The Stars Aligned for a Good Cause

by Eleanor Laurence


Over the course of the evening, Abbi Jacobson FaceTimed with Ilana Glazer while on stage, Adam Sandler sang of young love (and its gradual decline), and Jon Stewart battled Stephen Colbert and John Oliver for hosting privileges. These antics were in service of Night of Too Many Stars, the live benefit raising funds for NEXT for Autism.

The energy offstage was equally raucous. As stars arrived at The Theater at Madison Square Garden, they stopped at an area filled with star-shaped balloons to pose for boomerangs, before making their way to the green room to await the start of show.

“I always lead with funny, anytime I can. But I enjoy making a good point every once and awhile, even with a filthy puppet,” said Robert Smigel, the comedic mind behind the benefit, referencing his iconic bit with a dog named Triumph. His words summed up the mission of the night — comedians putting their talent to work in the service of a cause.

Before going onstage to reveal the plot of Star Wars IX to one lucky bidder, director J.J. Abrams spoke of the power of comedy in the civic space: “The beautiful thing about comedy is it’s essentially reflexive,” said Abrams. “When there is something that makes you and a group of people laugh, it transcends all differences. It’s one of the reasons why tonight is so special.”

In the landscape of autism nonprofits, NEXT for Autism’s services are unique. “NEXT for Autism helps build community services, and that helps people with autism have full and better lives,” explained co-founder Michelle Smigel.

Said Ilene Lainer, “Many organizations do very worthy work in the area of medical research cause and cures, or awareness or advocacy. NEXT for Autism works with services for people living with autism right now.”

“There are blessings attached to situations like this,” said Smigel. “And one of the things is getting to meet people at their best and see the best in people.”

What was said about comedy, the evening, and the snacks backstage.

Ellie Kemper

Thoughts on comedy? Comedy is best when it’s kind.

The green room better be stocked with… I was hoping to find some Kind bars in the green room. And guess what? I may have already peeked. They’re there.

The great thing about the night is… When everyone can laugh together, I know it sounds trite, but I think it’s a healing experience. You can confront truths or reality that you might be afraid to in another context.

Hasan Minhaj

Thoughts on comedy? Comedy is the most direct way to communicate something. It’s the least visually sexy, but the most direct.

The green room better be stocked with… I’m a simple guy. I’m hoping for a banana, some nuts and hot water with lemons. I did once find a green room that had its own barista with a goatee and an old fashioned espresso machine.

J.J. Abrams

Thoughts on comedy? Different people find different things funny, but comedy generally speaking brings people together.

The green room better be stocked with… I’m looking forward to a little bit of water. I’d be thrilled with some water. Anything that would increase the H2O content in my body. That would be good. And also, I’d be thrilled with literally one M&M.