23 Comedy Stars and the Serious Causes They Support

Jimmy Kimmel attends the 'A Night Of Comedy For Project A.L.S.'

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Actress Betty White and Uggie the dog
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Not All Laughs…

For many comedians, joking around is just a part of their lives. Once off the stand-up stage, sitcom set, or big screen, many of the celebrities who crack us up have proven they also have a serious side. Read on for a survey of comedy stars and a sampling of their work supporting worthy causes, including the animal groups that are being inundated with donations after the death of iconic "Golden Girl" Betty White. 

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Closeup of Actress Betty White Attends The Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association's (GLAZA) 45th Annual Beastly Ball at the Los Angeles Zoo on June 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California
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Betty White

Fans have been flooding shelters, rescues and other animal charities with donations in honor of Betty White, who was a noted animal lover, in honor of what would have been her 100th birthday. White was on the board of American Humane, a nonprofit committed to "ensuring the safety, welfare and well-being of animals." Thanks to the power of social media, the #BettyWhiteChallenge has resulted in thousands of dollars pouring into that organization and animal groups around the nation, according to The Wall Street Journal

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Bob Saget
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Bob Saget

Bob Saget, who recently died at age 65, was the "Full House" sitcom patriarch who also reprised the classic TV dad role in "Fuller House" on Netflix. Saget further honed his good-guy image hosting "America's Funniest Home Videos," but he was equally known for his not-so-squeaky-clean stand-up routines. Still, it's the good-guy side Saget tapped into when it came to charity work, and he can be credited with raising awareness of the rare skin-related disease scleroderma. To honor Saget's memory, consider donating to the Scleroderma Research Foundation, where he served as a board member after his sister died from the disease in 1994. 

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Jerry Seinfeld GOOD+ Foundation
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Jerry Seinfeld

Jerry Seinfeld, the veteran comedian best known for his namesake sitcom about "nothing," certainly focuses on something when it comes to doing good. A supporter of various causes, Seinfeld seems most at the ready to lend a hand (or don a costume for a fundraiser) for the Good+Foundation, founded in 2001 by his wife, Jessica. The organization is a "national nonprofit that works to dismantle multi-generational poverty by pairing tangible goods with innovative services for low-income fathers, mothers and caregivers, creating an upward trajectory for the whole family."      


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Eddie Murphy
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Eddie Murphy

"Coming 2 America," the sequel to the 1988 hit, has given Eddie Murphy yet another comeback in his long-running comedy career. But the "Saturday Night Live" breakout star has used his talent to support many social causes all along, including performing at last year's "Feeding America Comedy Festival," which raised money for the hunger-relief organization and its food banks. In addition, he was honored back in 2012 for not only his talent but also his humanitarian work, which has included helping the homeless and supporting education through the Yeah! Foundation. Murphy has also supported the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, the AIDS Foundation, cancer charities and the Screen Actors Guild.    

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Amy Poehler
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Amy Poehler

Amy Poehler, the actress ("Parks and Recreation," "Mean Girls"), comedian ("Saturday Night Live") and writer and co-founder of the iconic improv troupe Upright Citizens Brigade, is a noted advocate for supporting young women. She's the founder of the organization Amy Poehler's Smart Girls, which evolved from Smart Girls at the Party, a YouTube channel dedicated to empowerment. Today, the organization continues to help "young people cultivate their authentic selves." A glance at the organization's Instagram account shows it's dedicated to issues ranging from transgender rights to anti-racism, voting rights to women's history.

Denis Leary Leary Firefighters Foundation
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Denis Leary

Denis Leary got his start as a sharp-tongued stand-up comedian and would go on to become an Emmy Award-winning actor and writer ("Rescue Me") and star in "The Moodys." He never forgets his Massachusetts roots – or his family. The Leary Firefighters Foundation was formed in memory of his firefighter cousin and a friend plus others who perished in a 1999 Massachusetts fire, with the organization working to distribute funds to support the work of various fire companies around the country. An offshoot, the Fund for New York's Bravest, has supported the families of NYC firefighters killed in the Sept. 11 attacks. In addition, Leary, an ice hockey fanatic, was tapped in the mid-1990s by Cam Neely of the Boston Bruins to work on a comedy benefit for Neely's cancer charity, which grew into the Comics Come Home event, one Leary continues to support.  

