Paul Klebnikov Fund Benefit: Laughter & Chains: Is Russia Funny?

The culmination of months of work, the Paul Klebnikov Fund benefit at Carolines on Broadway, “Laughter and Chains: Is Russia Funny?” was a huge success in terms of content, commitment and joy.  Whatever money was raised is of course, paramount, but it would be hard to find someone unhappy with the event itself.

The venue: Carolines (sic) on Broadway, 1626 Broadway, between 49-50th Streets, has a large triangular shaped bar area.  N.B. the space is down two very steep flights of stairs.
Disability access is through an elevator of 7th Avenue.

Ellen, from the to be opened Moscow 57 restaurant (a successor to the Russian Tea Room), created beautiful hors d’oeuvre spreads with warm Georgian hearth breads, sprigs of camomile, and dill, dates, walnuts, dried apricots and delicious feta. Black bread and pumpernickel slices slathered with cinnamon-infused eggplant dip, marinated mushroom, red bean salad.

The efficient, welcoming staff at Caroline’s served drinks from the open bar, and walked throughout the crowded room with small plates of hors d’oevres: apricots covered with walnuts and cream, cucumbers topped with dill cheese, beets, red caviar; little dumplings.  Others came through pouring endless shots of  vodka.

After about an hour, the attendees wandered into the large triangular shaped comedy room, seated at tables from 2 to 8 people.

John Hockenberry was an absolutely masterful emcee:  It turns out he was reporting from Russia during the fall of Yeltsin and joked about the difficulties of getting around Moscow in a wheelchair — the very thing that made me think of him when I learned that Katya had reported on such problems for the disabled.

Jeff Kreisler also had a Russia connection: he’d studied the country as an undergraduate at Princeton. He went on to law school before discovering his great passion — comedic takes on politics and even financial news.

Aasif Mandvi joked that, since 9/11, Arabs had become the new villains (replacing Russians from the Cold War).

Joe Garden of the Onion displayed some of his magazine’s great satirical articles and talked about the importance of satire and politics.

If anything, I’d say the event was too short.  And that’s a good thing.

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