Washington Blade - October 28, 2005
There are some topics that no one should make jokes about. AIDS,
for instance, is no laughing matter, but coordinators for the
Campaign to End AIDS, a D.C.-based organization that assists
people living with HIV/AIDS, have decided to use laughter to help
raise money for their cause.
The Late Night Players, a Boston-based comedy troupe, volunteered
to perform their improvisational act for a Campaign to End AIDS
fund-raiser on Sunday, Oct. 30, at Busboys and Poets, 2021 14th
Alex Lawson, a regular volunteer for the Campaign to End AIDS,
organized the event because he says comedy will help reduce the
persistent AIDS stigma.
"People still lower their voice when they say the word HIV or
AIDS," Lawson says. "Everyone does it. You don't do it when you
say, 'the flu.' But you do when you say, 'HIV/AIDS.' The subject
became taboo or a dirty word. You need to throw that back in
people's faces to change that."
Comedy is an approach the Campaign to End AIDS has not used
before, field organizer Kaytee Riek says.
"We've found that obviously there's no point in having a movement
unless you can have fun while you do it," she says. "We thought
it'd be a very effective way to get people to come out and
support the cause."
THE IDEA FOR a comedy show originated with the Late Night Players
themselves, whom Lawson became friends with while doing karaoke,
"They offered to do a show for me," Lawson says. "They knew I was
working with the campaign, and they're amazing, so I definitely
jumped at the offer."
The Late Night Players formed in 2000 at Brandeis University, a
Jewish school that member Andrew Slack says is also socially
conscious. Promoting social causes has been a long-term goal of
the Late Night Players, Slack says.
"We've traveled all over the country performing at colleges,
theaters and clubs," Slack says. "But what we really want to do
is use our comedy to make a difference. Basically, as we're
performing across the country and getting a fan base of
thousands, we're working to bring a sense of activism in it."
Lawson, who also works as a health educator at Whitman-Walker
Clinic, says the Late Night Players volunteered their time
because they are interested in using comedy to promote social
"The Late Night Players are a socially conscious traveling group
of comedians," Lawson says. "We spent hours solving the world's
problems over a few beers."
Slack described AIDS as one of the world's problems the group is
trying to help solve.
"AIDS is so key because it touches on so many different issues
all at once," Slack says. "Our world is in great need of healing
around the issue of AIDS. The issue needs to be addressed in a
much more intelligent and sensitive way than it is now."
THE LATE NIGHT Players has no gay members, a situation Slack
"I wish we did," Slack says. "It'd make us much more cutting
Slack's girlfriend dubbed the Late Night Players the Flaming
"We were trying to find [a label] besides metrosexual," Slack
says. "Because I'm not very clean and I don't like to shop, but I
do enjoy feelings and Barbra Streisand."
Slack says the Late Night Players customize their material for
each show, but they usually include plenty of political material
in their shows, which include skits, anagrams and, of course,
musical numbers and dance battles. No wonder they're called
The Campaign to End AIDS will use the funds raised on Sunday
night to support its Days of Action to End AIDS, a series of
events Nov. 5-8 to encourage policies that work to end the AIDS
The events will include a rally at Anacostia Park in Southeast
D.C., Riek says, rather than "a typical rally on the Mall or
Capitol, because it's a community so affected by AIDS."
Riek says many people who are attending the events will be
traveling to Washington, D.C., and don't have the income to pay
for housing and food. Sunday's events will go toward that as well
as other campaign needs.