Kerry Washington, Jennifer Aniston, Jon Hamm, Sofia Vergara, Rob Lowe, Jessica Alba, Dave Matthews, Ariana Grande, Jennifer Hudson, Common, Robert Downey Jr., Katie Couric, and more starred in a Gwyneth Paltrow production Friday night: “Stand Up to Cancer.”
Now in its fourth edition, happening every other September, the massive campaign across all sectors of the industry and Major League Baseball drew big stars to the Dolby Theatre for the live telethon/text-a-thon/web-a-thon fundraiser.
The show simulcast on all four broadcast networks, 27 cable networks and live streamed on both Hulu and Yahoo.
It was a rare broadcast unification planned in advance, rather than as a response to an unplanned tragedy on the scale of the “12-12-12 Concert for Hurricane Sandy Relief” or the “Hope for Haiti Now” telethon in 2010.
For the first time since the inaugural “SU2C” in 2008, the show came back to the Dolby Theatre. The 2010 edition was on the Sony Lot and in 2012, the Shrine played host.
Despite all those cameras and networks, here is what you didn’t see on TV.
1. Eric Stonestreet Served as Part-time Usher
Two minutes before airtime, Eric Stonestreet was volunteer ushering two late arriving guests to their seats in the middle of a full row near the back of the house. It’s not like he was helping a celebrity pal in to a choice seat in the orchestra pit, where baseball commissioner Bud Selig was perched.
In the boonies, Stonestreet, came down the row in his track suit costume, ready to pay off the comedy sketch with Melissa McCarthy and Steve Carell that served as the hour’s cold open. After seat fillers buried deep in a row were not squeezing their way out quickly enough, he directed the seat fillers out and pointed the ticketed guests in. He then ran off to hit his mark for the open.
Gwyneth Paltrow Did Audience Warm-Up
“What’s about to happen on this stage is a labor of love for the entertainment community,” co-executive producer Gwyneth Paltrow told the house crowd about 10 minutes before the show went live.
She also cited the “important contributions of the late Laura Ziskin.” Ziskin co-founded “Stand Up to Cancer” with Katie Couric and executive produced the 2008 and 2010 telecasts.
Pierce Brosnan’s Despair
The former “007’s” presentation about losing both his first wife, Cassandra, and daughter Charlotte to ovarian cancer hit the hardest in the room. He spoke of holding both of his loved ones’ hands as they died from this “wretched inherited disease.”
In a show that was much lighter in tone than the 2012 edition (See: Will Ferrell’s Ron Burgundy sketch and Jennifer Hudson, Common, and Lupe Fiasco’s energetic show closing non-ballad, “Remission”), Brosnan’s utter sincerity resonated the most solemnly of all the talent who took the stage.
Katie Couric Is Den Mother
Katie Couric was not just popping up in the on-stage celebrity “digital lounge” for live hits. She proctored there the entire hour, serving as a den mother for the talent ranging from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Josh Gad, tapping away on technology and talking to survivors and donors.
Call Joe Manganiello and Jesse Tyler Ferguson the teacher’s pets. They needed no attention from Couric. Both, seated next to each other closest to the stage, stayed laser focused on their “jobs” from 15 minutes before airtime throughout the entire show. Rob Riggle was more easily distracted. He glued on to Mike Meyers speech, craning his neck to catch Meyers ad lib and fill time after a live feed from Canada with Ben Stiller went down.
The promotional campaign in advance included celebrities asking civilians “Can I Get Your Number?,” where talent would make outgoing thank you calls to donors, in addition to the default phone-routing lottery of getting a celebrity operator on the other end of a fundraising call.
5. Arriving Camera Ready
Producers EIF tucked the red carpet in to the bowels of the Dolby Theatre garage, handing out grey and black t-shirts to talent before they even hit the carpet.
On the carpet, Joan Rivers was a most-frequent second question. “I remember staying up late to watch her guest host ‘The Tonight Show’,” Jon Hamm told a gaggle of media.
Counterpoint: Ariana Grande
This is one you did see: Ariana Grande.
Grande made her second nationally televised appearance in 24 hours, almost to the minute, after opening the NFL season by singing the national anthem on NBC Thursday afternoon in Seattle. This follows her MTV VMA-opening performance with Nicki Minaj and Jessie J. 12 days ago. That is a lot of national TV for the “Republic Records artist,” as the NFL announcer boomed in to NBC homes yesterday.
Grande lost her grandfather to cancer in July of this year, making Friday night’s performance of “My Everything” one she wishes was not so personal.
From someone who is everywhere, to those who weren’t there at all. As is routine in live shows, some of what appeared in the live show was pre-taped.
While including this item is arguably sensational in light of the serious and worthwhile campaign, there is an equal dose of kudos due to producers for roping in globetrotters to boost the show as there is with peeling back the curtain on the broadcast.
Dave Matthews taped his opening performance on Thursday night in front of a pre-tape crowd. Matthews had a show Friday night outside San Diego. Dave Grohl, Robert Downey Jr., and Kerry Washington’s presentations were also not live.
The After Party
Just like the Oscars, there was an after party in the Dolby Ballroom upstairs after the show.
Stand Up to Cancer is part of the Entertainment Industry Foundation, the prominent industry charitable organization whose board includes Sherry Lansing (above), UTA’s Jay Sures, ICM Partners’ Chris Silbermann, Preston Beckman, and is run by CEO Lisa Paulsen.
You can still donate to Stand Up To Cancer Donations by calling 1.888.907.8263 or at SU2c.org.