Serving Up Cool Comedy, Hot Cuisine for Scleroderma Research
Every year, some of the finest performing artists donate their time and talents to Cool Comedy, Hot Cuisine (CCHC) in support of research programs for the Scleroderma Research Foundation (SRF). The event has featured appearances by Bill Burr, Dave Chappelle, Kelly Clarkson, Jimmy Fallon, Whoopi Goldberg, Regina Hall, Jimmy Kimmel, John Mayer, John Stamos, Robin Williams, and many more.
I recently emailed with headliners Bob Saget and Susan Feniger about their work on behalf of SRF.
Saget is an acclaimed actor, comedian, director, writer, and producer, and starred in the hit TV shows “Full House” and “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” He also wrote and directed the made-for-TV film “For Hope,” which chronicles his late sister’s struggles with scleroderma. He joined the SRF board of directors in 2002 and has been a key figure in organizing and producing CCHC, SRF’s annual signature event.
Feniger may be best known for her modern Mexican concept restaurants, Border Grill, which she runs with her business partner, Mary Sue Milliken. Feniger has co-authored six cookbooks, starred on the Food Network’s popular “Too Hot Tamales,” and competed on Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters.” Feniger, who handles the cuisine at CCHC, was a close friend of SRF founder Sharon Monsky, and became a founding member of the board of directors in 1988.
Thanks to Joanne Gold, SRF’s executive director, and Gloria Blecha, its director of community engagement, for their assistance with this interview. Let’s find out more about this gala event.
DCW: What was your impetus in supporting the Scleroderma Research Foundation, and specifically your involvement in Cool Comedy, Hot Cuisine?
BS: I believe it was in 1987 that Sharon Monsky, the founder of SRF, asked me to take part in the event, CCHC. I had never heard of the disease. I performed at the event with Ellen DeGeneres and Rosie O’Donnell. I loved it and couldn’t believe what a brave and amazing person Sharon Monsky was, living with the disease for over a decade and determined to help find the cure. I started hosting it every year after that.
My 44-year-old sister, Gay Saget, fortuitously came down with scleroderma. In 1993, she was actually in the audience at the beloved benefit. One year later, in 1994, due to an extreme case of systemic scleroderma, she lost her life trying to battle this horrible killer. When I took the stage hosting the next event, I knew I would be doing this for the rest of my life, trying to help others with the disease, and people who are trying to help their loved ones and friends who had the disease.
I was so impressed because Sharon had gathered some of the greatest scientific minds from Johns Hopkins and UCSF and Stanford to be on the SRF scientific advisory board. If anyone was going to move the needle forward, it was Sharon Monsky.
My sister’s death put such a dent in our family’s life. … Upon her passing, I directed an ABC television movie starring SRF board member Dana Delany, called “For Hope.” That movie helped get the word out for a disease many knew nothing about. But it didn’t change the fact that this was a giant boulder to push up a giant mountain and would take many years. For over 30 years, I have been deeply involved and eventually became a proud board member of the SRF. And we have raised over $50 million that has gone directly to research, that has helped change therapies and medications, and are helping more people survive.
SF: My reason for getting involved was my college roommate was Sharon Monsky, who was diagnosed with scleroderma way, way back when nobody knew what it was.
When she graduated [business] school, soon after she got sick, and it took forever going from hospital to hospital to figure it out.
Finally, when she found out she had scleroderma, she decided to start the SRF. I have been on the board from Day One. We came up with the idea to do a fundraiser around food and comedy. Our first one was at our first restaurant, City Cafe. About 150 people. Robin Williams performed there for our very first event!
Sharon was an inspiration to all who met her. For me, being able to cook great food, have people laugh, and enjoy great wine, too, was an easy way to raise money and awareness. Sharon’s voice, spirit, and her commitment to get great doctors and scientists focused on research for finding a cure for scleroderma was something she committed her life to. We will continue to do cool comedy till we find the cure!
Get your tickets now for the virtual event “Cool Comedy, Hot Cuisine,” Sunday, Oct. 17 at 7 p.m. CDT.
Note: Scleroderma News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Scleroderma News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to scleroderma.