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Natural Awakenings Tucson

A Sense of Community

Laughter really is the best medicine, and that’s not just a cliché. The founder of Comedy for Charity, Suzie Agrillo, has experienced a tragedy which brought home the truthfulness of that phrase. In 1980, her sister Judy was shot in the head and killed during a mugging in Chicago. As a result of this senseless tragedy, Agrillo found her calling in life: to make the world a safer, kinder and less violent place.
“You have to carry on after a nightmare like this, and I decided to focus on the community, by raising money for organizations which make Tucson a better place to live,” says Agrillo. “We produce an annual philanthropic gala, hopefully sell it out, tell jokes, get the money and give it to local nonprofits. How cool is that?”
The first show produced by Agrillo was in 2011 at Laffs Comedy Caffe, shortly after the events of January 8, 2011, when six people were killed and thirteen others, including then U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, were injured in a shooting rampage. That event was the genesis of her annual Comedy for Charity gala at the Fox Theatre. The shows have raised money for many worthwhile charities, including Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse; Youth on Their Own; Rally Point, La Frontera; YWCA of Southern Arizona; Ben’s Bells; Youth on Their Own; Dancing in the Streets AZ; Send a Kid to Camp; and Saving Gil.
With 2020 being Comedy for Charity’s 10th anniversary show, Agrillo looks back on the charities she has supported. We all know it is better to give than to receive. However, when we are making a financial gift to a nonprofit, how do we know the funds are going to good use?
“I research nonprofits by going to their websites and social media for clues about how legitimate they are, what their mission is and what their current needs are. is a trusted online resource that houses information about an organization’s mission, tax exempt status, impact and financial information,” Agrillo states.
Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse has been a beneficiary of several of Comedy for Charity’s events. It essentially provides the opportunity to create, sustain and celebrate a life free of abuse. Agrillo notes, “Their work has a powerful impact on our community.”
Youth on Their Own is a nonprofit which strives to eliminate the barriers to education and empower Arizona homeless youth to stay in school. “Arizona has a very high rate of child homelessness. Homeless youth are four times more likely to drop out of school, which means they are likely to become unemployable as adults,” Agrillo observes.
Ben’s Bells spreads a message of kindness. “It resonated with me, partly because it was inspired by the tragic death of founder Jeannette Mare’s young son Ben,” Agrillo relates. It started as a small local charity which has grown to an international movement. In addition to bells which are handmade in their art studios, and the murals you see all over Tucson, Ben’s Bells operates a Kindness Education program which teaches people how to cultivate kindness.
Agrillo is a dog lover, and one of her favorite success stories was the Jeanne Robertson show in 2019, where over $4,000 was raised for Saving Gil, a black lab who was shot point blank with a shotgun and left for dead in northern Arizona. “The shotgun blast rendered him paralyzed and incontinent. Thanks to the money raised by generous Tucsonans, Gil could afford a new wheelchair as well as expense for transportation to his new adoptive family in Durango, Colorado,” she says.
Since Comedy for Charity has no employees, Agrillo relies on her friends to volunteer to assist with the comedy shows. She comments, “I am blessed with some of the best friends imaginable. I gravitate to people who are smart, kind and who appreciate humor. I like to do a girls’ lunch about once a week.”
Agrillo also performs standup comedy at Laffs Comedy Caffe for the Estrogen Hour, which raises money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, as well as at some of the shows at the Fox Theatre. When asked how she found her own voice in comedy, Agrillo explains, “I decided to do stand-up 10 years ago, after I attended my family reunion. I felt I needed to use it as a catharsis, because my family is somewhat dysfunctional,” she explains.
Comedy for Charity’s upcoming headliner is Paula Poundstone, a popular panelist on NPR’s weekly comedy quiz, “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” She has achieved many firsts in her comedy career. She is the first woman ever to host the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. She starred in her own series on HBO and ABC. She is included in Comedy Central’s list of the Top 100 Comics of All Time, and she has won an American Comedy Award for Best Female Stand Up.
“We are co-presenting this event with the Fox Theatre. A portion of the ticket sales from the show will benefit local organizations which assist the homeless. It is our goal to provide support to those whose voices are most often not heard and who have the greatest need,” Agrillo comments.
Tucson is renowned for many things, including exclusive golf courses, world class spas and sherbet sunsets. Most importantly, the locals know how to give. If you want to “laugh ‘til it hurts,” save the date for Comedy for Charity’s 10th anniversary charitable event, “An Evening With Paula Poundstone,” May 8, 2020 at the Fox Theatre.

For tickets and additional information, visit or See ad, page 24.