UCSB Arts & Lectures raised $385,000 during Reel Comedy with Mel Brooks, a sold-out gala fundraiser for its educational outreach programs, on May 12 at the Montecito Country Club.
Mel Brooks is one of an elite group of entertainers to earn all four major entertainment prizes – the Tony, the Emmy, Grammy, and Oscar. The director, producer, writer, and actor dazzled the crowd of more than 200 guests in a rare evening of stand-up comedy, featuring jokes and hilarious anecdotes from his storied career. Beginning with his early life in a tenement in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York City, Brooks went on to recount the highlights, from his first big financial hit, Blazing Saddles, to his attempt to cast Dustin Hoffman in The Producers (Hoffman passed on the role to star opposite Brooks’ wife, the late Anne Bancroft, in The Graduate), and beyond. The stand-up act was followed by a Q-and-A with the audience, which Brooks kicked off by feeding the audience members silly questions that he ironically refused to answer.
“The evening was an incredible success. Arts & Lectures’ gala fundraiser generated critical financial support for our educational outreach programs in the schools, both K-12 and on-campus, and the generosity of our wonderful supporters is remarkable,” said Miller McCune Executive Director Celesta M. Billeci. “And Mel Brooks is hilarious as ever at 88. He was so charming and such a delight, bringing smiles to the faces of everyone in the room. We are still laughing!”
“I especially want to thank Marcy Carsey and Lady Leslie Ridley-Tree, the premier table sponsors for the evening. All of the funds raised from this event will ensure that local students from kindergarten through college, as well as underserved community members, continue to have access to our high quality educational outreach programs.”
In the 2014-2015 season, more than 30,000 college and school-aged students and community members participated in Arts & Lectures’ educational outreach programs. They included a week-long elementary school residency by the Los Angeles-based theater company Story Pirates and the award-winning ¡Viva el Arte de Santa Bárbara!, a collaboration with other area nonprofits that features free concerts and residencies throughout Santa Barbara County.
The evening also featured a live auction led by Campaign for Arts & Lectures Co-chair Dan Burnham and Chief Financial Officer for the UC Santa Barbara Foundation Eric Sonquist. The lively bidding for auction packages included rare box seats at the Hollywood Bowl with a trumpet signed by Wynton Marsalis and a banjo signed by Béla Fleck; tickets to Arts & Lectures’ complete 2015-2016 season of events, a meet-and-greet with Yo-Yo Ma and a cello signed by Yo-Yo Ma; and a National Geographic Expeditions trip to the Galápagos Archipelago plus tickets to Arts & Lectures’ 2015-2016 National Geographic Live lecture series.
The event’s premier table sponsors were Marcy Carsey and Lady Leslie Ridley-Tree. Other table sponsors included Meg & Dan Burnham, Genevieve & Lewis Geyser, Sara Miller McCune, Maxine Prisyon & Milton Warshaw, Fredric E. Steck, Anne & Michael Towbes, Judy & Bruce Anticouni, Arlene & Barrie Bergman, Irma & Morrie Jurkowitz, and Diana & Simon Raab. Wine for the evening was generously provided by Lieff Wines and Foxen Vineyard & Winery.
For more information about the Campaign for Arts & Lectures, contact Arts & Lectures’ Development office at 805-893-2174 or visit www.ArtsAndLectures.UCSB.edu.