Is Newtown Ready to Laugh? Comedy Benefit Backers Hope So

Is Newtown Ready to Laugh? Comedy Benefit Backers Hope So

By PAT EATON-ROBB
Associated Press
In comedy, timing is everything.

Less than six months after a gunman killed 20 first-graders and six educators inside Sandy Hook Elementary School, Treehouse Comedy Productions plans to put on a show at the Edmond Town Hall in Newtown, Conn., to benefit those affected by the massacre.

The event, “Stand up for Newtown,” will be held June 7.

Treehouse founder Brad Axelrod said he has produced about a dozen shows in Newtown over the years and thought about doing a benefit immediately after the Dec. 14 shooting.

But there already were plans for concerts and theatrical productions, and athletes were making trips to visit. Those, he said, seemed more appropriate than what he had in mind.

Bob Schmidt, a Sandy Hook resident and mental health counselor, agreed. He said that time is now.

Schmidt, 67, also administers a charity fund for the local Lion’s Club’s that is raising money to help provide mental health services for victims’ families, first responders and children who witnessed the shootings at the school.

Proceeds from the show will benefit that charity and the Newtown police union. Schmidt said his group has raised about $150,000 so far and spent about $70,000 of that. They hope the show will give them a little bit more money, and perhaps a lot more publicity, so they can keep the fund going.

The show will include five comics: Peaches Rodriguez, Tommy Koenig, Joe Mulligan, Tom “The Coach” Whitley and Stephanie Peters.

Koenig, who is from the Rockaway section of Queens, said he’s done several benefits this year for Superstorm Sandy victims, and he’s found that laughter can help people affected by a tragedy release pent-up emotions. He said picking appropriate material for the show is important.

The show won’t include any jokes about guns and politics, sexual innuendo or profanity, Axelrod said.

Koenig, who does a lot of musical impressions, said his set will include a Bruce Springsteen riff and an impression of an old man in the future doing the hits of his lifetime.

Axelrod said he had planned a much bigger show at the Mohegan Sun Casino, about 90 miles away from Newtown. But arrangement to bring in headliners Kevin James and Dennis Leary fell through because of scheduling problems. He said that led them back to doing something smaller in Newtown, which, he said, might be the best thing.

The venue seats about 525 people. The first 400 tickets were given out free to town residents, including police, EMS and teachers at Sandy Hook.

The show also will include a silent auction, featuring trips to Mohegan Sun and overnight excursions to New York for tapings of the “Late Show with David Letterman” and the “Rachael Ray Show.”

Treehouse hopes to raise a few thousand dollars during the benefit. But those involved said it’s not about the money, it’s more about the funny.

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Eaton-Robb reported from Hartford, Conn.


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