Fighting Cancer With Comedy

MAY 25, 2014 by admin

Tina Fey, Seth Meyers and More Come Out for a Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Benefit

May 7, 2014 10:02 p.m. ET

In the wake of the Met Ball, you’d think New York would be all fashion-ed out.

Julie Henderson and Anne V at the Salvatore Ferragamo dinner. Billy Farrell/BFA

But this week ushered in a host of high fashion parties: a dinner thrown by Burberry to celebrate Frieze; a resort show from Dior in Brooklyn; a Bonpoint store opening downtown that brought out Georgina Bloomberg, and a Salvatore Ferragamo dinner that took place on Tuesday at Casa Lever to ostensibly celebrate the launch of a new handbag (something called the Fiamma) but really celebrated the fancy family dynasties in attendance, which included the Hemingways (Mariel and Langley Fox), the Schnabels (Stella, Lola, Jacqueline) and the Ferragamos themselves.

All these get-togethers with people dressed in fancy clothes, sitting around drinking but not eating the food in front of them and talking about high fashion problems instead of real ones made us long, surprisingly, for the days of just the plain old earnest fundraiser for a good cause.

Thankfully, that came in spades at LOL With LLS, a benefit Tuesday night organized by Jennifer Rogers and her friend Niccole Kroll, who play on the same women’s basketball team.

“We didn’t win a game this season,” joked Ms. Rogers, who compared her league to the Bad News Bears, “but we crushed it with this event.”

They met in the waiting room at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in the fall of 2007. Both decided that, when they were cancer free, they’d organize a fundraiser and give back to the New York City chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society that had helped them so much. Their sold-out event raised over $500,000 in one night.

“I had my last scan in December and that’s when we really started thinking about doing something,” Ms. Rogers said.

“We originally wanted to throw a big fundraiser for our 40th birthday,” said Ms. Kroll, who started planning the party with Ms. Rogers in February.

“And now we’re 41,” said Ms. Rogers. The idea of the party, she added, was for “people to have fun but also for everyone to realize what we went through and how important it is to keep giving money to research because we wouldn’t be here without it. We wanted to make them laugh and cry.”

Georgina Bloomberg and her son, Jasper at the Bonpoint opening. Aria Isadora/BFA

Just as Ferragamo’s event emphasized family, so did Ms. Roger’s and Ms. Kroll’s. Here, Ms. Kroll enlisted the help of her brother-in-law, the comedian Nick Kroll, and Ms. Rogers, the help of her husband, “30 Rock” producer Robert Carlock. Together, they curated an evening of comedy where, read the invitation, the “Joke’s On You, Cancer!” There was even a Patron-sponsored photo booth featuring stuffed white-and-red blood cells which were so successful that some guests wound up absconding with them.

The performers at this relatively intimate night at New World Stages—the first in what Ms. Kroll and Ms. Rogers hope will become an annual fundraiser—were pretty stellar. Among them: John Mulaney who will appear in his own comedy on Fox in the coming months; Judah Friedlander of “30 Rock”; Seth Meyers, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Mr. Kroll, who served as the official MC.

Seth Meyers and Tina Fey, who both performed at the fundraiser for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Getty Images

“Any cigarette smokers in the crowd tonight?” joked Mr. Kroll, as he got the evening going on a particularly light touch.

Messrs. Mulaney, Friedlander and Meyers each did a 10-minute round of stand-up. Mr. Meyers happened to go on just after Taylor Carol—a young performer who was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 11 but is now disease-free—sang a cover of Passenger’s “Let Her Go.”

Said Mr. Kroll of Mr. Meyers, “If he bombs, he can always blame it on the fact that he followed the kid with cancer who sings beautifully.”

Ms. Fey read a short essay by Nora Ephron, who died in 2012 of acute myeloid leukemia, while Ms. Poehler did a very funny “Fabulous Baker Boys”-inspired cancer bit, accompanied by Ms. Fey’s husband, Jeff Richmond, on the piano.

Most of what Ms. Poehler sang is unprintable in any newspaper, save for “Cancer can go take a walk and sit and spin.”

After their appearances, Ms. Poehler and Ms. Fey ran up to the Apollo for Spike TV’s tribute to Don Rickles. When Ms. Fey and Ms. Poehler originally declined that network’s invitation because they had already committed to LOL With LLS, Spike TV offered to donate $100,000 to the cause, which they asked to be benchmarked for AML.

Vanessa Bayer, designer Rachel Antonoff and her brother, musician Jack Antonoff, at the LOL With LLS: Joke’s on You, Cancer! event. Getty Images

The evening ended with a performance by Bleachers, an indie pop band founded by Jack Antonoff of Fun. After a few false starts and problems with sound technology, Mr. Antonoff sang the band’s one single acoustically. Mr. Antonoff said he had originally written the song, “I Wanna Get Better,” about his problems with anxiety, but, in this context, it seemed the perfect anthem for a cancer benefit with tears, laughs and all.

Write to Marshall Heyman at

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