By Nancy Jones Bonbrest, Special to The Baltimore Sun
3:52 PM EDT, October 22, 2011
Baltimore celebrities will take their best shot at comedy, all in the name of giving back.
The first Chimes Charity Chuckle seeks to raise funds for the Chimes, a Baltimore-based nonprofit group that provides services for the disabled, on Oct. 29 at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.
"We're looking to provide the town with a good night out," said Marty Lampner, president and CEO of Chimes. "I think we'll have a very good time and it will be a lot of fun."
When Lampner took over as president and CEO last year, organizers decided to put a fresh face on the annual Chimes fundraising event that for the past 20 years consisted mostly of concerts or dinner-dance receptions.
"With a new president came a new beginning," said Lampner. "So with the current fiscal crisis, we thought, America needs to laugh. Something seemed fitting about that. This will provide an evening away from the bad news."
Former "Saturday Night Live" cast member Kevin Nealon will perform and serve as host for the comedy concert. Mickey Cucchiella of 98 Rock's "Mickey, Amelia & Spiegel" will offer a special performance that night as well.
Still, the real stars of the show are not comedy professionals but local celebrities taking the microphone for five-minute comedy sets. They include Rick Dempsey, an Orioles Hall of Famer; Steve Geppi, CEO of Diamond Comic Distributors; Laurie DeYoung, host of 93.1 WPOC FM's morning show; Kirby Fowler, president of the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore; and Dan Rodricks, Baltimore Sun columnist and WYPR host.
Dempsey, fondly remembered for keeping Orioles fans laughing with rain-delay performances, says getting on stage to deliver comedy is something new.
"I'm reaching out to every comic friend I have right now," he said.
In 2001, Dempsey participated in the Chimes Hall of Fame fundraising gala and had a chance to see Chimes' work firsthand.
"It's fantastic. Chimes is one of the great charities in Baltimore, there's no doubt about that," said Dempsey. "I hope people will come out to the Chimes event. We'll have a good time, that's all I can guarantee."
Fowler said finding a comedy style that worked for his personality was key. He wasn't comfortable delivering punch lines, so he opted for storytelling. He said he'd likely concentrate on the work they do at the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore — and on past dating experiences.
"Before I met my wife 20 years ago, I dated a lot and there were a lot of breakups," he said. "No breakup is ever the same. Dating provides a lot of fodder for comedy."
The local celebs will receive coaching to hone their material and fine-tune their performances.
"I was a little apprehensive, but it will be an interesting thing to take on," said Fowler. "I want to support Chimes because they do great work in the community. I should be able to come up with a few stories I can tell, and hopefully people will find them funny."
The goal for the event, which includes sponsorship opportunities and a fundraising dinner the following evening, is to raise $500,000. If successful, the Chimes Charity Chuckle could become an annual event.
Chimes is Maryland's largest nonprofit provider of services for people with disabilities, assisting more than 16,000 people with special needs.
Most people have encountered Chimes in action, says Lampner, who points to the janitorial contract it has with Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.
"We clean the airport 365 days a year with a workforce of about 80 percent disabled individuals," he said. "And I would say BWI is one of the cleanest airports in the country."
The Chimes Charity Chuckle takes place Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $45 and may be purchased at ticketmaster.com. For more information, call 410-358-7774 or go to chimes.org .
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