For three decades, Amnesty International’s Secret Policeman’s Ball has brought together A-list comics and rockers for a fund-raising show in London.
To help the human-rights group celebrate its 50th anniversary, the organizers are staging the show for the first time in the U.S. at New York’s Radio City Music Hall on Sunday night. The headliners donating their talents include Coldplay, Russell Brand, Jon Stewart, and Mumford & Sons.
To lure a mixed crowd, tickets are priced at $50 to $500. VIP packages, $10,000 and $15,000 for two, include prime orchestra seats and admission to the private after-party where one can rub shoulders with the performers.
“We wanted to make it bigger and we wanted to make the event global,” Andy Hackman, the show’s executive producer, said by phone about this year’s move to New York. “We just want to say, ‘Value your free speech,’ and in doing that, they may realize that some people aren’t as lucky as we are.”
Launched in 1976, the Secret Policeman’s Ball started out as a small comedy revue for charity with talent-recruiting help from John Cleese of Monty Python fame. Over the years, it evolved into a major event and became an inspiration for mega-fundraisers such as the 1985 Live Aid concert for Ethiopian famine relief.
London-based Amnesty International, which won the 1977 Nobel Peace Prize for exposing and preventing human-rights abuses around the world, has more than three million supporters, volunteers and activists in 150 countries.
The lineup for the three-hour show includes talent from the U.K and U.S. such as actor David Cross, British comedians Noel Fielding and Micky Flanagan and U.S. actress Rashida Jones. Last month, cast members of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” such as Bill Hader, Seth Meyers, Kristen Wiig, Andy Samberg and Jason Sudeikis signed on to write material or perform.
“If we got a call from Barack Obama saying that he wanted to be in the show, we would probably make room for him,” said D.J. Javerbaum, former executive producer for Stewart’s “Daily Show.” “Material is still coming in, and that’s the kind of thing that keeps the show vital.”
Javerbaum said the program will be a mix of comedy routines, music and video presentations. Some comedians from other countries who have been imprisoned will be featured performers. They include Myanmar comedian and poet Zarganar, who was sentenced to 35 years in prison in 2008 for criticizing his government’s handling of Cyclone Nargis. He was released in October under a broad amnesty for political prisoners.
”We want to move people, but we don’t want to make them feel bad or guilty,” Hackman said.
(Amnesty International’s Secret Policeman’s Ball is Sunday at Radio City Music Hall, 1260 Avenue of the Americas in Manhattan, at 7 p.m. Tickets are still available at $50 to $500. The event also will be streamed live at http://www.epixhd.com. For more information: http://www.radiocity.com)