High On Laughter is a creation born of my stand-up act where I convinced the audience up front that I was leaving showbiz, that it was my last show, all because I was "addicted to the laughter" and had to quit. Nearly 5,000 "farewell performances" across North America, the UK, and Europe, I created "High On Laughter," a comedy charity show benefiting Turning Point Scotland, a drug and alcohol charity launched by Princess Diana.
Turning Point Scotland treats Glasgow based serious drug addicts, most of them addicted to heroin; the entire Scottish drug culture was brilliantly portrayed in Danny Boyle's 1996 classic film Trainspotting. Since my stand-up act was about being addicted to comedy, I had researched what "real" addicts go through for my book Confessions of a ShowBiz Junkie. Interviews with comedy greats Steve Allen, Alan King, as well as UCLA adjunct professor Norman Cousins, whose famous book "Anatomy of an Illness" described his self-healing from a collagen disease via clinical use of "comedy therapy" Cousins was the first to postulate that laughter can heal and agreed with my theory that not only can laughter become addictive, but indeed can be used to cure or transfer actual substance abuse addictions.
The first High On Laughter took place at the 2,000 Edinburgh Fringe Festival and included American comedy stars George Wendt ("Norm" from Cheers) and Zach Galifiniakis. The following year, 2001, HOL II took place at the 3,300-seat Edinburgh Playhouse. Comedians on that show included Emo Philips, UK political comedy star Mark Thomas, and British comedy sensation Johnny Vegas.
The second High On Laughter foretold big stuff.
HOL III took place September 8, 2002 at the world-famous legendary London Palladium. Where The Beatles played for the Queen. Where Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, and Judy Garland played. AND where Martin and Lewis played nearly 50 years to the day to sold out houses.
The now legendary story goes that I was all prepared to produce the third of the High On Laughter series, but this time for television broadcast. I hired a very good local London television production company, rented the theatre and booked the comics. Emo Philips, Bobcat Goldthait, Rick Overton, Jim Gaffigan, Zach Galifiniakis, Max Alexander, Earl Okin, Boothby Graffoe, Shelagh Martin, Paul Provenza, Ronnie Golden and Ronnie and the Rex.
Trouble was: If I'm producing a television show and trying to sell it internationally to both an American audience, I need an international star.
Enter comedy legend Jerry Lewis. Much as been said and written about "working with Jerry". You can get a good bite of it by clicking here. But, I want to concentrate on my accomplishment. I created and produced an international comedy charity show at one of the most famous venues in the world and got it broadcast on UK television.
There are plans in the works for High On Laughter IV to take once again, at the incredibly world famous and hallowed ground: The London Palladium. And this time, no Jerry Lewis.