A night of laughter and love inspired by legendary comedian Gilda Radner.
Last October, Gilda’s Club Chicago, in partnership with Second City, celebrated the 12th annual Night of a Thousand Noogies at Chicago’s historic venue Park West. Event host and emcee T.J. Shanoff has guided audiences through fun-filled evenings of laughs for more than a decade. With 20 years of experience as musical and theatrical director at Second City, the world’s premier comedy club and improvisation school, Shanoff was a natural fit for emcee.
“I interview local celebrities and a cast of versatile, Second City improvisers who use content from the interviews to create immediate, improvised scenes and songs,” Shanoff says. “It’s really unique and fun.”
Gilda’s Club was founded in honor of Gilda Radner, who passed from ovarian cancer in 1989. Radner got her start in Toronto when she joined Toronto’s Second City troupe before becoming one of the first cast members on “Saturday Night Live.” From her range of characters on SNL, like her portrayals of gutsy female characters and oddball commentators, lampoons of news anchors, and more, to her one-woman Broadway show, “Live From New York,” Radner left an indelible mark on the comedy world. Her legacy lives on through Gilda’s Club’s worldwide initiatives which seek to educate and empower those impacted by cancer through social and healthy lifestyle activities and educational workshops.
Each year, Shanoff stands alongside Gilda’s Club associate board members and some of Chicago’s finest celebrities to delight audiences with an improv comedy show, raffle, and silent auction. Last year’s celebrity participants included Chicago magazine’s Susanna Homan, Chicago Bears alum John Janata, and Diana Gutiérrez from WCIU’s “The Jam.” “There are few organizations in the world that do what Gilda’s Club does, and it’s humbling to get to be on stage for such a great group,” Shanoff says.
Former Gilda’s Club board president and current board member Dan Olas co-chaired the 2018 event. Olas discovered Gilda’s Club after his own stage IV colon cancer diagnosis. After meeting the staff, he quickly realized the importance of Gilda’s Club’s services and felt compelled to give back to the organization. Since 2010, he has served two, two-year terms as board president.
The 2018 silent auction raised more than $7,000, exceeding the organization’s fundraising goal. “If we fail [to hit fundraising goals], programs may be cut, expansion doesn’t happen, and people who need us can’t get to us,” Olas says.
Gift donations included items such as signed “Portlandia” memorabilia from actor Fred Armisen and Chicago Blackhawks alumni suite tickets donated by hockey legend Grant Mulvey. “To me, the most satisfying aspect of this event is seeing the generosity of the local community and friends of the club,” says Olas.