Laughing at Ignorance

Comedy show hopes to raise money for earthquake victims

When the Kashmir earthquake left millions of victims homeless, Rabia G. Mir ’07’s family was among them. Mir, whose father is Kasmiri, has family near the quake’s epicenter. In the October disaster, their village was completely wiped out.

But the earthquake did not hit as close to home for everyone at Harvard. “People were like, ‘What earthquake?’” Mir says. “That was a huge shock.”

To keep them thinking, Mir and a coalition of other student groups have employed an unlikely weapon: comedy.

After a rocky semester-long push to raise awareness and funds, a coalition of student groups will end their relief efforts this Saturday night with “Comedy for a Cause,” a two-hour stand-up show. Teaming up with the Harvard Concert Commission (HCC) and the Undergraduate Council (UC), the Earthquake Relief Group, which Mir heads, hopes that the show will help them meet their goal of $50,000 of aid for the devastated region.

“Keeping in mind that Harvard gave $150,000 for the Tsunami and $600,000 for Katrina, [our goal] is not that much,” Mir says.

A sudden change in University policy this fall has made meeting that goal more challenging than expected. After matching student donations dollar for dollar during Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, Harvard revised its approach this October, just before the earthquake hit. Though the university has pledged substantial aid to student groups coordinating the relief efforts, it has not matched student gifts.

Mir says she understands the administration’s situation, citing alumni displeasure at the fact that donations were used toward non-Harvard causes. “Summers is under a lot of pressure from alums. His hands are tied,” she says.

She’s focused on more concrete goals, like this weekend. “I hope we sell out,” she says tiredly. “That’s basically all I really hope for at this point.”