For seven years, local comedian Nathan Timmel has harnessed the power of laughter to raise money for those in need through his annual Comedy for Charity event.
The event started as an accident, he said, when a friend asked him to lunch seven years ago, asking how much it would cost to get him to perform at a charity event.
“You said you would pay for lunch?” Timmel responded, concluding free food was enough.
Since then, he’s been gathering comedians to headline annual comedy for charity events that have raised a total of $18,000 over the past six years.
All proceeds have gone directly to private families or charities, including English River Outfitters, a not-for-profit that provides outdoor recreation experiences for Iowa veterans and their families, the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, another not-for-profit that raises funds for children’s cancer research, the Johnson County EMTs and others.
“This isn’t the case where we pay out the comics and the venue first,” Timmel said. “The comics and venue donate their time and space so that all proceeds go directly to the charity.”
Last year’s Comedy for Charity brought more than 200 people to the Mill in Iowa City and raised $6,000 for a local family’s medical bills after their child was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. It was the most money they’d raised yet.
This year, Timmel will perform alongside five other comedians at the Iowa City Yacht Club on Sept. 24 for the seventh annual show to raise money for Coats of Kindness, a national not-for-profit based in Minnesota that distributes donated winter gear to those in need.
All comics this year are local, including hosts Clare Roth and Travis Bails as well as featured comedians Mike Lucas, Donny Townsend, Tim Sullivan and Timmel.
“This isn’t an open mic,” Timmel clarified. “These comics have been performing for several years. It will be good quality comedy.”
“We’re going to put on one of our best shows,” said Mike Lucas, an Iowa City comic. “It’s nice, too, to have a reason besides just the comedy to come to the show. Charity is a great reason to get out of the house.”
Donations of cash or coats, mittens or any other winter gear will be accepted at the door for admission.
“It’s a free will donation, so we won’t be looking at anybody sideways,” Timmel said. “Whatever you drop in the bucket is great. But let’s not get the moth ridden ugly Christmas sweaters. Let’s give stuff that actually can do well by a human in need.”
Any items collected will be distributed on Oct. 15 to The Kingdom Center church in Iowa City, the Community of Christ church in Coralville and to the North Liberty Community Pantry. Monetary donations will be used to purchase winter gear for the students of the Iowa City school district.
Looking back over the past six years, Timmel said he’s proud of what he’s accomplished with the event.
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“Telling jokes for a living doesn’t really help anyone, so it makes me feel good to know this stupid skill I have can actually be put to good,” he said. “I look back on it and I say wow. I really helped do what I could. That’s not bad for a nobody like me.”