NYC comedians ‘really do care’ about immigration

Katie Johantgen, of the popular "Friends" parody musical, has arranged the "We Really Do Care" comedy show fundraiser for immigrant children. Photo Credit: David Handschuh

A group of local comics will host a benefit show this weekend.

Katie Johantgen, of the popular
Katie Johantgen, of the popular “Friends” parody musical, has arranged the “We Really Do Care” comedy show fundraiser for immigrant children. Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

The internet may have moved on from the Twitter storm caused by Melania Trump’s jacket late last month, but a group of New York City comedians still “really do care.” 

Katie Johantgen, of the popular “Friends” parody musical, has arranged for more than nine stand-up performers to take to the stage at The West End Lounge this weekend in an effort to raise money for young immigrants. 

“After everything that’s been happening at the border with families being separated, I think, like a lot of people, I’ve just been like crawling out of my skin, thinking ‘what can I do to help?’” Johantgen, 26, says. 

Her answer? The “We Really Do Care” comedy show fundraiser, an indirect response the “I really don’t care, do u” Zara jacket Trump wore while on her way to tour an immigrant children’s shelter. 

“I already had the idea for a benefit show,” Johantgen explains. But seeing Trump’s jacket make headlines sparked a “feeling of restlessness” and “deep, deep sadness for the people that are being put through this,” she adds.  

The free-of-charge night of comedy, Sunday at 8 p.m., will work to raise funds for The Young Center, a child advocacy nonprofit.  

“Everybody wants to help, but not everybody can give ‘x’ amount of money,” Johantgen, who’s performed stand-up in New York City for the past two years, says. “We want it to be open to people to come enjoy the lineup for whatever people are comfortable with giving, regardless of the amount.” 

The evening of stand-up — which will cover immigration, politics and a variety of other topics — combines the talents of Brooklyn’s Veronica Graza, Johantgen, and Laz Rivero, an immigrant originally from Cuba, among others.

“It really has impacted me personally. As a human being, a refugee and someone who came here young, it was so important that I was here with my parents,” says Rivero, of Prospect Heights. 

Rivero came to a refugee camp in America by boat with his family when he was 7 and says he was “welcomed with open arms” an experience “completely different” than that of refugees today under the Trump administration. 

“I can’t watch the news. I can’t turn it on and hear the sounds of (child refugees) crying, it really affects me throughout the day,” he says. “You shake it off and then for a comedian, you go on the stage and perform.” 

While the comedian says there’s nothing humorous about immigrant rights, he finds a way to tell his own story in his stand-up set in an effort to help raise awareness. 

“It needs to be known that as a comedian it’s not all laughs. There are some dark places there,” he says.

Aside from a set that dabbles in politics, and donations at the door, Johantgen has arranged for voter registration forms and petitions to abolish ICE to be accessible via laptops on-site. 
“Everybody feels so passionately about immigration rights,” she says. “I really wanted to take the anger and restlessness and channel that into something productive and good.” 

The event at The West End Lounge, 955 W. End Ave., will be cash only. A two-drink minimum will be required, per venue regulations. 

Meghan Giannotta