It was an interesting - and highly diverse - group that took the stage Saturday night at the Kodak Theatre in support of a non-profit organization battling the neurological disorder autism.There was Tom Brokaw, the all-business newsman serving as emcee and reminding a packed house - even at an event focusing on autism - of the ravages of Hurricanes Rita and Katrina.
There was Bob Wright, the chairman and CEO of NBC/Universal, and his wife Suzanne, delivering from-the-heart speeches about bringing back children whom autism has caused to "slip away."Then there was Paul Simon, still rocking after all these years, getting people to dance in the aisles even at a venue where aisle-dancing is barely possible.
And finally, there was comedian Jerry Seinfeld, firing off wry observations about terrorists, cell phones and marriage.
The benefit concert Saturday for Autism Speaks - founded by the Wrights in February after their 2 1/2 year old grandson was diagnosed with autism - was expected to bring in $2 million.Add that to the $31 million Autism Speaks has already raised in seven months, and the Wrights appear off to a strong start in bridging the gap they claim has been created by the lack of sufficient government-funded research.
Saturday night's take will help fund research and a percentage goes to Autism Cares, an offshoot designed to help families with autistic children who were displaced by the recent hurricanes.Brokaw, a father and grandfather and longtime friend of the Wrights, said he brought a journalist's inquisitiveness about a modern day epidemic to the proceedings - along with a newsman's frustration over being unable to offer any answers (since autism has no known cause or cure).Seinfeld, also a parent, has a close friend with an autistic child.
And Simon said he came "because Jerry asked me."
Following introductions by Brokaw and the Wrights, Simon performed first. Backed by a seven-piece band, the singer executed a masterful nine song set consisting almost entirely of
standards: "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard," "Graceland," "Mrs. Robinson,' and "The Boxer" among them.Simon remains in fine voice, strategically reaching high notes when called upon and making frequent use of his graceful hands as if conducting a symphony of his own. Simon toned the beat down only in the opening song and during the opening strains of "The Boxer." "I'm going to be getting to these instruments in a minute," said Seinfeld, following Simon and kicking off an unbroken monologue of witticisms both keen and off the wall.
Folks who remember the pre-"Seinfeld" Seinfeld - or remember the stand-up bits that opened "Seinfeld" episodes - would recognize the smartly observed shots at life and the world.
Why does an anchorman have to go down be at the center of the hurricane coverage when "they're the head of the ....company?" the comedian wondered. "And what's with that coiled spring that you see on their necks?" He went on to riff on suicide pilots ("Jihad E. Coyote"), inserting cheese into pizza crust and the evil tendencies of household cookies.
A monologue about the use of the word "ass" was about as close to a PG-13 rating the comedian got. Everything else Saturday was pretty much clean.