The biennial Night of Too Many Stars benefit, hosted by Jon Stewart and organized by Robert Smigel, has reached new heights in 2012 for Comedy Central and for raising money toward autism research.
The benefit show premieres Oct. 21, 2012, on Comedy Central, with a live phone bank taking your donations — manned by celebrities such as Fred Armisen, Ed Asner, Samantha Bee, Matthew Broderick, Andy Cohen, Dane Cook, Anderson Cooper, Bill Hader, Tom Hanks, Jason Jones, Jimmy Kimmel, Hoda Kotb, Jack McBrayer, Seth Meyers, Julianne Moore, John Oliver, Al Pacino, Bob Saget, Jerry Seinfeld, Lara Spencer, Jason Sudeikis, Kenan Thompson, Meredith Vieira, Allison Williams and Wendy Williams
But the performances, taped last weekend at the Beacon Theatre in New York City, really shone in a way they hadn’t before. Here are 12 magical moments to look out for and watch again and again, plus one moment that you should fast-forward through (if they don’t cut it from the broadcast entirely) to get to the next great set-piece. Ready to count ’em down!
1. EMOTIONAL FIREWORKS
Katy Perry singing a duet with Jodi DiPiazza on “Firework.” So. OK. This wasn’t funny in the slightest. This was, however, the most moving and most important moment of the night. Jon Stewart could barely keep it together afterward, pausing to allow everyone to catch their breaths before getting back to the comedy. DiPiazza is autistic, and yet part of her condition has blessed her with “perfect pitch,” enabling her to hear any song once and then sit down at the piano and play it.
NOTE: Of course, I’ll update this with the video as soon as it becomes available. But maybe you should set your TVs to watch it on TV this Sunday, too!
UPDATED 10/18 with video. Roll it and weep! Then donate!
2. BECOME BFFs WITH TINA FEY AND AMY POEHLER
Tina Fey and Amy Poehler could become your new best friends forever. Or at least for a night. For a price. Fey and Poehler auctioned off their friendship to help support the cause. They managed to score not one, but two bidders willing to pony up $36,000 apiece to hang out with the Baby Mama duo. Here’s a preview!
3. PEEING WITH ROGEN
I’m not sure why you’d want to time your visit to the Men’s Room to coincide with Seth Rogen’s bathroom break. But a couple of guys — business TV talking head Donny Deutsch among them — did! Rogen’s pee-break auction item attracted upward of $32,000. And with a camera crew in tow, the trip provided both intentional and unintentional laughs.
No spoilers! Did they wash their hands afterward, though? Do you? Moving on…
4. THE CABLE NEWS BLOWHARD HELIUM SUMMIT
With a theme of bringing people together, Jon Stewart introduced cable news talking heads from all three of three of the major players: Bill O’Reilly (FOX News, The O’Reilly Factor), Stewart’s frequent on-air debate partner and product plugger; Chris Matthews (MSNBC, Hardball); and John King (CNN) to moderate a debate between O’Reilly and Matthews. With one catch. They only could answer the moderator and each other after first sucking on helium balloons. For once, these guys weren’t filled only with hot air.
5. STING WILL SING YOUR NAME
The last major auction item up for bidding this year: Having a major music figure sing a song customized just for you. Turned out the major music figure was Sting. And this guy (pictured, above) was luckier than you think.
6. PRE-ORDER YOUR LOUIS CK CHRISTMAS CARD NOW
At a few points during the telecast, Stewart brought comedians out to help stoke the auction bidding. Louis CK lent a hand, and it turned out, much more when he goaded audience members into bidding for the right to meet Al Pacino and appear with him in your next holiday card. Or whatever card you want to make, really.
7. BILL BURR SILENCING THE CROWD
One of the things that sets Bill Burr apart from other stand-up comedians is his ability, willingness and even eagerness to take the opposite viewpoint from conventional wisdom and persuade audiences to come around to his way of thinking. At Night of Too Many Stars, Burr took on the mystique and legend of the late Steve Jobs and what he has done to our lives with Apple products. You’ll have to watch to see how he does. Here is a clip from Burr’s recent appearance on Conan, in which he broaches the subject.
And here Burr is during the Comedy Central telecast, wondering how nerds became so hip and popular:
8. GAYDOLF HITLER AND BULLSHIT MOUNTAIN
What are two phrases you never thought you’d hear in the same minute on television. And yet, Jon Stewart found ways to put both “Gaydolf Hitler” and “bullshit mountain” into mostly proper contexts during his monologue.
9. PAULA DEEN’s BACON NUMBER IS ONE.
Sure, nobody watching Comedy Central ever expects to see Paula Deen talking turkey there. Even if she lost some weight to improve upon her own health after advising all of us to put butter into every single thing we eat. Speaking of butter, a guy in a butter outfit seduces Deen with raunchy double and single entendres, only to be upstaged and wrestled with by a piece of broccoli. As you can see above, that butter was bacon — Kevin Bacon — and that broccoli was Liev Schreiber. Fun fact: Schreiber had a seat in the audience for the 2010 edition of Night of Too Many Stars, and his lady friend — actress Naomi Watts — ended up onstage that night during one of the auctions.
10. THE RETURN OF ZOOLANDER
Ben Stiller has talked quite a bit in the past couple of years about a Zoolander sequel or an animated series. Still no official word on that. But if it’s “blue steel” you want to see, roll the clip! The male supermodel also has a special 2013 calendar to sell you. It’s educational. It’s sex-educational!
11. GAME OF THRONES COMMENTARY: TRACY MORGAN & JB SMOOVE
Want to experience episodes of HBO’s fantasy epic, Game of Thrones, from the perspective of two wild and crazy comedians who have never seen the show before providing commentary upon it? Then Tracy Morgan and JB Smoove are your guys. For a donation of $100 to Night of Too Many Stars, you’ll receive just such a DVD. No joke. Smoove will show you a clip from the special-edition commentary DVD during the telecast.
12. CARLY RAE JEPSEN AND HARVEY KEITEL: THE SPOKEN WORD DUET
Harvey Keitel does his best William Shatner impersonation of a spoken-word “singer” when he joins Carly Rae Jepsen for a duet of her big 2012 hit, “Call Me Maybe.” But that’s not all. Keitel and Jepsen also have competing (OK, maybe not competing) dance crews backing them up. It’s bizarre and wonderful, all at the same time.
That’s a good dozen reasons to tune in on Sunday.
And one to miss: Unlucky number 13 goes to “JWOWW” and “Sammi” from MTV’s Jersey Shore, who were confronted onstage by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie* (*played by Steve Schrippa) in a sketch plagued by too much profanity and too little humor. If the comedy Gods don’t take pity on them and us by cutting this from the telecast, please be advised: You may feel free to fast-forward through this. I took some amusing photos of Jenni “JWOWW” Farley if you really want to see what she looks like this week.
Background: Since 2006, “Night of Too Many Stars” has raised over $9 million. In 2010, “Night of Too Many Stars,” through its partner organization New York Collaborates for Autism, gave more than $3.2 million in grants to 41 programs in 13 states. Autism is on the rise and now affects 1 in 88 children and 1 in 54 boys. “Night of Too Many Stars” will benefit a variety of autism schools, services and programs across the country, in support of the overabundance of individuals with autism and their families who so desperately need quality services.
Night of Too Many Stars 2012 premieres at 8 p.m. Eastern/Pacific, 7 p.m. Central, on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012, on Comedy Central.