‘A Matter of Laugh and Death’

Elliott Puckette, Arts Editor

The road of recovery can be a tough one, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t moments of levity along the way. The Wisconsin Recovery Community Organization (WIRCO) is hosting “A Matter of Laugh and Death,” a silent auction and comedy show at The Brink Lounge on Mar. 15.

The evening begins at 6pm, when the silent auction featuring items donated by businesses across Madison will be open for bidding until 8pm. The stand-up show will start at 7pm, hosted by hair stylist and comedienne Stevie Leigh Crutcher and featuring stand-up artists from the Madison community, including Ian John and Nick Hart. Of the comedians features, some are themselves in recovery or strong allies.

Volunteer Coordinator and WIRCO board member Patrick Kempfer came up with the idea for the event, part fundraiser, part community outreach, while in New York last summer attending an event for Young People in Recovery.

There he heard about other groups using comedy nights to raise money for their organizations. The title “A Matter of Laugh and Death” popped into Kempfer’s mind. When he returned to Wisconsin he immediately started looking for a venue.

With the assistance of Caroline Miller from Wisconsin Voices for Recovery, WIRCO began reaching out to businesses across the city to find a venue and supporters, particularly on the east side. WIRCO is considering relocating to the east side in the next few years, and wanted to start forming strong relationships with potential future neighbors.

WIRCO operates out of Asbury United Methodist Church on University Ave. and coordinates with other recovery organizations in the area to provide workshops on recovery and related topics, such as employment training. WIRCO aims to support people struggling with addiction of all kinds as well as mental illnesses.

According to Kempfer all of the board members in the organization are themselves in recovery, “Our group is peer-run, peer-driven, and peer-organized… we want to provide a support system to help addicts on their paths to and of recovery.” While that sometimes means twelve-step programs, it doesn’t always. WIRCO’s aim is not to tell addicts how to recover, but to support them and help them achieve their goals.

That’s one reason that Kempfer doesn’t feel hosting the event at a place that serves alcohol is unreasonable, though he admits it’s ironic. “We won’t be providing free drinks, and we have an entrance that will take people directly to the banquet room [bypassing the bar]. If people want to go into the next room and buy themselves a drink, that’s their choice.”

There will, however, be free food for all guests to enjoy while bidding and watching the show. A $5 donation is requested at the door (more, of course, is welcome). The goal is to be as inclusive as possible. “We want to get our message out there, especially on the east side, where not many people know about us,” says Kempfer.

Many of the businesses who have donated items for the silent auction are from the east side, including The Paint Bar and Willy Street Co-Op. Alliant businesses on the west side near their University Ave. location include Inner Fire Yoga and MOKA, a coffee shop that has been a close ally to the recovery community over the years.

Organizing this event has created an opportunity to reach out and make connections in the Madison community. “People won’t come to us if they don’t know we exist.” On Mar. 16, the day after the comedy event, WIRCO will be partnering with the Parent Addiction Network and the AIDS Resource Center in Wisconsin to host a workshop on administrating Narcan, a medication used to block the effects of opioids and prevent overdose.

The Brink Lounge is at 701 E Washington Ave, close to the capitol. “A Matter of Laugh and Death” opens at 6pm of Mar. 15. A $5 donation at the door is suggested. WIRCO advises that the views expressed by the comedians during the show are not necessarily those of the organization.