Last night, I had a ball at Woodstock Farm Sanctuary’s annual fundraising laugh-a-thon, Comedy for Karma, held at the Gotham Comedy Club in NYC:

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This unique, annual event gives supporters of the Woodstock Farm a chance to come out, enjoy the work of a few wildly talented young comics, and help raise money for their beloved animal sanctuary in upstate NY. Woodstock Farm will always have a special place in my heart: it was at another of its annual fundraising events—Thanksliving of 2009—that I first started to redefine the terms of my vegan lifestyle, and began exploring the ethics of veganism.


Gena in Woodstock, 2009

I’ve never looked back.

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Gena at Poplar Springs, 2011

I’m always happy to attend or volunteer at Woodstock FAS events. Conveniently, they always happen to be a blast. I love that one of their annual events is a comedy show. Supporters of the farm, and anyone who takes a compassionate lifestyle seriously, know that there’s nothing funny about the way we treat farm animals in this country and around the world. But we spend a lot of time talking about the horrors of animal abuse, writing about them, debating them, and contemplating them seriously. Once in a while, it’s important for us to band together, celebrate our community, and enjoy a good joke or two. And that’s what Comedy for Karma is all about.

This year’s event featured some baked sugar cookies with buttercream frosting—dessert pizzettes, if you will—from Verite Catering, a brand new, all vegan catering company founded by my incredible young friend, Cassie:

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They were scrumptious. I even bought one to share with the strangers next to me at my table:

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I’ll have to get the recipe from Cassie—or perhaps she’ll share it with us in her upcoming CR interview!

Last night’s lineup of comics was stellar, featuring two vegans, Jamie Kilstein and Myk Kaplan, and some comics who are close to the Woodstock Farm and its mission: The Daily Show’s Wyatt Cenac and John Oliver, and the remarkably tall Gary Gulman. Our host and hostess for the night were Dan Piraro—vegan comedian extraordinaire and member of the Woodstock FAS family—and Olivia Munn, whom you may also know from The Daily Show, or from TV. They kicked things off with good spirits and a few fine quips:

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And onto the stage rushed Jamie, who was like a tattooed force of nature:

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Jamie and I had found each other before the show and chatted: he had recently tweeted me to say that he and his wife are exploring raw foods (yay!!) and they had a couple of questions for me. I assured him that horrifying detox symptoms are largely mythical, that he doesn’t really have to use his new dehydrator if he doesn’t want to, even though he spent money on it, and that it’s OK to keep eating cooked food, even if you fall in love with raw food. We also had some time to chat about our paths to veganism and animal rights: I always love to hear about peoples’ journeys to compassion, and this was no exception!

Jamie launched right into a very funny rant about how veganism tends to inspire more shock and defensiveness in strangers, family and friends than practically any other lifestyle stance or philosophical position. It’s true: I’ve found that I can describe almost religious view, political affiliation, or career choice without so much as a raised eyebrow (granted, I live in NYC—this might not be true everywhere). I mention veganism to polite company, however, and it’s immediately fair game to bombard me with questions—sometimes innocent and curious, sometimes rather defensive: “But WHY? You need protein, you know.” “I buy my eggs from the farmer’s market. What do you have to say about that??” “My doctor says you need meat to be healthy.” “Animals eat each other in the wild, so why shouldn’t we eat them?” “What if you were stranded on a dessert island? What would you do then?” “What about people? Don’t you care about HUMAN suffering??” And so on. Jamie tackled a bunch of these head on, starting with the desert island (“It’s 2011. I won’t be stranded on a dessert island.”)

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He also had some great material on gay rights.

Next up was Myk Kaplan, who, though more understated in demeanor than Jamie is, was also hilarious:

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He had a few of my favorite lines of the evening, including “my mother says she’s a vegetarian, but she’s actually a pescatarian. Which means she eats fish, including lying about being a vegetarian,” and “on average, vegans live 15 years longer than omnivores, mostly because we don’t get invited anywhere fun.” (Emily was enjoying my live tweets, which relayed the jokes in full!)

Gary Gulman changed the mood up, bringing the jokes out of the primarily vegan realm and talking about politics and culture, too:

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He is very, very tall.

Finally, Wyatt Cenac and John Oliver closed the show with energy and daring. I give Oliver special credit for making the tiring crowd guffaw—in part by teasing us about how obviously tired we were:

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In the middle of the event, Jenny Brown—co-founder of Woodstock FAS—took the stage to rally support for animals. “What isn’t funny,” she reminded us, “is the treatment of farm animals in this country.”

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Jenny will always get credit for being the woman who reminded me that veganism “isn’t just about having a perfect bowel movement. It’s about the animals.” I adore and admire her, and I thank her for helping to expand and add meaning to my veganism. Here she is with Jamie:

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And with the lovely Ms. Munn:

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Talk about the veggie glow!

In all, it was a fabulous and fun evening, and I’m already excited for next year. Not to mention my new shirt:

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Like it? The buy one for yourself! They’re for purchase here, and proceeds go to help the Woodstock Farm to shelter, heal, and care for animals.

If you’re an New Yorker, I urge you to join me next year for Comedy for Karma—it’s really not to be missed! Just ask these laughing folks:

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One thing I took away from the evening was that all of the comics were into exploring not just veganism and AR, but also gay rights, gender, race, and religion. Now, I’m guessing that these topics are standard fare in the world of standup: comedy is transgressive, and what better topics to push the envelope with than these? Even so, I had the feeling that this was a particularly daring and open-minded group of comedians, and I loved it.

Thanks to Woodstock FAS for a great night. I’ll be back here tomorrow with a favorite new raw noodle dish.


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