Tina Fey
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Tina Fey

Perhaps best known for "30 Rock" and "Saturday Night Live," the multitalented Tina Fey is an actor comedian, writer, producer and playwright who also famously teams up with Amy Poehler in both film and in hosting the Golden Globes awards ceremony. In 2020, benefit host Fey memorably teared up announcing the total raised in the Robin Hood Foundation's "Rise Up New York" coronavirus fundraiser. But Fey has long worked for causes, including many that support women and children. Among these are the Worldwide Orphans Fund (which Poehler also supports), the Children's Health Fund, Autism Speaks and Love Our Children. In addition, she has raised funds for Stand Up To Cancer and has advocated for gender equality.

Sacha Baron Cohen
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Sacha Baron Cohen

The British-born comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, best known for his outrageous antics when in character whether it's Borat or Ali G, has been recognized for his unwavering efforts to fight bigotry and prejudice and has been particularly vocal about the need for social-media guidelines to combat these issues. It was a focal point when he spoke passionately when accepting the Anti-Defamation League's 2019 International Leadership Award. The honor is given to "exceptional individuals who combine professional success with a profound personal commitment to community involvement and to crossing borders and barriers with a message of diversity and equal opportunity." It was, also noted, that, "Through his alter egos, many of whom represent anti-Semites, racists and neo-Nazis, Baron Cohen shines a piercing light on people's ignorance and biases." And that's no laughing matter.     


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Mindy Kaling March Of Dimes Celebration
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Mindy Kaling

Mindy Kaling, an actress and comedic writer who broke through for her work on the American version of "The Office," made news in 2019 when she celebrated her 40th birthday by donating $1,000 to each of 40 charities. As reported by Boston Magazine, the Cambridge, Massachusetts, native, tweeted, "I'm so grateful to have my wonderful, peaceful life w/my daughter Katherine. How lucky am I to turn 40? I would love to express my gratitude by donating $1000 to 40 different charitable orgs that help others." She began the celebration donating to RAICES Texas, a nonprofit devoted to refugee and immigrant services, and would go on to support organizations dedicated to Down Syndrome, pancreatic cancer, nature, empowering girls and more.

Lauren Miller and Seth Rogen Hilarity for Charity
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Seth Rogen

Canadian actor, comedian, writer and producer Seth Rogen ("Neighbors," "Knocked Up," "The 40-Year-Old Virgin") and his wife, Lauren Miller Rogen, lead Hilarity for Charity. The Alzheimer's nonprofit has a mission "to care for families facing this disease, educate young people about living a brain-healthy life and activate the next generation of Alzheimer's advocates." Sparked by a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer's in Lauren Miller Rogen's mother, she and Rogen founded HFC in 2012, and it continues to host comedy-themed events and maintains a website filled with practical information, sometimes delivered with a dose of humor.

Related: 24 Things You Need to Know About Dementia and Alzheimer's

Ken Jeong speaks onstage at Stand Up To Cancer
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Ken Jeong

The motormouth comedian and one-time practicing physician (no joke), Ken Jeong keeps things moving on "The Masked Singer" but has also appeared in films ranging from the "Hangover" and the "Despicable Me" series. Long a supporter of the Asian community, the man born in Detroit to South Korean immigrant parents was honored in 2017 by the East West Players, the oldest Asian Pacific American theater company in the USA, with a Visionary Award, which recognizes the achievements of those "who have raised the visibility of the Asian Pacific American (APA) community through their craft." Last month, Jeong was in the news as he donated $50,000 to the families of victims killed in the Atlanta-area spa shootings and shared a video on social media urging an end to the anti-Asian violence spreading across the nation.

