Midnight Mission

Alonzo Bodden returns to the Nowruz Comedy Night Fundraiser for the second year on Monday, March 20. (Alonzo Bodden/Submitted)

The Midnight Mission is honoring the community that has supported it with a comedy fundraiser coinciding with Nowruz, the Persian New Year. 

The nonprofit partnered with Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada to host the third annual Nowruz Comedy Night Fundraiser from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Monday, March 20. 

The comedic lineup includes Maz Jobrani, Alonzo Bodden, Melissa Shoshahi, Chris Bader and Dan Ahdoot, with Tehran Von Ghasri hosting the event. 

It’s the 12th year of honoring Nowruz, however. Previously, The Midnight Mission held a street fair until the COVID-19 pandemic shut it down. 

Katya Askar of The Midnight Mission said the organization, like many, thought the pandemic would last few weeks — not a couple years. When the future of gatherings looked grim, Askar recommended a Persian comedy night, as she has connections to them. It came to fruition first as a virtual event. 

“That night, I want to say we fundraised more than we ever had our first year with a virtual comedy show,” she said.

“There were some glitches, but everybody hung in there. The next year, as things started to open, we still had restrictions but we sold out the in-person event.” 

The second and now the third year will be in person and virtual. Askar is excited. 

“Tehran, Maz and Melissa, it’s their third year doing this. Tehran is our host, and he is just hilarious,” she said. “He does a great job, talking about worldly events. He’s a deep thinker, and he’s funny, too. He’ll be there. 

“Maz Jobrani, he’s one of the most popular comedians in America and in the Middle East as well. Melissa is hilarious. She does all these impersonations. They’re all so funny.”

Bader and Ahdoot are new to the event. 

“Chris Bader is from Chicago,” she said. “He was raised here but he lives in Chicago. He has a huge following in Chicago and agreed to fly in just to be at this event, at the request of Jamie. We’re very excited to hear his comedy.

“Dan Ahdoot is new to us. We’re excited to see how he gels with the other comedians.”

Bodden has been friends with Askar for 35 years. She said he canceled a trip to New York to perform during the benefit. He performed at the second iteration. 

“He had one of the best audience reactions last year,” she said. “He’s a brilliant comedian. His comedy can reach any kind of audience — young, old, any ethnicity. He reaches them all.”

Nowruz coincides with the first day of spring; however, it is less about a single day than a commemoration of being able to wipe away the dust, grime and sadness to start anew, she said. 

The Midnight Mission embodies the spirit of Nowruz year-round and has been a source of revival and renewal for the homeless population of Los Angeles since 1914, according to a statement from the nonprofit.

The Midnight Mission offers paths to self-sufficiency to individuals and families who have lost direction, it continued.

Its emergency services and 12-step recovery, family living, job training, education and workforce development programs offer a bridge to achieve and maintain healthy, productive lives.   

It removes obstacles and provides the accountability and structure that people who are experiencing homelessness need to be productive in their communities. 

“The Midnight Mission has multiple programs to help those who are less fortunate than us,” she said.

She compared it to a well-known proverb: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

“We have men’s, women’s and family programs that not only help them get on their feet, but on a path to come back and be a productive member of society,” she said.

“We try to remove the obstacles. There are so many reasons why someone ends up homeless. It’s not a one-size-fits-all. The care is all very individualized.”

Nowruz Comedy Night Fundraiser 

WHEN: 7 to 9:30 p.m. Monday, March 20

WHERE: The Laugh Factory, 8801 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles

COST: Tickets start at $20 (virtual); $75 (in person)

INFO: midnightmission.org/nowruz