When is too much just the right amount?
Comedy Central hopes it’s got the winning number for “Night of Too Many Stars: An Overbooked Concert for Autism Education.”
Airing tonight at 9, the third biennial broadcast will consist of a gala concert taped earlier this month at New York’s Beacon Theatre, along with live cut-ins from Los Angeles, where a star-studded phone bank will receive viewers’ contributions.
George Clooney, Tom Hanks, Betty White, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel, Bryan Cranston, Lauren Graham, Jim Parsons, Sofia Vergara and Weird Al Yankovic are among the celebrities booked to take calls.
The New York shindig will boast such names as Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey, Sarah Silverman, Jimmy Fallon, Tracy Morgan, Joel McHale, Jim Gaffigan, John Oliver, Ricky Gervais, Lewis Black, Chris Rock and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.
Among the night’s silliness:
• Colbert and Carell headline a song-and-dance number (including sexy flight attendants and someone in a goose costume) that pays tribute to heroic U.S. Airways pilot “Sully” Sullenberger.
• Morgan and Rock eviscerate the tender ballad “Scarborough Fair” until its writer, Paul Simon, arrives to straighten them out.
• And Silverman, in her comic persona as the world’s most winsome narcissist, accepts the self-created Legends of Autism Award, rejecting such candidates as former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and former President Jimmy Carter.
“I wish they could give five of these away,” she says, breathlessly clutching her trophy, “so each of my bathrooms could have one.”
But its underlying purpose is no joke, as host Jon Stewart wastes no time reminding everyone.
After greeting the audience with a bedbug gag, he turns serious, stating that one of every 110 kids is diagnosed as autistic.
“Tonight isn’t about curing autism or fighting it,” Stewart says. “Tonight is about helping people that live with it now.”
That includes “Triumph” creator Robert Smigel, whose 12-year-old son, Daniel, is autistic. “Night of Too Many Stars” arose from the difficulty Daniel’s parents had in finding him the right educational resources.
A few years ago, they joined with other parents to start their own school in New York. It required fundraising efforts. So did other educational programs nationwide.
Smigel, who is held in great affection among the hip comic mafia, received increasing support from fellow entertainers – and from Stewart early on.
“He has shepherded this whole thing,” Smigel said. “It’s not like it would happen and get the same attention if I didn’t have one of the superstars of comedy at the helm of it.”