The Comedy Attic is hosting three shows Saturday for its annual charity event. This year, the proceeds will go to Middle Way House to support victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault.
Academy Award nominee Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Neal and Todd Barry will perform stand-up comedy at the event. The three comedians will be signing autographs, and autographed items from Eisenberg’s films will be auctioned off.
“It’s vital people know about and support the emergency shelter, rape crisis and domestic violence victim services,” Eisenberg said in an email. “The legal advocacy services Middle Way House provides to hundreds of victims of abuse and assault every year really increase access to justice and make the whole community safer.”
Middle Way House Events and Communication Director Rachael Himsel said in a press release the nonprofit lost $174,000 this year in funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Eisenberg, who donated $100,000 to Middle Way, has been volunteering since January to try to close the mortgage so that they can focus on funding their crucial direct services.
The Comedy Attic started donating the proceeds from shows to nonprofits eight years ago, club owner Jared Thompson said. They have continued the tradition since.
“At the end of the day, the only thing that really matters is we’re going to be able to present Middle Way House with a super substantial amount of money, which I’m really excited about,” Thompson said.
He said the show is the realization of a dream for him and his wife. When they opened the club, they had trouble finding audiences, he said.
Today, their efforts bring people together to raise thousands of dollars for local Bloomington charities.
Eisenberg said he advocates for being an upstander. Middle Way hosts training sessions throughout the year to help people get involved.
“I don’t know if students know how many of their peers have benefited from Middle Way services,” he said. “You know, they’re the ones who meet rape survivors at the hospital in the middle of the night. They’re the ones who answer the phone the minute someone calls, every single day of the year, at any hour, when someone’s having a flashback or feeling afraid.”
Thompson has known Eisenberg and Anna Strout, another volunteer at Middle Way, for a while, he said. They have attended shows on multiple occasions, but this will be the first time that Eisenberg will be performing stand-up at the club.
He said it is rare for the club to host someone of Eisenberg’s stature.
“We really are sort of just letting Jesse do what he wants,” he said. “We’re kind of hoping for there to be some stuff that people will remember forever.”
Eisenberg said nothing is more terrifying to him than stand-up comedy, but it’s a great way to reach a broad range of people and to get them to discuss uncomfortable issues.
“I’ll take laughter, even if it’s at me, instead of with me,” Eisenberg said about his debut.
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