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GUEST COLUMN ‌ I Make Balls and I Make Jokes

Laughter (and money) are the best charities

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I make balls and I make jokes. It's all I want to do.

I have set it up so that should I succeed at making balls or jokes professionally, the money goes to people in much greater need of money than myself. It's no great sacrifice because I live simply and I really like making balls and jokes.

The ball-making for charity thing came to me almost three years ago. This was after five years of making balls profitably with all proceeds going directly to me. Since then, we have lost a touch of our very nice Billionaire Investor's money.

The good news is that after almost three years of work, we have convinced the Boy Scouts of America to sell basketballs and soccer balls with us for charity. These balls have the Fireball Sports name, the Wilson Sporting Goods name, and the Boy Scout or Cub Scout logo all over the ball. I sure hope the balls sell because the children could certainly use the help. And I want to keep making balls.

On the comedy front, I decided nearly three years ago that I would use my background as a national touring comedian and comedy writer in L.A. to create a TV comedy event that would raise funds for AIDS orphans. We decided to call it The Hope for Children Concert which eventually became Stand-Up for the Children.

The timing seemed perfect for Stand-Up for the Children. A large part of the money raised would go to a group of orphans in Ethiopia who had lost both parents to AIDS. About half these children were HIV-positive, and their caretakers could not afford the drugs to save them.

In my younger days, I worked on the road as a comedian and wrote for people like Jay Leno, Tim Allen, Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Maher, Dennis Miller, Rosanne, Jeff Foxworthy and a bunch more. I'd never "hit" on them for any favor. And I thought if we sold this project to TV, all these guys that have made many millions from comedy would be delighted to participate.

Foxworthy lent me his name first as a performer. I traveled out to L.A. and convinced a dear friend, Jimmy Miller, who is the personal manager of Will Farrell and Jim Carrey, among others, to help me.

I signed on a great writer/producer, Jimmy Brogan, who for many years was the head writer on The Tonight Show and is Jay Leno's best friend. Brogan is also quite close with Seinfeld and a number of other top comedians. In fairly quick order, we were able to sign up more artists whom I "accidentally" bumped into — Allen, Drew Carey, Kevin Nealon. I "sold" the rights to this program for no money to a television group, High Five Television, who then sold the program to A&E. Producers were hired and signed on more artists like Wanda Sykes, Margaret Cho, Alanis Morissette, and others to do funny film pieces or perform.

The network and production group and others estimated that this one night would bring in $1-$4 million. We were set to film on March 28 and air April 9, 2005. We had a couple people back out, like Foxworthy and Allen.

This was about the time that the worldwide tsunami had hit and we were hearing phrases like "donor fatigue." Certainly the dying children would understand.

The network said that if we did not sign a few big names quickly, they would cancel our program. I went back to my friends, who tapped their "big name" contacts and clients, but nobody could be secured.

So, last April, having been abandoned by both the TV production group, talent producers, and network, I did what any rational person would do. We started our own 501(c)3 nonprofit TV and production group, Orphan Productions, to oversee the planning and filming of Stand-Up for the Children.

We're working with many of the same writers, producers, and corporations that offered to donate products to our homes of children worldwide. We work with the internationally recognized charity AmeriCares to oversee the monies that are raised. Last year, AmeriCares delivered over $700 million in aid worldwide.

People wonder what I do all day? I make balls and I make jokes. It's all I want to do. I sure hope it gets more successful. There are people that need the success.

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