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As the wild bushfires continue to wreak havoc throughout most of Australia, a sense of isolation and helplessness spreads with it. In our remote corner of the world, it’s easy to feel as though we’re on our own, and the grief felt by victims is simply crushing.
Recently, a flurry of support, care and donations has come in from abroad reminding us all that what happens in Australia, as far away as we may feel, happens to everyone.
Over the weekend, the L.A based event ‘Stand Up For Australian Fires Benefit‘ was announced, seeing the worlds of punk and comedy unite like never before.
Conceived by Australian comedian Monty Franklin and brought to life with the help of punk rock impresario/comic Joe Sib and Vans Warped Tour head Kevin Lyman, the event will see comedians Joe Rogan, Jim Jefferies and Whitney Cummings take to the stage in an effort to raise funds for The Wildlife Warriors Foundation while reminding us Aussies that we aren’t alone at all.
“Nobody even questioned the whole thing.”
“I don’t have $1 million, like Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman and everyone who’s given money.” tells Monty to Blunt Magazine of how the idea first came about, “I don’t have a million followers on Instagram like Celeste Barber, but what I do have is access to friends of mine who just happen to be some of the greatest comedians in the world.”
Fed up with feeling helpless from the other side of the world, Monty decided to reach out to his mates in comedy, to see who would be interested in teaming up for the special, and important event. “Nobody even questioned the whole thing.” he says. “Everyone I spoke to immediately said, ‘Yes, I’ll help.’ Everyone just wanted to get on board.”
As Monty recalls, it took less than a minute for the idea to grow legs when he first started talking about the plan with Joe Rogan.
“I was at The Comedy Store in Hollywood. I was speaking with Joe and we’re talking about the fires”. Rogan had previously experienced the hellscape of wild bushfires first hand in his native California, and was naturally concerned about what Australians are going through.
“He just immediately went, ‘I’m in 100%”. Monty says.
From there, the universe conspired in favour of his bushfires benefit plan.
“I texted Jim Jeffrey straight away and said, ‘look, we’re doing this, Joe’s in are you in?” And he just texted back straight away, ‘yes, I’m in.’ Then I walked down the corridor at The Comedy Store and I spoke to Whitney Cummings and she was in. We had a massive show in about 30 seconds.”
With the line up now locked in, Monty reached out to a contact in events, Joe Sib, who helmed record label SideOneDummy, and was associated with the iconic touring festival and punk rock mecca, Vans Warped Tour.
“When I told Joe, he immediately said, ‘Whoa, let me call you back’. He called Kevin Lyman, who brought A.E.G and Kevin Lyman Group into the fold.
“The devastation that I saw from the pictures and particularly the animals got me.”
“They went, ‘alright, we’re going to make this great.’ Before I knew it, we’ve got a theatre downtown and all these people helping out of the kindness of their hearts, and no one taking any money.”
Monty and fellow organisers have locked in The Wildlife Warriors Foundation as the recipient of all funds raised. The reasoning behind the decision was simple. Firstly, the Foundation’s starts, Steve and Terri Irwin, are as synonymous with wildlife conservation Stateside as they are here.
“The reach that Joe Rogan, Jeffreys and Whitney Cummings have in America is huge”. says Monty, “If people see that and maybe can’t get to L.A [for the event] but want to help, they can throw in a bit of money. Hopefully we can really make a big difference”.
“The devastation that I saw from the pictures and particularly the animals got me…a half a billion animals,” Monty says, refering to a scary, yet allegedly conservative estimate on the number of animals lost in the bushfires: “It was just a staggering statistic”.
After liaising with a friend from the Featherdale Wildlife Park in New South Wales, Monty learnt that the damage to the native Koala population was so severe that the species are at risk of a genetic bottleneck, and extinction. “That terrified me,” Monty says, “to think that in our lifetime and our generation, we could see the demise of the koala…”
“Everyone wants to help any way they can.”
On the other side of the planet, and with their own environmental challenges, Americans have resonated strongly with the plight of their Aussie cousins. “It was last weekend when everyone started to really open their eyes to it.” Monty says, “The imagery that came through over social media and stuff like that really blew up over here and got everyone talking and inquiring about it; everyone wants to help any way they can.”
Both the heavy music and comedy communities have respectively done more for those affected by the bushfires than ever thought possible. Fellow Australian comedian Celeste Barber has now amassed more than $50 million in her personal fundraising campaign.
“I think what Celeste Barber has done is incredible.” Monty says, “I think the reason why it has blown up in the way that it did with her campaign is there’s no political agenda behind it. There’s nothing else except an Australian who cares and wanted to help their country. Everyone saw that and wanted to get behind it.”
Moved by the overwhelming support of his own efforts, Monty has found hope in an otherwise hopeless situation. “It gives you a renewed faith in humanity when you see that kind of stuff…”
“I saw humanity work in a positive way”.
Donate to The Wildlife Warriors Foundation here.
Donate to Wires for NSW Animal Conservation
Donate to RFS to support NSW Fire Fighters
Donate to CFA to support VIC Fire Fighters