BREVARD COUNTY — What better way is there to spend a Saturday night among friends, laughing until your sides hurt, all while helping first responders, policemen and their families?
The Laughter Saves Lives Foundation is traveling to Melbourne as part of its comedy tour that will raise money for the foundation and rotating charities.
The comedy show will open its doors at 7 p.m., with the show scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 22 at the Eau Gallie Civic Center, 1551 Highland Ave., Melbourne.
Comedic acts will include John Santo, celebrity impersonator from Long Island; John Larocchia, Laughter Saves Lives founder and president; Steve Netta, MTV and Comedy Central star; and John Salerno, “Comedy Cop” and event host.
Tickets are available for $20 in advance or $25 at the door, and patrons who present their ticket stubs at The Cottage Irish Pub will receive 15% off their bill.
Mr. Larocchia is a long-standing comedian and a retired fireman who lost 19 of his friends and co-workers during 9/11. After experiencing such a tremendous loss, Mr. Larocchia said one of the best ways to remember his friends was through laughter.
“When you lose so many friends and people who are close to you, I was devastated... and then it hit me one day, everybody’s saying never forget, and you’re saying you’re never going to forget these guys, well, what are you going to do?” Mr. Larocchia asked.
“I was a comic but these guys made me laugh,” he continued. “What a great way to remember them by doing comedy shows, helping cops and firemen across the country. As it’s growing, it’s very rewarding to get those thank yous, and to see people after the shows.”
Mr. Larocchia belonged to Squad 288 Haz-Mat Company 1. Despite being scheduled to work during 9/11, Mr. Larocchia had a medical exam and was not present when his crew responded to the attacks.
“Ladder 12 Haz-Mat 1 in Queens responded when the first plane hit and were in the building – they got down there really quick, too quick,” Mr. Larocchia said. “They were all in the building when it came down. How do you deal with that? You really can’t.”
Since starting the Laughter Saves Lives Foundation, Mr. Larocchia has been able to do free comedy shows at veterans’ hospitals and at the New York State Volunteer Retirement Home for retired firefighters.
The Laughter Saves Lives Foundation also offers assistance for responders and military member that are struggling years after a tragedy has occurred.
“Sometimes people go have a night out, they’re miserable or depressed, and all it takes is that one night where they remember how to laugh and how to have a good time, and for them to say, ‘You know what, I’m going to try and snap out of this. I’m going to get the help I need,’” Mr. Larocchia said.
One of the first instances that made Mr. Larocchia laugh again, he said, was when he visited a warehouse downtown with donations for first responders. There were winter hats shaped and colored like fruits. The captain had said they didn’t need those hats, but the firemen each grabbed a fruit hat, sparking laughter once everyone saw how the crew had donned them.
The Melbourne comedy show will benefit nonprofit organizations Survive First Foundation and Blue Alert Foundation.
The Survive First Foundation works with first responders and their families who need mental health support from the impact of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and substance abuse.
The Blue Alert Foundation aims to create a notification system similar to “Amber” and “Silver” alerts, whereas the Blue Alert helps speed the apprehension of violent criminals. Currently, 34 states utilize this system.
For more information, visit www.laughtersaveslives.org.