Seth Rogen and his wife Lauren Miller helped raise more than $400,000 to fight Alzheimer's during an evening that saw Samuel L. Jackson show his sentimental side and Rogen dance on stage with the Backstreet Boys.
The second annual Hilarity for Charity event, held at Avalon Hollywood, was personal for Rogen and Miller, whose mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's at 55. The couple hopes to bring more attention to Alzheimer's, which also afflicted two of Miller’s grandparents.
“In the 70s, things like cancer were very taboo to talk about. Now it is on the forefront of things that are getting charitable attention,” Rogen told The Hollywood Reporter. “Bringing Alzheimer's into the limelight is what we’re trying to do.”
Miller said there are a lot of misconceptions about the disease, especially among younger people.
“Young people, unless they’ve been touched by the disease, don’t really understand Alzheimer's and how it’s growing,” she said. “We want to focus on young people and their awareness of Alzheimer's.”
Researchers estimate as many 16 million Americans will suffer from the disease by 2050.
A number of stars who attended the event shared stories of loved ones who had Alzheimer's, with the evening's most poignant moment coming during a surprise appearance by Samuel L. Jackson.
The actor stayed true to his tough guy persona by insisting he wasn’t going to tell a “sad-ass story about Alzheimer's.” He went on to note his mother had died in November after suffering from the disease, as had multiple members of his family.
“So I have the potential to be one of the people you’re raising money for” Jackson told the crowd. “It’s a pretty devastating disease…but [those who have it] can also be very funny.”
Jackson recalled the hijinks that would ensue when his mother and aunt, both of whom had Alzheimer's, would come stay with him. The women would hide their purses from his maid, whom they thought was a stranger, then they’d forget where the purses were hidden. Jackson and his family would have to spend hours looking for them. The women also loved to play charades, even if they couldn’t quite grasp what they were supposed to be acting out.
"I enjoyed her life and I'm glad I had her," he said of his mother. "You're all here and you're all going to be able to do something for a lot of people."
“Stop f---ing judging because I got a DUI,” Hart told the crowd. “Reese’s was much worse than mine. She talked back to the cop. I said ‘Yes sir boss.’ I stumbled when I said it. Reese was like ‘Do you know who the f—k I am?’ I would never say that. That’s followed by a billy club,” he said.
Nick Kroll (FX’s The League) navigated tricky waters by making a joke about the Boston Marathon bombings, calling attack was an “awful, awful thing,” but opining that it will inevitably it would become a punch line, so he might as well start now.
“You know that there were like a couple Yankee fans that were like—” Kroll said, pausing to give a shrug, “—‘Curse of the bambino.’”
He added: “See that’s a joke about Yankee fans, because the Yankee fans are the Laker fans of the Cowboy fans.”
Near the end of the show, Rogen came on stage to read an email from Judd Apatow, who wrote he would match up to $15,000 in donations.
“If you don’t donate, I will keep my money and spend it on private jets and Botox for my children,” the email read. “Maude has a wrinkle between her eyes I would like to smooth out, and Iris has some crow’s feet that look terrible on 10-year-olds.
After Rogen worked the crowd into a frenzy with promises of enraging Apatow by making him pay up, Numb3rs alum David Krumholtz stepped up to make the $15,000 donation.
“He’s had a lot to drink, so I just hope this is legally binding,” Rogen said.
The Backstreet Boys closed out the evening with performances of “Larger Than Life,” “Quit Playing Games With My Heart,” and “Everybody (Backstreet's Back).” The band also treated the crowd to a preview of a new song, “Permanent Stain,” which its members claimed was inspired by a young Rogen stalking them during their 1997 Backstreet’s Back Tour.
“Seth used to hang out at all of our hotels,” A. J. McLean said. “I think it was my underwear that he stole off my bus at one point.”
Rogen joined the boy band on stage during the final chorus of “Everybody,” doing a good job aping the band's “Thriller”-inspired moves.
Other stars who performed during the evening include Mindy Kaling, Rob Riggle, Bo Burnham, Billy Eichner, Garfunkel & Oates, Ken Marino, and John Mulaney.