TORONTO — Seth Rogen says it was difficult to find a happy medium between Alzheimer’s disease awareness and raunchy jokes on his new Netflix special “Hilarity for Charity.”
While skits and bits are mostly his style, the Vancouver-raised comedian wasn’t simply hoping to crack up audiences, but also raise money for a crippling neurodegenerative disease that has affected his family.
“I don’t pretend it’s not an odd balance to strike,” the actor says of filming the star-studded variety show, which debuted on the streaming service earlier this month.
“But it’s the only one we know how to attempt to strike, really, because we’re comedians.”
Rogen isn’t new to drumming up support to fight Alzheimer’s.
He and his wife Lauren Miller Rogen launched the Hilarity for Charity fundraiser six years ago after her mother was diagnosed with the disease. The organization says it has raised more than US$7.5 million since it was founded.
But the comedy showcase was never before recorded for broadcast, which meant bringing Netflix and its global audience into the loop would raise expectations.
Rogen had to find a way to balance both sides of his personality — speaking about what matters to him, while also giving plenty of space to the stoner guy viewers have grown to love in movies like “Knocked Up” and “Pineapple Express.”
“Hilarity for Charity” offers stage time for the cause. Rogen and his wife speak candidly about caring for her mother and their goal to help other families who are struggling to support their own relatives.
But every sentimental moment is answered by joke, including plenty of weed humour which starts with an entire sketch dedicated to vape-smoking members of the male anatomy.
There’s also a flurry of guests, including the Muppets as well as comedians Tiffany Haddish and Sarah Silverman who champion the cause before the night’s over.
“Once me and Lauren dug an emotional hole we had to be able to find our way out of it as well,” Rogen said.
“And that’s why you have Kermit the Frog around.”
Rogen hopes all that star power puts Alzheimer’s in the pop culture sphere where he says it needs to be.
“(We’re) hopefully making it a part of the conversation in the way it hasn’t been before, and maybe causing people to react towards it in a way they haven’t before,” he said.
“Only if the culture is dictating that it is a problem that needs to be addressed will it become a problem that is addressed.”
Early reaction on social media suggests his goals for this year’s ”Hilarity for Charity” are being accomplished, he said.
“I’ve seen an overwhelming amount of people reaching out saying they either knew nothing or now they do know something about it,” Rogen added.
“Or they have it in their lives and they thought they were alone and they had no mechanism to share their experience with people. Now they felt maybe they do.”