Robin, Billy & Whoopi Bring ‘Comic Relief’ Back
First Published: November 14, 2006 8:11 AM EST Credit: AP
-- LAS VEGAS (November 13, 2006) — After an eight-year hiatus, Comic Relief, the celebrity-studded fundraising telethon for the homeless, is back.
Robin Williams, Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg will take the stage Saturday to raise funds for Hurricane Katrina victims, capping the weeklong Comedy Festival which begins Tuesday in Las Vegas.
Comic Relief founder and president Bob Zmuda said the decision to revive the telethon came after he narrowly escaped the wrath of the 2004 Asian tsunami while vacationing in Thailand.
“I got severe survivor’s guilt,” he said. He returned to Thailand to volunteer in a morgue with thousands of bodies. “It was the worst experience in my life and yet it became the best.”
After he returned to the United States, Hurricane Katrina smashed the Gulf Coast, leaving thousands homeless, and giving Comic Relief a new cause.
“We decided we had this great brand name and comedians were still willing to do it,” he said.
The show marks the ninth major telecast of Comic Relief, a 20-year-old institution which held its last major event in 1998.
This year it will bring together many top comedians, including Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, George Lopez and Sarah Silverman. Wayne Brady will host the show’s satellite location in New Orleans. It will be broadcast live from Caesars Palace on HBO and, with an eight-second delay for content, on TBS.
Much of the proceeds will go to building traditional “shotgun” houses in New Orleans’ Holy Cross area in the devastated lower Ninth Ward. The narrow, rectangular houses can be built for about $145,000 and sold to low-income families for about $110,000 by a local nonprofit group, Zmuda said.
“People have kind of forgotten. They say New Orleans is OK now. And it’s not. It’s ground zero,” Zmuda said.
While the benefit has a serious cause, the rest of the Comedy Festival week is all about yucks.
Triumph the Insult Comic Dog brings it with “Poopapalooza II,” Dane Cook performs his “Tourgasm Tour,” and a Jim Henson-inspired puppet group is to play out an adult content show, “Puppet Up.”
In one show, performers will re-enact scenes that have become wildly popular on Internet sites like YouTube, such as one in which bottles of Diet Coke explode when exposed to Mentos mints, as well as the wacky “Evolution of Dance” number, which has been viewed 35.5 million times. The re-enactments will get their own airing on sponsor site AOL.
“We’re excited about the opportunity to expose new kinds of comedy,” said Comedy Festival chief executive Bob Crestani. “It’s not just standup any more.”
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