SouthFlorida.com
Make every weekend epic with our free Weekender newsletter. Sign up today!

Heather McDonald turns standup act into Stoneman Douglas benefit

Comedian Heather McDonald is hoping to lighten the load for students and families affected by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.

McDonald, who rose to stardom as a panelist on the late-night comedy talk show “Chelsea Lately,” is turning her standup comedy show into a benefit for the victims of the mass murder March 20 at Boca Black Box Center for the Arts.

“I just wanted the people in that community to have a laugh,” McDonald says. “I’m not making a speech or anything. The money is going to the victims and good causes. I don’t know what they are going to need, but they are going to need a lot.”

The benefit for the Stoneman Douglas Victim’s Fund came about when Michael DiMartino, a local fan of McDonald’s podcast “Juicy Scoop,” felt that the comedian’s down-to-earth persona would make her approachable for doing a fundraiser.

“Growing up in that area … in Coral Springs and right on the edge of Parkland, Douglas was one of our rival schools,” DiMartino says. “A lot of my friends went to that school, and now a lot of their children go to Douglas. It wasn’t hard for me to put myself in the hallways of that school. I was quite literally heartbroken. It just hit so close to home. It really hurt. I didn’t know what there is I could do.

But then, not long afterward, DiMartino was listening to “Juicy Scoop” on his commute to work at the Renaissance Boca Raton hotel and the gossipy take on pop culture and celebrity lifted his spirits.

“I was listening to her podcast, and it was the first time I had laughed or chuckled,” recalls DiMartino, who has also worked with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. “And I thought if I could bring this to other people, that in itself would be a victory.”

McDonald says she was deeply affected by the school shooting, as well. She has three children.

“One is a freshman in college, one is a freshman in high school and one is in the sixth grade,” she explains from her home in Los Angeles. “My son is in a public school just like [Parkland]. It’s in a nice area. But they are being taught what to do, you know, lock the door, and if you are not in the classroom they will not let you in. So they are taught to jump in a trashcan, run in a zigzag pattern or play dead.”

McDonald has been producing the podcast, for two years now. Now twice weekly, “Juicy Scoop” gets a million downloads every month.

“It’s been the surprise success of my career,” she says. “I do a show every Tuesday and Thursday, at least an hour, sometimes an hour and a half. People listen to it working out, or women breastfeeding or during their commute. I had no idea how it was a part of people’s routines. I’m getting the mothers and the daughters, which I love, because it’s all the stuff they like to talk about: Hollywood gossip, relationships, dating, reality shows — the top reality shows. It’s just a great audience. And now, I’m getting so many men, because their wives are listening and laughing.”

McDonald has turned that fan base into a marketing army. “I started my own sorority,” she says. “There are about 30 chapters. They find each other and become friends.” They also help spread the word when the comedian comes to their towns with her standup act, some of which is drawn from the podcast.

“This guy Michael just emailed me,” McDonald says. “He said, ‘I saw you in Tampa, and I’m a fan. I was just wondering if you’d want to do this around the March 24 march. ‘Juicy’ is very nonpolitical. I always say this is a place where you can go and know you’re not going to get into a fight. But obviously with this tragedy, I mean my kids are in school. It really hit me.”

The “Stoneman Douglas Benefit Show With Comedian Heather McDonald” will begin 8 p.m. March 20 at Boca Black Box Center for the Arts, 8221 Glades Road, No. 10, in Boca Raton. Tickets cost $30. To order, call 561-483-9036 or go to BocaBlackBox.com.

rhagwood@southflorida.com

Copyright © 2018, South Florida
82°