Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. It takes more lives in one year than breast and prostate cancer combined. While these figures are by no means humorous, comedian Seth Rogen and his wife, actress Lauren Miller, have launched a comedy-based charity to shine light on the disease that affects us all.
All in the family
Three years into their relationship, Seth and Lauren learned that Lauren’s mother, Adele, had early-onset Alzheimer’s. She was only 55.
“When she was first diagnosed, me and my entire family were just devastated,” she recalls. Yet Alzheimer’s was no stranger to Miller; the disease claimed her grandfather’s life when she was just 12 years old, and her grandmother died from it six years later. “We felt hopeless and powerless.”
It was in 2011 that Seth and Lauren founded Hilarity for Charity; an organization focused on educating millennials about the threat of Alzheimer’s. Once per year, the couple calls on their funniest friends and colleagues, ranging from Kevin Hart to Sarah Silverman. Together, they take part in a televised fundraiser based around stand-up comedy and musical performances. “It’s what we know how to do. We work in comedy, so it was a natural fit,” Lauren explains.
“Yeah, because honestly, we have no other skills,” Seth jokes. Seth, now 36, hopes that the show’s format will encourage young viewers to take part in the Alzheimer’s conversation, noting that comedy “draws people into thinking about things they wouldn’t otherwise be thinking about.”
A threat to every generation
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, a projected 13.8 million Americans over age 65 will have Alzheimer’s by 2050. “What we’ve found is that almost everyone is already connected to dementia in some way, be it through some family member or a parent of a friend,” Seth explains. “That’s been the most overwhelming — the amount of people who do have connections to [the disease].”
Over the past seven years, Hilarity for Charity has raised more than $7.5 million for Alzheimer’s research and advocacy efforts, and now Seth and Lauren are urging elected officials to do their part. “We were told a number of years ago that one of the greatest obstacles in [developing] a cure or treatment is that young scientists aren’t going into the field of dementia research because the funding isn’t there,” Lauren explains. “It’s important for the government to get behind funding research and for young researchers to go into the field. We need more scientists working towards treatments and cures.”
Seth agrees, adding that to successfully effect change, millennial voters must vocalize their concerns. “Politicians want to get elected and stay in power. If it’s not an issue that people are vocal about, then it’s not an issue they care about.”
This year’s Hilarity for Charity show is now streaming on Netflix, and features appearances by Michael Che, James Corden, Tiffany Haddish, Kumail Nanjiani and the Muppets.