Penn students laughed cheerfully from jokes in order to solve a grim problem Wednesday night.
Penn Hillel, collaborating with organizations including the Biological Basis of Behavior Society and the Panhellenic Council, organized a comedy night at the Inn at Penn to raise money for research for Parkinson’s disease. Acts of the night included Penn performance groups who all opened for comedian and television personality Evan Wecksell.
Through admission and raffle ticket sales, Hillel was able to raise almost $2,000 for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, according to College senior Rebecca Freedman, Hillel’s social and cultural chairwoman, who organized the event. For Freedman, Parkinson’s is a personal issue, as her grandmother has the disease.
While treatments exist for the disease — which impairs motor functions due to a lack of the neurotransmitter dopamine — they are simply treating symptons, not actually curing the underlying causes of Parkinson’s. The night opened up with a sobering video from the Michael J. Fox Foundation about the personal stories of those with Parkinson’s, and the social stigma and subsequent “embarrassment of going public with Parkinson’s.”
Kelli Payne, a representative from the foundation, informed Penn students about the reality of Parkinson’s and how “everyone will know someone with Parkinson’s.”
The evening soon lightened up with a performance by musical comedy group Mask & Wig, followed by stand-up comedy group Simply Chaos and a renditon Justin Bieber’s “Baby” by the Pennchants.
Afterwards, the main act of the night, Wecksell, took to the stage. Wecksell is a traveling comedian and musician, visiting colleges around the country, and has appeared on VH1 and Comedy Central.
His comedy focused in on the more humorous aspects of college life. After singing a personal song about college shut-ins, he made a list of his top 10 things about Penn, such as the Penn Quidditch team. He had all the audience laughing after drawing comparisons between himself and his hero, Miley Cyrus.
College senior Cary Kraft said that he found the show “really funny” and that “it was great that so many different groups could come together for a good cause.”
Over 75 people registered for the show and the stage room at the Inn at Penn was almost packed. Because of the success, Freedman says that she can see “the event happening next year” and becoming annual.
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