Garden of Laughs returns with comedy's biggest stars to raise money for charity

Joelle Garguilo Image
Thursday, March 28, 2024
Garden of Laughs returns with comedy's biggest stars for charity
Joelle Garguilo has more on Madison Square Garden's comedy event, Garden of Lights.

MANHATTAN (WABC) -- Mark your calendars, the "Garden of Laughs" all-star-comedy benefit is back and is returning to the Theater at Madison Square Garden for the first time since the pandemic.

They're bringing out some heavyweights for this one like Tracy Morgan, Jon Stewart, Bill Burr, and more.

Entertainment Reporter Joelle Garguilo sat down with Steve Schirripa, the evening's emcee for a preview of what to expect.

To date, this event has raised more than $6 million for the Garden of Dreams Foundation, which is a non-profit dedicated to bringing life-changing opportunities to young people in need.

Many believe laughter is the best medicine and it looks like New York City is going to get a healthy dose of it Wednesday night.

The top-notch comics are coming together for a cause, sharing the stage for one night only.

"So you got Bill Burr, Tracy Morgan, Jon Stewart, Jim Gaffigan, Heather McMahon, Chris Distefano, Michael Che. How's that? Oh, man. How's that for an old man," Schirripa said. "And then we have CC Sabathia, John McEnroe, Edie Falco, Ben Stiller, Kenan Thompson, Whoopi Goldberg is going to be here. It's going to be a wonderful, big night."

They're lending their time and wit to benefit the Garden of Dreams Foundation.

"It is just a wonderful organization, every dollar goes where it's supposed to -- Tri-State area, underprivileged kids, disabled kids, scholarships, mentorships. It's just wonderful. And I'm very proud to be a part of it," Schirripa said.

Brooklyn-born Schirripa is once again hosting Garden of Laughs, and it turns out, it's personal for "The Sopranos" star.

"I'm like a bran muffin, I keep things moving. I like to keep things together, like a bolt on a United 737," he said.

This is his fourth time as emcee and he explained what keeps him coming back.

"Because I see what they do," he said. "Look, I grew up on welfare, you know, I grew up on welfare, you know, and there were small things I remember as a kid going to Macy's. I think they gave us $10 back then, there was a camp and stuff. I remember it now. I'm old. I'm 66 years old. These kids are going to remember this."

Some of the alumni spoke out about what it has meant to be a part of the program.

"I think that the Garden of Dreams in a lot of ways found me at a time when I was grieving very hard. And they turned it around for me," alumni Tyrese Avery said.

Garguilo asked what its like to go from being in and out of the hospital to then getting to perform at Radio City.

"It makes me feel like my dreams can come true," Samantha Ortiz said. "I was in and out of the hospital a lot as a kid. I would say the Garden of Dreams has always helped me chase my dreams and achieve my dreams."

Schirripa also spoke about what it means as a Brooklyn-born New Yorker to be able to be a part of it all and give back.

"You know, I never would have thought that any of this could happen because I didn't set out to be an actor, and it happened later in life," Schirripa said. "I've been very lucky, honestly. And I do pay things forward."

Maybe that's why Schirripa is so humble.

"I tell people I'm a regular guy with a good job," he said. "I'm just a regular guy who happened to get lucky."

That luck he's referring to is landing the role of Bobby Bacala.

"Do you have any moments during filming? I know James Gandolfini, somebody called him and just said, a real boss would never wear shorts," Garguilo said.

"I had one living on Mulberry Street. I was taking my dirty laundry to the cleaners on a Monday morning. Guy stops right in front of me says, I saw the show last night. I love the show but anybody who has ever whacked anyone knows that is not how you do it. I went OK...Rocky, I got to go. Cleaner is closed, I don't want to talk any further," Schirripa said.

Tickets are still available for the Garden of Laughs on Wednesday night.

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