Jeff Foxworthy
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Jeff Foxworthy

Jeff Foxworthy has one of his famed "redneck" jokes seemingly made for this feature: "You might be a redneck if your favorite 'charity' is the one that dances at the topless club." All kidding aside, this comedian has his heart in the right place, working for more than a decade to combat homelessness in Atlanta. He was honored with the 2018 Humanitarian Award from the Rotary Club of Buckhead for his hands-on efforts. In addition, Foxworthy has supported wildlife and wild spaces preservation working with the Montana-based Banovich Wildscapes Foundation.

Ricky Gervais Red Nose Day
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Ricky Gervais

English comedian Ricky Gervais, also a writer, actor, producer and director, is best known for the original version of "The Office," the hilarious mockumentary sitcom reinvented for American TV. And, of course, he's known as a cutting-edge, awards show host. But you've also probably seen him in a red nose, as a leader of Red Nose Day, an ongoing U.K. fundraiser sponsored by Comic Relief, a British charity that has raised more than 1 billion British pounds (about $1.38 billion) over the past 30 years for people in need in both the U.K. and Africa. Gervais has also supported cancer support services and animal rights (winning PETA's 2013 Person of the Year award).

Ellen DeGeneres Speaking On Stage
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Ellen DeGeneres

Ellen DeGeneres had a rough patch in 2020, accused of mistreating staffers on her eponymous talk show. For many, it came to a shock, as the good-natured comedian has long been known for kindness and generosity. She has donated millions to hurricane relief, fighting cancer, animal rescue, wildlife (through The Ellen Fund) and, um, anti-bullying efforts. One of DeGeneres' biggest projects has been the Small Change Campaign, which she launched with Ben Affleck and is a campaign dedicated to helping Feeding America. And remember that Oscar night selfie — the one filled with countless celebrities? Well, thanks to DeGeneres using a Samsung device for the memorable shot, the company donated money representing how many retweets it got. That enabled DeGeneres to direct Samsung's funds, some $1.5 million, each, to the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and the Humane Society.  

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Owen Wilson
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Owen Wilson

Actor, producer and screenwriter Owen Wilson's classic comedy roles have included "Meet the Parents," (Are you a homeowner, Greg?), "Zoolander" and "Wedding Crashers," among others. He's supported coastal conservation, AIDS, arts education and solar power — but perhaps the biggest splash was his turn as host during a 2015 Elephants Forever Auction in New York that raised more than $1 million for the wild-elephant charities Elephant Families and Space for Giants. Coverage of the event noted that Wilson also visited an elephant sanctuary with his children when filming in Thailand, perhaps influencing another generation of philanthropists.

Tyler Perry
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Tyler Perry

Tyler Perry's credits run long, as he's known as a producer, director, actor, screenwriter, playwright, author, songwriter, entrepreneur … and philanthropist. The man's signature character — the feisty Madea — would be proud of his numerous good deeds completed through The Perry Foundation. During the pandemic, Perry notably stepped up to aid restaurant workers and also paid for groceries for thousands of struggling seniors and at-risk people. The foundation has also aided the homeless, local communities and been behind public health initiatives, continually aiming to "transform tragedy into triumph by seeding individual potential, supporting communities, and harvesting sustainable change."     

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Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson I Have A Dream Foundation
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Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson

Onetime pro wrestler (kind of a funny job in itself) and current film and television star, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is no slouch when it comes to giving back. The tough guy with a touching backstory (played out in his new biographical sitcom "Young Rock") has supported everything from the Make-A-Wish Foundation to the American Red Cross. Big on education — he's served as spokesman for the National AfterSchool Association and works with The Beacon Experience, dedicated to continuing education — Johnson is also dedicated to making "every child smile" through The Rock Johnson Foundation. The foundation provides programs "designed to enrich and empower the lives and self-esteem of children who are hospitalized for medical disabilities, disorders and illnesses."   

