05/15/2014 12:11 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Comedy & Cause: Why Laughing Matters


I always seem to fall in love with the quintessential Renaissance Man, someone who's passionate about many things and comes pretty damn close to mastering all of them. So, it was no coincidence that I befriended someone I consider to be a genuine Renaissance Woman. That would be digital video veteran Amber J. Lawson. We met three years ago in Los Angeles at various entertainment industry events and social enterprise showcases. Amber is currently Managing Partner of Storytech, which bridges the gap between storytellers (musicians, show runners and brands) and technology. She has served as the Head of Video Programming and Originals at AOL, and has worked in development at a number of branded entertainment and comedy platforms. At the heart of all of her endeavors, comedy and cause take center stage.

With boundless energy and intrepid vision, Amber has been fusing comedy and digital entertainment together in the name of social good for three years through her social enterprise, Comedy Gives Back, which produces a multi-platform, annually livestreamed 24-hour comedy event to raise money for a myriad of charity partners including Malaria No More, Feeding America and Off the Mat. Over the years, stars such as Dane Cook, Marc Maron, Reggie Watts, Kevin Nealon, and a slew of other comics have performed for Comedy Gives Back in cities across the globe. To date, the events have reached more than 200 million people.

After witnessing Amber's dedication to the intersection of entertainment and social impact first-hand, and seeing how sought after she is to be on the boards of creative start-ups, all working to disrupt their ecosystems, I figured it was time we put our heads together.

I caught up with Amber recently to talk about her vision for Comedy Gives Back and how the enterprise has evolved into a unique solution for celebrity-backed causes.

TB: Why did you decide to merge comedy and cause?

AJL: Comedy and cause have a long legacy of going together (think Bob Hope and Jerry Lewis). Our spin is leveraging comedy to disrupt in order to create awareness and drive funds to our charity partners. The biggest piece of this is utilizing multi-platform storytelling, in order to activate a larger group of people beyond the comedy club and across the globe on every device.

I have been in many high-powered positions of influence, but found myself asking "what's it all about?" So I left my power position to create an organization that would merge ALL my passions -- comedy, digital, and social good -- in Comedy Gives Back.

TB: How has your initiative changed since you started?

AJL: The Comedy Gives Back brand has grown in the past couple years, but our mission has stayed the same -- to elevate the planet through laughter, and leveraging comedy and digital platforms to raise funds and awareness for our charity partners.

TB: How have you been able to best harness celebrity for social change? What's worked? What hasn't?

AJL: Luckily for us, at Comedy Gives Back, all three of us founders myself, Zoe Friedman, and Jodi Lieberman have created opportunities for and worked with very talented people throughout our careers. Now, a lot of those people are famous and have huge careers, and we are able to call on them to come support causes and raise awareness for various charities.

What has worked for us has been to work with our celebrity friends on charities THEY are passionate about. Comedy Gives Back is truly a solution for Celebrity Charity causes. We produce, promote and distribute. We provide alternative revenue streams through content that charities just don't have the bandwidth and expertise to pursue. We are that one stop solution.

TB: What's your goal for the company moving forward?

AJL: Our goals for Comedy Gives Back are to hold more frequent events on a local, national, and global scale, and to build a celebrity board that provides monthly dividends to their charities, as well as bring on annual brand partners, who are seeking to leverage the hugely engaged comedy and charity audience.

TB: What advice can you give budding social entrepreneurs who want to change the world, but are having a hard time coming up with a business plan?

AJL: Do what you are passionate about because that way you will always find people who will be moved by your passion, and your path will become crystal clear!

To learn about how you can get involved with Comedy Gives Back, check out the group's site here.

This post was originally published on The Toolbox, a social change and technology platform founded by Peter Gabriel.