Comic Relief
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Comic Relief

Local comedians trade laughs for dollars in a week of Haiti relief fundraising. Illustration by Jeremy Kai/Torontoist.

Only a few months after a local comedian undertook a fundraising dare for a high-profile charity, he’s at it again—only this time, on a much larger scale.

Pat Thornton raised over five thousand dollars for the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Dare to Remember campaign by doing twenty-four hours of stand-up comedy, much more than his two-thousand-dollar goal. Throughout next week, he and Comedy Bar owner Gary Rideout Jr. are hoping to achieve even bigger fundraising goals for the International Committee of the Red Cross, currently stationed to provide medical aid and relief to the victims of the Haiti devastation. “It was a city of comedians that made the Stephen Lewis Foundation thing happen; I was just the face of it. I will say that was an impetus for sure. It made it seem possible to reach people and make them give you money. But the main impetus [for this one] was Boyd.”
Well-known Canadian comedian Boyd Banks called Thornton to see if the Comedy Bar was interested in partnering with other venues around the city for some fundraising shows, and from there, it snowballed in a matter of days. “It came together easy enough. It started as Boyd’s idea. He called me because he had already lined up Joanna Downey‘s rooms, Eton House and Spirits, and was organizing a benefit show at Clandestiny. He was wondering if Comedy Bar wanted to get involved. I knew if I got Gary involved, between us we could make this happen on a much larger scale.” Rideout says that, as predicted, the response was immediate and overwhelming. “Pat brought up with me what Boyd had suggested and I spent the night thinking about how I could expand the idea. I started out thinking about having it all happen one night and got in touch with other comics who, like Pat and I, produce their shows on Sunday nights. Pat obviously was thinking about it too because by the next day we were calling each other with all the people we had been able to get involved. It was clear one night wasn’t going to be enough.”

Poster by Kurt Firla.

Starting on Sunday, January 24, and running at multiple venues every night until Sunday, January 31, comedy productions from the smallest cult shows to the biggest tourist attraction numbers will be handing over fistfuls of admission dollars to a cause that was instantly a part of the global conscience. [UPDATE, 2:40 p.m.: Organizers have now learned that the Canadian International Development Agency won’t, for technical reasons, be matching donations made to the ICRC, but will be matching donations to the Canadian Red Cross. In an effort to raise as much as possible for the people of Haiti, all money raised will therefore now be going to the Canadian Red Cross.] “Klaus [Schuller, executive director] at Second City told me that he was planning a similar project, too, so he came on board and offered all of Second City’s resources. Nobody was hard to convince. It’s an easy cause to get behind,” Thornton says. Rideout adds, “Kurt Firla offered his design services to put a poster together, and Paul Snepsts from Toronto Sketchfest has offered to quickly put a website together. This thing has expanded so quickly and I imagine more shows will donate when they find out about it.”
For full event and venue details, visit the Toronto Comedy Week for Haiti website.