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Tiffany Haddish Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation
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Tiffany Haddish

Tiffany Haddish, whose comedic skills have taken her from the stand-up stage to highly visible roles in everything from films ("Girls Trip") to commercials (Groupon), rose to fame after a challenging childhood that included time in foster care. That start is never far from her thoughts, as she has been known to donate suitcases to children in the foster-care system, so they wouldn't have to stuff their belongings into trash bags when they had to move. It's a gesture that represents her broader mission, as she founded the She Ready Foundation to "empower, support and encourage children living in the foster care system."    


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Amy Schumer speaks at March For Our Lives Los Angeles
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Amy Schumer

Comedian and cooking-show host Amy Schumer is the type of woman who seems up for anything — especially when a laugh is involved. Schumer wore a glittering gold mini dress, with a hole cut out in the arm, when she got her COVID-19 vaccine in March. A celebrity just being extra? Nope, it was actually done to draw attention to the children's charity Pencils For Kids, Inc. Schumer has also spoken out on gun control, the "beauty standards" expected of women and age discrimination in the entertainment business. She shared details of her empowering LeCloud fashion line with InStyle magazine and how it benefits her nonprofit, Stylefund, which helps women dress with confidence, finding clothing that works for their bodies.  

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Will Ferrell 'Coffee Cup With A Cause'
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Will Ferrell

Quick — name your favorite Will Ferrell comic turn. Your choices are seemingly endless, from "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" to "Step Brothers," "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby" to "Blades of Glory," not to mention a personal fave, his recurring cheerleader character on "Saturday Night Live." Ferrell may be committed to getting a laugh, but he's also very committed to charity work with involvement in causes ranging from UNICEF to AIDS to childhood diabetes. He's always game to swim, golf or play baseball for a cause. Perhaps most notable is his longtime support of Cancer for College, which gives scholarships to young cancer survivors and was founded by a former fraternity brother of Ferrell's. The funnyman has participated in the organization's events for years and even auctioned off a cameo in "Step Brothers" to help the fund.

Jimmy Kimmel attends the 'A Night Of Comedy For Project A.L.S.'
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Jimmy Kimmel

Late-night star Jimmy Kimmel, a veteran comedian, can be whimsical or topical, depending on the evening. He has supported updating the American healthcare system after his own son was born with a rare congenital heart defect. And then, when a longtime staffer was diagnosed with ALS, Kimmel launched the Jimmy Kimmel Live! ALS Charity Drive, which auctions celebrity "experiences." For years, Kimmel was also the force behind the Feast of San Gennaro, Los Angeles, a street fair-style event that raised funds for local charities. In 2020, he and his wife matched donations up to $25,000 for the St. Joseph Center, an L.A.-based organization that assists local families in need.

Sebastian Maniscalco
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Sebastian Maniscalco

Sebastian Maniscalco, the stand-up who has parlayed his comedy fame into movie appearances including "The Green Book" and "The Irishman," had a historic 2019 engagement at New York's famed Madison Square Garden. In his off hours, Maniscalco and his wife launched a charitable effort in 2016. The Tag You're It! Foundation offers the couple a way to directly support causes that resonate with them including veterans, Alzheimer's disease and children's education.

Kevin Bacon Food Bank
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Kevin Bacon

So, what celebrity list doesn't contain at least one link to Kevin Bacon? We wrap up our look at comic stars who do good by spotlighting Kevin Bacon, who's appeared in quite a few comedies ("Beauty Shop," "He Said, She Said" and "She's Having a Baby"). The actor-musician formed SixDegrees.org, its name a playful twist on the "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" connection game. Its work is serious, offering grassroots support to causes around the world with an emphasis on interconnectedness. As its homepage notes, "We Care About Children, Environment, Education, Animals, Clean Water, Humanities & Rights."


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