Karmic Comedy is not a traditional comedy show. In a way.
Held at the Westside Comedy Theater in Santa Monica, the show does have racy jokes, the crowd is 21 and up and the theater serves alcohol, as most comedy clubs are wont to do. But sometimes there are bunnies on stage.
That’s because Karmic Comedy is a show entirely devoted to raising money for charities, like the PetSave Foundation, whichwas responsible for bringing those rabbits along, as they were up for adoption.
Karmic Comedy chooses a different organization or school every month and hosts a stand-up comedy fundraiser where 100 percent of the proceeds go to that organization after covering the cost of the theater and producing the show.
So far, Karmic Comedy has raised money for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society, Ride For Autism, Camp Laurel, a summer camps for kids with HIV and AIDS, Kind Campaign, an anti-bullying organization, Surfrider, Pants Off Racing, which raises money for families affected by pancreatic cancer, and for a service dog for a local resident.
Stand-up comedian Zoe Rogers, the brains behind the operation, came up with the idea for Karmic Comedy when she realized she wanted to donate money to charities, but just didn’t have the means to do so.
“I reach out to organizations that I read about and otherwise couldn’t donate to,” she said. “You know, I’m a mom and I have two kids and that’s sort of where this came from. There were so many organizations, where just watching TV commercials, you’re like, ‘I wish I could give these people all the money in the world, what they are doing is amazing. But I have two kids and I can’t do that.’ And then I had this thought that was like ‘I could raise it for them though. I could totally raise it for them.'”
In the beginning Rogers would reach out to organizations herself and tell them about the show and how it worked.
“That’s how we got our first couple of organizations,” she said. “And then after that the comics that were doing the show would say ‘Hey is there any chance you would be open to doing this?’ And they would get me in touch with [that organization]. And since then it’s been word of mouth.”
Rogers said one of the things she spends a lot of time on is picking the lineup for the show based on each organization.
“I talk to the heads of the organizations and find out what the demographic of the audience is so I can pick comics that will provide a diverse lineup, but be amusing while non-offensive. Which is a big worry. If organizations are going to put their name on something they don’t want it to be offensive.
“So I go to organizations and say, ‘If this was a movie would it be an R-rated movie? Would it be a PG-13 movie? What are you comfortable with?’ And it’s been kind of interesting because some organizations are older and more conservative. So I’ll tell comics who they are performing for, because it is good for them to know. And then some organizations, like the animal rescue, was like, ‘As long as they don’t say anything about animals, they can talk about anything you want.’ So some shows are more conservative, some shows a little crazier.”
Patrick Amato of Pants Off Racing said his organization didn’t care what topics the comedians covered and just wanted people to enjoy themselves, and learn about and raise money for their cause. Amato said he has enjoyed collaborating with Karmic Comedy, through whichPants Off Racing has done three events so far.
“It is very different,” Amato said. “It is a unique way of fundraising without really feeling like a fundraiser or a charity. You’re going to have fun. And have your friends along with you. So being able to do that takes your mind off the charity aspect. It’s entertainment, a night out. It’s nothing that you’re dressing up for. It’s just a time to goof off. And people wanna be involved.
“Because our events are usually like races and stuff like that. And if you’re not active or real sporty, this is something anyone can go to as long as they don’t mind hearing racy jokes. And as a charit,y we don’t have to prepare for it at all. Like we show up, and as long as we have the people coming we’re set. So it’s just like, ‘You just show up, bring your friends, and we’ll make you laugh.’ It doesn’t really get much better than that.”
Rogers said one of the best things about the show is seeing the audiences enjoy it.
“We’ve been lucky because since it’s a show with an audience that doesn’t typically come to see comedy shows they tend to be good audiences,” Rogers said. “The audiences are also blown away because they are able to raise money for a charity they care about without having to do a 5k or a mud run. You can come and laugh and know the proceeds go to the organization.”
Rogers is also happy to boast about Karmic Comedy’s lineup of comedians, which has included people who have been on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” “Last Comic Standing,” and write for late-night show hosts like Conan O’Brien.
One Karmic Comedy comedian, Shelagh Ratner of “Last Comic Standing” and winner of the California’s Funniest Female award, believes the show is a great opportunity for a performer like herself.
“Obviously I’m fulfilled to be paid when I do what I love,” Ratner said. “But this is more fulfilling then a really fat paycheck. And selfishly I’m happy for the exposure and people to know who I am. But this is benefiting people or animals who are less fortunate than you. ‘Oh, how cool to do a karmedy show,’ I thought. Then this one Tuesday, for PetSave, I’m super excited for and hopped at the chance, pardon the pun.”
Ratner admitted that she feels “a little selfish sometimes,” so Karmic Comedy helps.
“It’s just a really cool way to perform and get a message out. It can be incredibly powerful to convey a message. Making people aware after they were just laughing really hard,” Ratner said.
Rogers is proud of what she has accomplished with Karmic Comedy in the two years since she created the show.
“It’s honestly just a great way to learn about and support these organizations and what they do through something different,” Rogers said.
Karmic Comedy’s upcoming show to raise funds for the PetSave foundation will be held at the Westside Comedy Theater on Tuesday, Sept. 8 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20. Doors open at 7:45 p.m.