Seth Ro­gen pairs Alzheimer’s dis­ease with his com­edy spe­cial

The Niagara Falls Review - - Arts & Life - DAVID FRIEND

TORONTO — Seth Ro­gen says it was dif­fi­cult to find a happy medium be­tween Alzheimer’s dis­ease aware­ness and raunchy jokes on his new Net­flix spe­cial “Hi­lar­ity for Char­ity.”

While skits and bits are mostly his style, the Van­cou­ver-raised co­me­dian wasn’t sim­ply hop­ing to crack up au­di­ences, but also raise money for a crip­pling neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­ease that has af­fected his fam­ily.

“I don’t pre­tend it’s not an odd bal­ance to strike,” the ac­tor says of film­ing the star-stud­ded va­ri­ety show, which de­buted on the stream­ing ser­vice ear­lier this month.

“But it’s the only one we know how to at­tempt to strike, re­ally, be­cause we’re co­me­di­ans.”

Ro­gen isn’t new to drum­ming up sup­port to fight Alzheimer’s.

He and his wife Lau­ren Miller Ro­gen launched the Hi­lar­ity for Char­ity fundraiser six years ago af­ter her mother was di­ag­nosed with the dis­ease. The or­ga­ni­za­tion says it has raised more than US$7.5 mil­lion since it was founded.

But the com­edy show­case was never be­fore recorded for broad­cast, which meant bring­ing Net­flix and its global au­di­ence into the loop would raise ex­pec­ta­tions. Ro­gen had to find a way to bal­ance both sides of his per­son­al­ity — speak­ing about what mat­ters to him, while also giv­ing plenty of space to the stoner guy view­ers have grown to love in movies like “Knocked Up” and “Pineap­ple Ex­press.”

“Hi­lar­ity for Char­ity” of­fers stage time for the cause. Ro­gen and his wife speak can­didly about car­ing for her mother and their goal to help other fam­i­lies who are strug­gling to sup­port their own rel­a­tives.

But ev­ery sen­ti­men­tal mo­ment is an­swered by joke, in­clud­ing plenty of weed hu­mour, which starts with an en­tire sketch ded­i­cated to vape-smok­ing mem­bers of the male anatomy.

There’s also a flurry of guests, in­clud­ing the Muppets as well as co­me­di­ans Tif­fany Had­dish and Sarah Sil­ver­man who cham­pion the cause be­fore the night’s over.

“Once me and Lau­ren dug an emo­tional hole we had to be able to find our way out of it as well,” Ro­gen said. “And that’s why you have Ker­mit the Frog around.”

Ro­gen hopes all that star power puts Alzheimer’s in the pop cul­ture sphere where he says it needs to be.

“(We’re) hope­fully mak­ing it a part of the con­ver­sa­tion in the way it hasn’t been be­fore, and maybe caus­ing peo­ple to re­act to­ward it in a way they haven’t be­fore,” he said. “Only if the cul­ture is dic­tat­ing that it is a prob­lem that needs to be ad­dressed will it be­come a prob­lem that is ad­dressed.”

Early re­ac­tion on so­cial me­dia sug­gests his goals for this year’s “Hi­lar­ity for Char­ity” are be­ing ac­com­plished, he said.

“I’ve seen an over­whelm­ing amount of peo­ple reach­ing out say­ing they ei­ther knew noth­ing or now they do know some­thing about it,” Ro­gen added. “Or they have it in their lives and they thought they were alone and they had no mech­a­nism to share their ex­pe­ri­ence with peo­ple. Now they felt maybe they do.”


Seth Ro­gen’s Net­flix show, “Hi­lar­ity for Char­ity,” uses hu­mour to raise money for Alzheimer’s dis­ease.

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