Righteously Funny In Arizona

Given much of the news coming out of Arizona lately, one could be forgiven for assuming there’s a sense of hostility toward civil rights emanating from the Sonoran Desert. And that’s putting it delicately.

But Phoenix concert promoter Danny Zelisko would be the first to argue against that stereotype – and point to the state’s efforts to become the first in the nation to construct a U.S. Bill of Rights commemorative monument and plaza as evidence.

The state has already approved the concept. Now it’s time to raise the money.

Enter juggler Chris Bliss, founder of MyBillOfRights.org, who approached Zelisko to do something a little different from your typical charity concert. Bliss, famous for his viral YouTube videos of his juggling routines to The Beatles’ Abbey Road suite, and Zelisko came up with the idea to stage an epic comedy show.

Headlined by Lewis Black, The Bill of Rights Comedy Concert takes place May 13 at the Symphony Hall in Phoenix.
In addition to Black, who can hold his own when it comes to selling tickets, the lineup includes comedy icons Dick Gregory and Tommy Smothers – both of whom have more than a passing interest in civil rights – Bill Engvall, Bobcat Goldthwait, Kathleen Madigan and Steven Wright. There’s music, too. Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett of Little Feat will also be on hand.

“There’s a lot of scuttlebutt around Arizona and this is a way for someone who actually lives here to say, ‘There’s some bumps in the road but they are not chasms or the steps of hell that people make it out to be,’” Zelisko told Pollstar.
“There are a lot of people who have good hearts. Chris was living here when they started organizing the Bill of Rights monument. It’s his passion.

“He sent Lewis Black a note about it and within an hour or two Lewis said he happened to have an opening then. So Chris told him I was producing it and he was on board. Tommy Smothers, Kathleen Madigan and Bill Engvald were the next to come on board. Along the way, Steven Wright and Dick Gregory signed on and we contacted Bobcat.

“It was great how all this came about. It takes a certain type of intellect and personality for an artist to get this without thinking, ‘Am I getting paid or not.’ It was more like, ‘This is great. I’m coming,’” Zelisko explained.

The Bill of Rights Monument is projected to cost at least $400,000, including a sculpture and plaza. Zelisko hopes to raise as much toward that goal as possible so there is a variety of packages available for deeper-pocketed citizens, including Presidents Circle packages for up to $5,000. Packages come with a meet-and-greet, signed lithographs and prime seating, with a portion of the tickets tax-deductible.

Zelisko acknowledges the controversies in Arizona, personified by the Maricopa County Sheriff. But he’s quick to point out that Arizona’s statehouse provided the land and some of the funding for the country’s first Bill of Rights Monument. More are planned in other states, but Arizona’s is first to be officially sanctioned for a state capitol.

“It’s about entertainment, but it’s also about America and a very patriotic thing. No one’s ever done this before. It’s hard for me to believe that Washington, D.C, or New York City, or these other places that have been around since the very beginning of the republic – the first states – don’t already have something for kids to look at or people to see that has these very famous words on it,” Zelisko said.

“It takes a juggler, a concert promoter and a bunch of funny people to say we’re going to have one.”