Bright lights illuminated the newly renovated historic Fullerton Fox Theater that welcomed guests to the fifth annual Comedy Show for Autism on Oct. 21.
The event was presented by Fullerton Cares, a local nonprofit that champions programs for autistic children in the Fullerton School District.
Fullerton Cares was founded by Larry Houser in 2010 shortly after receiving the news that his son, Boyd, had been diagnosed with Autism.
With the help of local restaurant manager and friend, Dan Ebert, Houser was able to host the first iteration of the comedy show which raised $3000. This allowed Houser to participate in Walk for Autism at Angel Stadium the same year. The rest is history.
According to Autismspeaks.org, a nonprofit organization that supports Houser’s event, Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorder is a general term for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees; by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. It can also be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination, and attention/physical health issues, however, some individuals with ASD may excel in visual skills, music, math and art.
Popular comedian Tom Green headlined the event and was accompanied on stage by fellow comics; Jeff Garcia, who hosted the event, George Perez, Kate Quigley, Keith Reza, Josh Meyrowitz, and Sam Tripoli.
“The event means a ton to me because it’s a staple in Fullerton now,” said Houser. “What we’ve done is establish an event that people look forward to every year.”
The Fox Theater marquee beckoned attendees towards the pre-show festivities. The smell of freshly grilled In-N-Out burgers lingered throughout the event area as guests made their way to a blue carpet backdrop where they could get their photos snapped as a token reminder of the event.
Drink vendors occupied the east side of the lounging area offering a variety of craft beer and California wines. Directly across, mixed drinks and cocktails could be garnered at a makeshift bar.
On the north side of the venue, crowds gathered around the outdoor entertainment stage as they lined up to snag a burger from the massive red and white In-N-Out big rig. Peanut shells and Lays potato chips littered the floor as guests enjoyed music from the alternative rock band, SuperNaked.
“F**k Autism…cause it sucks,” sang Lee Miles in a segment called #F**kbucket. When asking the crowd who they would like to have added to the bucket, Obama was the loudest request.
Young women in blue dresses directed and answered questions from the guests regarding the event, while others handed out complimentary snacks provided by Bourbon Street Bar & Grill. Pulled pork mac and cheese and juicy barbecue ribs were some of the freebies being doled out.
Executive director of the night and board member of Fullerton Cares Summer Dabbs, maintained the flow of the event and pulled the strings leading up to the main event in her sparkling high heels.
“Our Community support is absolutely unbelievable,” said Dabbs. “We primarily donate funds to the Fullerton School Districts Autism specific programs but we also promote inclusion programs around the area such as Water Polo Buddies at the YMCA.”
Shortly after 7 p.m., the main event kicked off with a short speech from the event organizers and a beautiful introduction and sing along to “The Alphabet Song” with some of the children involved in the Fullerton Cares program.
The comedians finally took to the stage and filled the entire Fox Theater with laughter. Garcia got the crowd nice and warmed up for following autistic comedians Meyrowitz and Reza, who offered their renditions of self-deprecating humor to start off the show. Quigley riffed on her relationship with her autistic nephew to much applause. The crowd was boisterous for a majority of the sets, however, once Green had finished his bit nearly a quarter of the audience got up and left. The sets of Perez and Tripoli fell upon mostly deaf ears as they attempted to close out the night.
Although there weren’t many audience members left when Perez went on stage, he had some important words for them. “This event has evolved to the point that it is mandatory. Every year there is a new goal for me,” he said. “I met Larry about five years ago doing the show and to just see how much commitment and involvement he’s had as a father to his son, has in a way let me know that I need to be like that and I have to be here.”
Fullerton Cares hopes to raise upwards of $50,000 this year between its two major events. They also hosted the Mardi Gras for Autism earlier this year in February. More information about these events, as well as future events can be found at FullertonCares.com.