Standing up for Madeline

4/14/11

Noting with equal measures of amazement and pride that “Stand-up for Madeline and OCRF” will have its 10th Anniversary on May 16, John Hansbury lovingly observes that his late wife, the great comedic actress Madeline Kahn “would never do stand-up comedy. She couldn’t even tell a joke.” “Madeline was like Margaret Meade. She needed to understand every aspect of a character before she was comfortable inhabiting the role. Madeline would research the culture from which the character emerged in order to deliver a satisfying portrayal.”

Ms. Kahn, who died of ovarian cancer in 1999 at age 57, is best remembered for her film roles in Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Paper Moon, What’s Up, Doc? and Judy Berlin and for her portrayal of Gorgeous Teitelbaum in Wendy Wasserstein’s play, The Sisters Rosensweig, produced by Lincoln Center at the Mitzi Newhouse Theater in fall, 1992. The play moved to Broadway and received many award nominations, including the Tony Award and the Drama Desk Award for best actress which went to Ms. Kahn for her role as Gorgeous.

John Hansbury, recently elected to the Executive Committee of the OCRF Board of Directors, freely states that his work as a board member of OCRF is “the best thing I do.” “This disease snatches away our wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, nieces, aunts and best friends. When Madeline died I knew I had to do something to stop this,” said John. So with the help of countless friends and colleagues, Hansbury mobilized the funniest people in the U.S. to give their talent to raise money for ovarian cancer research. From the very first year, Caroline Hirsch, owner of NY’s premier comedy club, Carolines on Broadway, generously gave her eponymous venue and its resources for the night of the show. Through the years the many performers have included a dazzling line-up of comedy veterans and newcomers. Hosted by Joy Behar, who tells John each year, “whatever you need,” the evening leaves the audience exhausted from laughter but completely satisfied that no better tribute could honor the memory of Madeline Kahn.

Susie Essman, often the live auction host, has utilized her considerable wit and powers of persuasion to coax thousands of dollars out of the pockets of audience members, lest they suffer a re-invigorated assault on their stingy habits. In previous years, Ms. Behar has introduced Robert Klein, Whoopi Goldberg, Judy Gold, Jeff Garlin, Rosie O’Donnell, Mario Cantone, Lewis Black, Jim Gaffigan, Louis C. K. and many fresh and funny performers to a capacity audience who gather to raise money to fund the research supported by Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. With each element of the evening being donated, from hors d’oeuvres to talent, every dollar of the nearly $1 million raised to date has gone directly to the research programs carefully chosen each year by OCRF’s Scientific Advisory Committee.

While his work on the board takes him away from his legal practice, mostly concerned with protecting the rights and properties of artists, John Hansbury has never missed a board meeting in over ten years, except the one for which he arrived a day too early!