Night of comedy benefits animal sanctuary

Red Buttons attends the Night of Comedy.

Comedians pay tribute to the late Buddy Hackett and raise $80,000 for the Buddy Hackett Singita Animal Rescue Sanctuary.

By Linda Harris/Special to The Malibu Times

Comedy might be king, but it was the animals that ruled at the 5th Annual Night of Comedy at the El Capitan in Hollywood last Wednesday night.

A virtual gaggle of comedians joined forces to raise funds for the Buddy Hackett Singita Animal Rescue Sanctuary, founded by the late Buddy Hackett, who died June 30 at age 78 of natural causes at his Malibu home, and his widow, Sherry.

A cavalcade of comedians, most of them buddies of Buddy Hackett, entertained the packed house of 700 people, who paid up to $250 a ticket to watch a film tribute to Hackett and laugh at comedic performances.

Guests included Red Buttons, Robert Culp, Gloria Allred, Robert Forster, Kent McCord, Barbara Luna, Larry Flynt and Supervisor Mike Antonovich.

The entertainment lineup included Jay Mohr, Tom Arnold, Paul Rodriguez, Bob Saget, Shecky Greene, Kevin Nealon, Sarah Silverman, Jeffrey Ross and Bob Goldthwait.

The evening of “all comedians all the time” was shepherded along by host Sandy Hackett, the late comedian’s son and a comedian in his own right.

“It is bittersweet tonight,” Hackett said. “I feel my dad’s presence every day of my life. But tonight, I walked backstage and I knew he wasn’t going to be there when I saw no tequila in the dressing room,” Hackett laughed. “OK, I said to myself, Dad’s really not here.

“He was the smartest human being I’ve ever met. And tonight everyone is here to participate and share their finances and contribute to Singita because they love animals, but also because they love my father and my mother,” Hackett said.

“Singita,” which means “miracle” in the South African language of Shangaan, was a dream of Buddy Hackett’s for years.

Sherry Hackett, Buddy’s wife of nearly 50 years, fondly recalled her husband’s passion for animals. “His love of animals extended from finding and picking up strays to bringing children and rescue dogs and cats together,” Hackett said. “We founded Singita in 2000. We’re trying to build a fabulous, new innovative facility that will be in Sylmar on 22 acres. And we’re going to build a no-kill animal shelter, cage-free, 10,000-square-foot facility. Singita’s purpose is to reduce pet overpopulation through spay & neuter programs, adoptions and education.

“We’ve only just begun,” Hackett smiled.

Hanging out on the red carpet, funnyman Greene cracked up the crowd on Hollywood Boulevard in front of the El Capitan with his impersonation of his friend, Buddy Hackett, as actress Luna doubled over in laughter.

On a more serious note, Green said, “I truly loved the guy and will always miss him.”

Entering the theatre, Culp spoke passionately about spay and neutering animals. “My wife and I have supported Buddy and all of his efforts with regards to the animals for years, and I’ve come here to get the single idea across to the public, who should know better, to spay or neuter your pet. Period. End of report,” Culp said.

Flynt said his friend Buddy Hackett was “the most loveable guy I ever met” and felt it was important to honor his memory and help Sherry.

“I can tell you all my dogs’ names as a kid,” Forster said, “Princess, Lance, Angus-these were my great friends, and when friends of mine asked me to attend tonight, I couldn’t resist. Plus, Buddy was one of the funniest guys, ever.”

“Buddy and Sherry Hackett have been long-time supporters of mine and friends of my family, and we’re here to help this great cause for the Singita Sanctuary,” Antonovich said. “And to insure our animals have a nice place to live and we’re able to take care of them.”

Antonovich announced that Singita has approval to proceed with construction, and “will be the largest privately funded animal sanctuary on the West Coast.”

“It’s a great turnout and Buddy would be very proud of that,” McCord said. “But also it’s a tribute to Sherry’s hard work because she put this evening together. So, kudos to Sherry Hackett.”

Before the blinking lights summoned the guests to their seats, Buttons remembered meeting Hackett as a young comedian. “I was very close to Buddy. I met him when he was a kid first coming around and he was brilliant right from the start.

“I was with him when he found some of his funniest stuff and … well, we were really good friends,” Buttons said as he choked back his words.

Minutes before going on stage, Mohr paused to reflect about his mentor. “Every time I take a microphone-every time all the young comics take the microphone-he’s alive,” Mohr said. “He just was the funniest, the best.”

Backstage at the El Capitan, the comedians held court. Saget conversing with Arnold. Rodriguez kidding around with Goldthwait.

“Yep, I miss Buddy, but I don’t miss him that much because I stole so many jokes from him that his act lives on through me,” Rodriguez quipped. “Buddy told me he believed in reincarnation-he’s coming back as a Chihuahua. A big, fat Chihuahua and he’s gonna live at Singita.”

“I like helping animals whenever I can,” Saget said. “I own half a dog. I have joint custody of my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel-a victim of my divorce.”

Saget added he believed Hackett was around the theatre that night “because there’s a lot of the love here, and that’s what we all do it for-to make people laugh and celebrate.”

“Yes, tonight is bittersweet because the Cubs lost tonight,” Arnold cried. “Oh, we’re talking about Buddy. Seriously, he was great-he was funny until he died. He was my idol because he stuck with it. There’s a lot of lessons we could learn from Buddy Hackett.”

The evening’s entire proceeds of $80,000 will go toward building the Singita pet sanctuary.

For more information about Singita, visit