10, 2010, not only on the three major broadcast networks but on a number of cable networks as well.

Noreen Fraser with Aziz Ansari at Power of Comedy 2014. Getty Images for Variety

In addition to Stand Up to Cancer, a program established by the Entertainment Industry Foundation and led by showbiz figures, including Fraser, affected by cancer, the Fraser Foundation’s fund-raising campaigns include Men for Women Now, which urges men to encourage the women in their lives to schedule appointments for a mammogram and a Pap smear.

Fraser knew she wanted to use comedy to help increase cancer awareness — and to distinguish her foundation from other organizations — and in 2009, she convinced comedian Jack Black to record a humorous video as part of the Men for Women Now effort. Zach Galifianakis, Jason Segel, Neil Patrick Harris, Ryan Seacrest, the Dan Band, and Arnold Schwarzenegger were among other celebrities who joined the cause.

In 2016, in order to accelerate her commitment to advancing research, Fraser directed all of the foundation’s assets to UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center establishing the Noreen Fraser Fund for Women’s Cancer Research.

Variety learned about the Noreen Fraser Foundation from an article on Segel in which he “talked about about what an incredible organization she led in the fight against women’s cancer and how the organization used comedy to bring attention to a very serious matter,” Variety publisher Michelle Sobrino-Stearns said.

Noreen Fraser with Will Arnett and Amy Poehler at Power of Comedy 2011. Photo by Angela Weiss

When Variety threw its inaugural Power of Comedy event, honoring Russell Brand for his efforts in favor of the NFF, in November 2010, the funds raised benefited Fraser’s foundation. The second Power of Comedy event, held Nov. 19, 2011, and honoring comedian Amy Poehler, also benefited the NFF, as did 2014’s event honoring Aziz Ansari and attended by Fraser.

“The foundation has always been about using laughter to boost the immune system,” she said at the 2014 event. “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.”

Fraser is survived by her children Madeline and Mack; husband Woody Fraser; her mother and father, Jackie and Fred Friend; and siblings Colleen, Buzz, Cooper, Laura, Lucy, Billy, Bridget and Patrick.