A night of comedy for a great cause
Cancer is something that inevitably touches all of our lives in one way or another, and to Sioux City comedian and philanthropist, John Olson, this statement rings true.
“When I was six years old, my best friend’s mom died of cancer,” said Olson. “Then I had a close family friend die a few years later, followed by my uncle in 1994, three months after that my grandpa died. My grandma had it and beat it, but then my dad passed away from it in 2011.”
After the death of his father, Olson was spurred to start Cancer SUX Comedy ROX to raise money for his family and others with similar needs.
“I started this because my dad and my family didn’t have a whole lot of money,” said Olson. “Things were kind of difficult with the bills and everything else after my dad passed. I figured if we were struggling like that, a lot of other families were, as well.”
It takes more than just one man to pull off an evening like this, so Olson has had help throughout the community, including getting venues to support the cause.
“The first Cancer SUX event was hosted in 2011 by The Chesterfield,” said Olson. “It was basically just a comedy show with a chili feed featuring my dad’s chili recipe. There were free-will donations and a few silent auction items. We pulled it off and raised around $1,600, which we donated to the June E. Nylen Cancer Center.
“The amount of money we raised skyrocketed the second and third year of the event. The second year we were at the Sioux City Hotel (now the Howard Johnson) and we pulled in about $4,000. The third year we held the event in the Marina Center in South Sioux (now the Delta Center) and raised around $18,000.”
On average, the benefit raises around eight to nine thousand dollars each year to benefit families in need.
The lineup this year includes local favorites as well as a nationally touring comic.
“Drew Jr. (Andy Anderson) is a really funny local guy,” said Olson. “He emcees the event and has only missed one year. Don Reese will be the featured act, and he’s been with us every year with the exception of the first. Mark Poolos is our headliner. Mark is very up-and-coming. He’s been on ‘Laughs on Fox,’ ‘The Bob and Tom Show,’ he’s done so many things…he’s a very large, funny man. He’s like The Big Show (wrestler) doing comedy.”
The beneficiaries from this year’s show will be Ellie Roe and Dima Gukeisen.
Besides comedy, there are many other attractions at the event including hors d’oeuvres, drinks, music, a silent auction, casino games with prizes and a raffle for two guitars, one acoustic, one electric.
This year, the party will be in the theme of the one and only James Bond, 007.
“You can come in and cosplay as a Bond villain or dress like James Bond himself,” said Olson. “There will be Bond girls to schmooze and take pictures with. We like to have a fun theme every year. If you want to find out the awesome theme of next year’s Cancer SUX Comedy ROX, we will be announcing it at the event this Saturday night with a really cool video and music!”
Being honored with the Linda Ferree Spirit Award this year will be Mick Gamet, who helped get this event off the ground by providing his venue, The Chesterfield in the first year. The late Gordon Lebowich will also be honored for his community service dealing with the Siouxland Soup Kitchen, The Warming Shelter and other charitable causes around Sioux City.
If you would like to help with Cancer SUX Comedy ROX, but are unable to contribute monitarily, they accept volunteers.
“The more, the merrier,” said Olson. “We accept volunteers at any time. I’d love to have people around the event with our awesome shirts on for people to see. It’s better than having too few people scrambling to get things done. We also take volunteers throughout the rest of the year.”