Brilliant comedy in Malibu raises funds for cancer center

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Martin Short and Nicole Parker perform a skit called "Blow up doll" Saturday night at the Malibu Performing Arts Center for the show "The Best Medicine," benefiting City of Hope. Photo by Dana Fineman / TMT

Mel Gibson wasn’t in the audience Saturday night for the City of Hope fundraiser at the Malibu Performing Arts Center that featured Denis Leary, Martin Short, Lenny Clarke and a host of other comedians, including many from the “Mad TV” comedy series. And it’s a good thing as Gibson, and a grab bag of other celebrities who’ve made headlines due to drug and/or alcohol escapades, was the focus of Leary and his band, The Royal Crown Revue’s raunchy, yet hysterical songs.

The fundraiser, billed “The Best Medicine,” was co-produced by Lauren Dombrowski, a former writer/producer and stand-up comic for “Mad TV” and a breast cancer survivor. Drombowski used to date Leary in college, a point Leary brought up as “ex-boyfriend guilt” in dumping her as to why he appeared in Malibu for the benefit. Dombrowksi met the rest of the performers, including lead singer of The Knack, Doug Fieger, who is also a cancer survivor, throughout her career as a comedian and writer. The Knack performed a rousing set, including the famed “My Sharona” at the end of the show, bringing a few old faithful to their feet.

Leary and his band’s first song was called Rehab (not the one on his album, but a recent one he wrote), and no one who has been arrested or busted publicly for their substance abuse in the past years, from Gibson to Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan to Nick Nolte, escaped the blisteringly funny, yet soberly real slings and arrows the “Rescue Me” actor shot at the celebrities. One of his last lines were “Here’s to Betty Ford, a real trendsetter” and “Keifer’s coming soon… to rehab!” The audience roared with laughter through this and the next song, “Mel Gibson Blues,” which starts with the lyrics “I like to drink, I like drive, my name is Mel…” Throughout the performance, a screen behind Leary and the band showed clips of Gibson with various people, including Steven Spielberg, Woody Allen and others as Leary sung about the actor’s relationships with those of Jewish heritage. Some might call it crass, insensitive and in bad taste, but the audience laughed uproariously.

Martin Short was a highlight of the evening-he is a master of comedy. Short, as his character film critic Jiminy Glick, dressed in costume-a big round belly, pants hiked up high, thick black-framed glasses, white hair-did a bit in which he interviewed Leary, but never gave him a chance to answer, instead going off on such subjects as Paris Hilton studying Kabala-“You can’t be Jewish if you look like every Jewish man’s second wife!” and offering Leary Viagra Chapstick, which he said is great because it gives you a “stiff upper lip.” Short had the audience in stitches in another skit with comedian Nicole Parker of “Mad TV” called “Blow up doll.” She played the doll and he a nerd who was hot on romance-it ended in deflation.

“Mad TV” comedian Stephnie Weir played a psychic who, when using her “psychic powers” with audience members always got it wrong but insisted she was right.

“It’s spiritual years,” she told me, when responding to the correction about how long I’ve been in a relationship (two, she said four). And asking me if my partner’s name was Gerrold (no) she said, “Yes, it is! It’s Gerrold! He’s been lying to you all these years. His name is Gerrold and he’s married with kids. But that’s OK, he likes you best.”

A live auction conducted by Lenny Clarke took the art of auctioneering to a whole new level. He bullied, cajoled and threatened and pitted people against each other to buy-all in hilarious humor, of course-telling the audience that “we’re locking the doors until you spend some [expletive] money!”

Other performers included Michael McDonald of “Mad TV,” who did improv with comedian Tim Bagley (“Monk”), and Mo Collins, who did a bit as a bewigged older woman, with pants hiked up high, who illustrated perfectly and funnily what a woman goes through in getting a mammogram. Michael Hitchcock did a funny bit on how to make your child a star and Bobby Lee had the audience going with his standup.

Bobcat Goldthwait was the last comic up. In his familiar high pitched, wavering voice he told the audience he hadn’t done stand-up for a long while (he announced in a 2006 interview that he no longer wanted to do stand-up and was focusing on his film/TV directing career instead), but because it was for Drombowski, he was there.

All were, in fact, there, because of Drombowski, who wanted to give back to City of Hope, where she received treatment during her Stage 4 breast cancer. Her oncologist, Dr. George Somlo, had told Dombrowksi about wanting to build a specialized breast cancer treatment facility. So she called on her friends, and they gave a show to remember.