Combating Violence with Laughter

September 5, 2014 |

Physical abuse is a serious issue that plagues our society every day with astounding numbers of cases of violence – primarily against women – that hurt our family structures and those we love in debilitating ways. Every year over 4 million physical assaults occur on women dealt by their partners; women under 24-years-old are at the greatest risk of domestic violence, rape and sexual assault.

Suzie Sexton: Tucsonan, comedienne, attorney, an activist against violence and organizer of the Stand Up To Stop Violence annual fundraisers. Photo: Allan Sturm Photography

Suzie Sexton: Tucsonan, comedienne, attorney, an activist against violence and organizer of the Stand Up To Stop Violence annual fundraisers.
Photo: Allan Sturm Photography

Clearly this issue is no laughing matter. But as the old adage states, laughter is the best medicine for most things, and thanks to Tucsonan Suzie Sexton and her organization Comedy for Charity, she’s doing her part to help put an end to abuse.

On Sunday, Sept. 21 at 7 p.m., Suzie is presenting the 4th Annual Stand Up To Stop Violence variety show at the Fox Theatre in Downtown Tucson. The highly anticipated event will be emceed by David Fitzsimmons and features comedy performances by Bill Dawes, Jill Bryan (sister to Jimmy Kimmel), Elliot Glicksman and Suzie Sexton herself. Janee Starr, Hope Sullivan and LeeAnne Savage will provide music and a dance number will be performed by Dancing In The Streets AZ. There will be raffle prices, drinks and a red carpet with reporters and camera crews from Tucson Lifestyle Live. Proceeds will go to Dancing In The Streets AZ and Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse.

Senseless violence is something that has affected Sexton immensely in her own life, the impetus behind holding these fundraising events.

“Unfortunately, I was terribly affected when my sister was murdered in a mugging in Chicago in 1980. A lot more people are impacted by violence than anyone typically imagines. So I became an activist so that I can do all that I could to prevent this kind of violence from happening,” says Sexton. “I wanted to do something positive, so I’m using this gala to raise awareness and money to prevent violence and also to entertain people with a great show. There’s always the comedy-tragedy juxtaposition and I like to use the phrase that when there’s laughter there’s hope.”

After growing up in Illinois, Sexton went on to become an attorney in Tucson where she takes on cases against violence and physical abuse, but she decided that there was still more that she could do, so she minted her own organization and paired up with other great institutions that share her passion. One such institution is this year’s co-beneficiary Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse, which provides a 24/7 crisis hotline, emergency shelter, transitional and permanent housing programs, safety planning assistance, case management, legal assistance, individual and group support, and much more to victims of violence.

“Our mission is to provide the opportunity to create, sustain and celebrate a life free from abuse. We are focused on the individual needs of each of our participants and offer a wide range of services to assist them in their journey,” says Emerge’s VP of Philanthropy Kimberly Thompson. “Our goal is to educate people about the tremendous amount of abuse and violence in our community and the need for all of us to get involved. Suzie has seen how violence can damage lives and wanted to do something meaningful and we all benefit for it. It’s wonderful thing, hearing a roomful of Tucsonans laughing and enjoying themselves and at the same time contributing to the safety of our community.”

Bill Dawes headlines the  4th Annual Stand Up To Stop Violence variety show. Photo: Maria Tornberg

Bill Dawes headlines the 4th Annual Stand Up To Stop Violence variety show.
Photo: Maria Tornberg

As the event has evolved over the years, so has the caliber of its gala, as this year’s headliner, Bill Dawes, comes from New York City where he is currently working on a new Broadway play while also performing stand up across the country. Dawes has already had an impressive career where he has starred in the hit Broadway play Bronx Bombers as Mickey Mantle, has had roles on Sex in The City, Law & Order and Criminal Minds on top of touring the world for his successful comedy act.

“Comedy at its purest form should always be for charity. The idea that there are people that you can make laugh and help raise money towards a cause just makes sense. If I could do that for every show, I’d do it,” says Dawes. “As a comic you can spend a lot of your life navel gazing and you feel like everything you’re doing is for your tortured inner-child, so when there’s something validating and uplifting that isn’t just for yourself and can be used to help people, it’s a great thing. I’m truly honored to perform at this year’s gala and to support such a meaningful cause that affects all of us.”

“We’ve really pulled out all of the stops for this year’s show and we’re so excited about it. I love bringing live comedy to Tucson because it’s way different than watching comedians on TV, and this event gives you a lot of bang for your buck. It’s not just comedy; it’s a whole variety show,” says Sexton. “I get an emotional high from raising money for this cause and I love making people laugh, so those two things combined are a big win-win.”

Tickets for the Sunday, Sept. 21 event are available at the Fox Theatre box office, 17 W. Congress St., and online at for $19, $29 or $49 for VIP. Student tickets with ID are $10. For more information visit

Category: Community, Entertainment, Events