Disarmament dialogue no laughing matter

Isn’t it ironic that the host of a fundraiser for the elimination of nuclear weapons has a head shaped like a ballistic missile?

Such were the opening words of comedian and host Jason Blanchard at Bombs Away, a benefit against the existence of nuclear weapons.

The show was hosted at the Cecil Community Centre Friday night by local advocacy group Seriously, Time To Stop. The event was held in partnership with Physicians for Global Survival, the Canadian branch of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985.

But this wasn’t your regular benefit.

Blanchard, along with three other comedians and two musicians, performed their material as a means of getting youth involved in the dialogue about nuclear disarmament.

Martha Goodings, president of Seriously, Time To Stop, explained how the idea of using non-traditional methods such as comedy for the purpose of advocacy came to her after many town hall-style meetings brought about the same result – a lack of interest among youth.

“We couldn’t help but notice every meeting we went to, everybody there was 65 and up,” she said. “That’s when we thought we have to engage younger people in this issue or nothing will ever happen.”

Around 80 people attended the event, and Goodings was pleased to see it was a diverse group.

“I’m glad that some of the people that came out, did,” she said. “What was good about tonight was there were a lot of different people.”

She added that only a few of the people at Bombs Away were well-versed on the topic of nuclear disarmament, so the goal of creating awareness and dialogue among new people has started to work.

“Now maybe they’ll read the next article in the paper, or listen when Obama says something,” Goodings said. “I would say it was a modest success.”

Though it’s no laughing matter, Blanchard said as a comedian he has performed at many fundraisers, ranging from multiple sclerosis to juvenile diabetes, and it’s something he takes seriously.

“If you sit down and talk to (the organizers), they’re passionate about it,” he said. “They want to make a difference and how could you not want to help that?”

Goodings admitted the modest success they experienced – coupled with the challenge of fundraising – means this will be the last night of its kind for a while. But Seriously, Time To Stop has another plan to get their message out in the meantime.

“The ultimate goal for us is to get into schools and start talking to kids,” she said. “Nuclear weapons are really a preventable catastrophe and it’s up to us to prevent it.”