“I have every possible comedian here,” Joy Behar pointed out. “If we’re not funny tonight, just shoot us all.”
That, of course, would be a gross overreaction to Friday’s Comics With Benefits program at 9 p.m. on Current TV. It stars The View’s Behar, who hosts her own talk show on the low-rated, left-leaning cable network partly owned by Al Gore, plus a dozen other stand-up comics raising money for the victims of Hurricane Sandy.
“I hope people will be able to find the channel,” Behar told me at New York’s 92nd Street Y, where Larry David, Colin Quinn, Darrell Hammond, and Susie Essman among other jokesters—along with former New York governor Eliot Spitzer, another Current personality, and Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider—showed up the other night to do shtick for charity. “The line I usually use is it’s like the G spot,” Behar added. “It’s hard to find, but when you do, it’s fabulous.”
When all is said and done, the evening’s entertainment was, as Larry David might say, pret-ty, pret-ty good. I’m guessing that the edited version will be even sharper and funnier. And briefer. Y’all can decide for yourselves.
In the meantime, here are a few highlights of some backstage conversations before the curtain went up:
Quinn shared his sardonic take on the suicide of the London nurse after being prank-called by Australian DJs pretending to be Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles: “I don’t hold DJs responsible. I hold Australians responsible.”
More seriously, Behar tackled the same subject: “It was a really stupid prank, and the radio station had no business telling them it was OK to record that and to broadcast that. But I think the woman was troubled, too.”
On the subject of tragedy and comedy, New Yorker satirist Andy Borowitz said: “It’s too early to make jokes about Sandy. I never make fun of tragedy. Well, I did make fun of the Romney campaign.” Hammond assessed Sandy’s impact: “The only effect it had on me was that I had a paperback released and had about 12 interviews that were canceled. In retrospect, to keep it in perspective, that’s not much compared to losing your home ... They say tragedy plus time equals comedy. It’s not striking me as funny yet.”
Spitzer, Current TV’s 8 p.m. host, fielded my question about how is it possible that a tough-talking, often tactless big-state governor, widely considered obnoxious, has a 70 percent public-approval rating.“Are you talking about me when I was popular?” Actually no. But he knew I was asking about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. “Look, I gave up a long time ago trying to figure out how popularity ratings reacted to a substantive job,” Spitzer said. “I disagree with Governor Christie on some fundamental issues ... He seems to have come through the storm pretty well and generated public support. I liked his bear hug of President Obama—and I’m glad the president survived it.”
Would Spitzer like to see Christie run for the Republican nomination in 2016?
“I would like to see him,” Spitzer answered with a pause, “run.”
The irony of appearing on Gore’s cable network was not lost on Snider, who more than two decades ago was hauled before a Senate hearing on the dangerous influence of subversive rock music on America’s youth, then-senator Gore’s wife Tipper’s pet cause, and Gore gave him a hard time. “I would really love to meet him again all these years later,” Snider said. “I’d like to point out that I’m still married and none of my kids have been arrested for possession.”