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Comedians Coming To Writers Guild Theater To Support Public Citizen

Local former standup comedian and now sitcom writer (Everybody Loves Raymond) Steve Skrovan is once again organizing “Stand Up For Main Street,” an all-star comedy benefit for Public Citizen, set for 6:30 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 6 at the Writers Guild Theater, 135 S. Doheny Dr.

A Public Citizen Foundation board member, Skrovan is assembling the show for the third year, returning to last year’s popular venue.

He will emcee along with David Feldman and Jimmy Dore; and the show will feature comedians Marc Maron, Dylan Brody, Ruben Paul, Greg Fitzsimmons, Betsy Salkind, Allan Havey, Carol Leifer and more all volunteering their time.  He’s known Liefer and Harvey since their stand-up days in New York and past shows have featured Ray Romano, Paula Poundstone and Jeff Garland. Highlights from last year’s show are at www.publiccitizen.org.

The event has grown bigger every year. From an idea developed at Stanley Sheinbaum’s Westside home, Skrovan put on the inaugural event at the Brentwood Theatre. “I didn’t know enough to get friends to commit money,” Skrovan admits. But “it worked out” and the event netted $30,000. Last year, with a host committee, the event made more than $90,000 and this year’s goal is $100,000. “It’s sufficient and meaningful, and every little bit helps,” Skrovan says.

A reception for hosts and sponsors will precede the show. “We’re making it easy for people,” says Skrovan. “It’s early, there’s the show and we’re done. You don’t’ have to get dressed up and you get two hours of belly laughs and you’re supporting an organization that works for you.”

Skrovan was introduced to the a non-profit, consumer rights advocacy group when he made a documentary about its founder Ralph Nader and interviewed Joan Claybooke, executive director for 26 years;  Dr. Sidney Wolfe, co-founder and director of the group’s Health Research Group and Robert Weissman, the current president.

“I got to know a group of people watchdogging and advocating for the rest of us and none of us know who they are. They’re looking out for normal people, instituting health and safety regulations. I was impressed with these unsung heroes,” says Skrovan, who hosted Totally Hidden Videos on FOX from 1989-1992

Initially researching the organization as the possible setting for a show, Skrovan was intrigued with the idea of Nader as an “egomaniacal spoiler” and troublemaker who rubbed people the wrong way.

The documentary he produced, co-directed and co-wrote, An Unreasonable Man, gets its title from a quote from George Barnard Shaw’s Mrs. Warren’s Profession: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him… The unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself… All progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

When he was approached to be on the board, Skrovan readily agreed. “If I can’t do this vital work; the least I can do is support it.” Public Citizen has saved thousands of lives, Skrovan says, through examples like advocating for seat belts and air bags, taking 24 dangerous drugs of the market and raising awareness of red dye no.2 and toxic shock syndrome.

Skrovan, who segued into writing and launched his career with Seinfeld, has just returned from two months in Moscow, Russia, helping the country’s fledgling sit-com industry with its version of the hit he wrote for, and adapting the nearly 200 filmed episodes.

He adapted 60 episodes, with an order for 65 more. “I was asked to go over and break some new stories. I decided to make it an adventure”

He’d been away from the show for eight years and “thought we’d done it all” plotwise. “But the tank refilled a little bit; it’s like finding my old tuxedo in the closet, and being surprised it still fits. So we were able to come up with more stories.”

He’s written two blogs on the experience for The Huffington Post. One was about learning to curse in Russian, the other about re-creating the show. “The Marie looks just like Doris Roberts (four-time Emmy winner in the role),” says Skrovan.

He also worked on the Israeli version, where the actor playing Robert (created by 6’, 8.5” Brad Garrett) was not nearly as tall. To keep the tall jokes in, the actor wore two-inch lifts.

Skrovan attributes the show’s universal appeal to it being about family. Characteristics that make it popular in both Egypt and Israel.

Tickets are $100.  To purchase, and for more information, visit  www.citizen.org/stand-up-for-main-street.
—Steve Simmons

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