Hilarity for Charity is currently streaming on Netflix and stars Seth Rogen, Tiffany Haddish, Sarah Silverman, Michelle Wolf, John Mulaney, James Corden, The Muppets, Post Malone, Nick Kroll, Kumail Nanjiani, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jeff Goldblum, Michael Che, Craig Robinson & The Nasty Delicious. Go to DonateHFC.com to help.
“A lot of thought I put into this event especially on Netflix was, you know, they literally told me the fact that it has the word charity in it makes people not wanna watch it. Basically, they’re just less inclined to watch something that’s a charity event. So, I really tried to make it try to appeal to the type of people who do not wanna watch a charity event as much as possible, basically,” Seth Rogen told us in an interview about his new “Hilarity for Charity” fundraiser event that is currently streaming on Netflix.
Consider that a success- Rogen’s variety show is nothing like any charity fundraiser show you’ve ever seen. There are Muppets, (which isn’t that surprising) and dicks everywhere, and dirty jokes everywhere. Really dirty jokes. The show opens with a sketch that has Seth smoking a vape pen through a fake uncircumcised penis, and that gets followed up with a demonstration of a string of alternate fake phalluses including a Guy Fieri dick, and a dick inspired by the “Despicable Me” Minions. And that’s just the beginning- there are so many more dick jokes and dirty references, and filthy sketches to come including an animation starring the Charity Brothers, Char and Ity, created by Rick and Morty Co-Creator Justin Roiland, that we can definitively say is unlike anything you’ve ever seen in a charity event of any kind.
The sky was the limit in terms of dirty content, Seth told us. His goal was to go as far as he could without disrespecting the cause or the people who they were looking to benefit. “We tried to, you know, as quickly as possible establish a tone that was respectful to the subject matter, but also showing that like, we’re not afraid to be irreverent and funny and silly, just because it’s about something very serious doesn’t mean we don’t know how to navigate between being incredibly kind of silly and being incredibly serious.”
Of course, you might not expect to see the Muppets in the middle of an hour of dick and balls jokes, but Seth said they were cool with all of it, as long as none of the Muppets were delivering dirty material. “Honestly, they were pretty … Like as long as their bits were not tainted by filth, they were pretty into it and enthusiastic.” A lot of work went into making sure the Muppet material was not dumb, or gross, as he put it. “It was well within the realm of what you were used to seeing them do.”
Ultimately, he says he created the show he would have wanted to see. “I really wanted the show to have all different elements. Like, I myself, love [Muppets] as much as I love a good dick joke and so, I thought if I could somehow try to bring all these things together. Things that were incredibly emotional, things that were nostalgic, things that were, again, just kind of ridiculous, things that were, you know, absurd. If I could kind of combine all that, I mean, I’m generally just working backwards from like, ‘What do I personally wanna watch?’ You know? It’s kind of the only navigation tool I have, really. And so, that was really kinda the only thing I could go on.”
Being dirty comes naturally to Seth, but it was challenging figuring out how to make the show stand out on Netflix. Hilarity for Charity has held five prior successful fundraising shows in Los Angeles, but this was to be the first that would be filmed and aired on television, and it’s not just television – it’s Netflix, and Netflix offers a lot of comedy. “There’s so much on Netflix that I really just wanted to try to do something that felt different and felt like it stood out amongst the thousands of comedy specials that are available to people,” Seth explained, saying he felt that their annual stand up show that they’ve been doing since 2012 would not have been enough to translate to an incredible Netflix viewing experience (even though they have a history of doing one of a kind shows- including throwing a Prom and a Bar Mitzvah). He said, “it would have probably felt a little bit more traditional in comparison to what you’re used to seeing on there and so, yeah, I really wanted to try to add elements to it that were outside of what you were used to seeing on a Netflix comedy special, basically.” I pointed out that one of his past events was a Bar Mitzvah, which seems pretty non-traditional. But in Rogen’s world, that’s not non-traditional enough. “Actually, it wasn’t that weird,” he said.
To put together the special, Seth and Lauren drew from comedy friends who had performed at past events. “Kumail, Sarah, Mulaney, Michelle Wolf, Michael Che, I think almost, Cohen has, Ike has done one. Almost everyone except maybe a couple people hadn’t participated in the past and then the people who hadn’t, were super enthusiastic too and were, again, just really excited to be able to use their skills for helping other people.”
Founded in 2012, Rogen started the charity with his wife Lauren Miller Rogen to raise money and awareness to help those diagnosed with the disease and their caretakers. In the past six years, they have raised over $7 million dollars and awarded hundreds of thousands of hours of in-home care to help those caring for Alzheimer’s patients.
Seth and Lauren were motivated to get involved soon after Lauren’s mother was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s, a disease that has no cure, and no treatment. She and Seth and her family stood by helplessly while they watched Lauren’s vibrant mother decline, and seeing the toll it took on their family inspired them to make the gigantic decision to raise money. And they did it through the means they knew best- comedy. At the time, Rogen said, they had no idea they how big of an impact they would have. “We just were trying to put on a comedy show,” he said speaking of their initial attempt to raise money. “It really expanded beyond what we ever thought possible and, yeah, it’s amazing. It really just shows what a void we were filling, I think in some ways. How much people kind of needed to talk about this subject that we’re not getting a chance to talk about it.”
The toll it took on the family, Lauren’s father, in particular, inspired them to want to direct 50% of the money they raise toward caregiver grants. Although Seth and Lauren can afford round the clock full time help to care for her mother, they knew that most people who have a loved one with Alzheimer’s Disease give up their entire lives to care for their family member. Many can’t even leave home to do simple tasks like buy groceries, have their own doctor visits, or go out to lunch to recharge their emotional batteries. “It’s not a luxury at all,” Seth said about in-home care. “It’s the only option they have and they spend 24 hours a day, seven days a week doing it themselves and it’s just, you know, hard to maintain that.” Since 2012, Hilarity for Charity has donated hundreds of thousands of hours of in-home care to families in need. “We saw from our own experience that the fact that we were able to afford good in-home care for Lauren’s mom was like such a game-changing element, you know? It just made everyone’s lives so much easier knowing dad could do things, and on his own from time to time if he wanted,” he said. “And so that was something that we just thought, in the moment, would be very additive to people’s lives. You know, we would work on awareness, we would give money to research and funding research, but grants for in-home care is like the most immediate thing that we can do.”
A second arm of HFC is dedicated to educating young people about the disease. One annual event challenges colleges to hold competing fundraisers with the winning school getting a very special visit from Rogen. Colleges all over the country now have chapters that help raise money and awareness to “Kick ALZ in the BALLZ.” Seth explained that they wanted to focus on areas that were not being served by other charitable organizations. “We just saw that younger people were not being exposed to any relevant information about dementia or Alzheimer’s like in any way, shape or form- And although there’s other Alzheimer’s organizations out there, they weren’t really targeting younger people because younger people don’t, honestly, have the means to contribute millions and millions and millions of dollars to your charity. So, there’s something that’s slightly counter-intuitive about targeting those people with the charity, but to us it was a good strategy. ”