Comics Give Back: Comedy Central's Night of Too Many Stars

Last night, Comedy Central hosted the second Night of Too Many Stars: An Overbooked Concert for Autism Education benefit. The benefit was organized by Saturday Night Live writer and cartoonist (and hand inside Triumph the Insult Comic Dog) Robert Smigel, whose son is autistic. The funds raised will go to the advocacy group Autism Speaks.

Although there were a few awkward moments (the celebrities participating in the opening number clearly didn't have much time to rehearse, and the most awkward line possible was given to Rosie O'Donnell), the celebrities generally did a charming job of poking fun at themselves. In fact, Comedy Central managed to pull off quite a trick, staging an event that was simultaneously a fundraiser and a parody of fundraisers. (Don't believe me? Donors who coughed up $100 got an "Anonymous Donor" ski mask. Hee.)

Night of Too Many Stars may have touched on the perfect format for a benefit show. As we saw last week on Idol Gives Back, it is impossible to do one of these shows without at least one painfully awkward moment. If the show is peppered with intentional awkwardness (the White Castle guy's death grip on Tina Fey's boob comes to mind), why, nobody will even notice any actual awkwardness.

As host, Jon Stewart was more in Daily Show mode than Oscar mode, wrangling everybody from Steve Carell (via satellite) to Senator Chris Dodd. The impressive roster of celebrities was a who's who of who is funny right now, including Tina Fey, Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler, and Chris Rock, and also included surprise appearances from Larry David and Adam Sandler. David did a phone bank bit with Jack McBrayer that I'm sure anyone who's ever volunteered during a PBS pledge drive particularly enjoyed.

Maybe it's me, but it seems like Comedy Central has been on a roll lately. The Daily Show and The Colbert Report have both been at the top of their game since returning after the writers' strike. Lewis Black's new show, The Root of All Evil, which features stand-up comics in debates such as whether high school or American Idol are more evil, is hilarious. The topical, self-effacing humor that characterized the Night of Too Many Stars fits right in. An entertaining evening to benefit a good cause? What a concept! Who needs Brad Pitt, anyway?

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Amy Kane spends as much quality time with her television as possible, when she's not busy at her day job as a cube dweller.