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Humor raises money for serious needs

Special photo
Dennis Swanberg will perform at the SOWEGA Council on Aging's Comedy Night fundraiser at the Albany Municipal Auditorium on Aug. 15.

Special photo Dennis Swanberg will perform at the SOWEGA Council on Aging's Comedy Night fundraiser at the Albany Municipal Auditorium on Aug. 15.

ALBANY — When the dog days of summer hit, they take a lot out of you and leave you feeling a little down. A nice Italian dinner followed by laughter shared with a few hundred of your closest friends, all for a good cause, could be just the pick-me-up you need.

That’s a pretty specific prescription for what ails you, but the SOWEGA Council on Aging has it all lined up for the evening of Aug. 15.

The 8th annual Comedy Night fundraiser for the Council starts with an Italian Feast at the Hilton Garden Inn followed by quips and stories by Dennis “The Swan” Swanberg, who bills himself as “America’s Minister of Encouragement,” at the Albany Municipal Auditorium.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the Council’s Meals on Wheels program, which brings meals to elderly shut-ins year round. Last year the program delivered 186,000 of those meals.

COMEDY NIGHT

WHO: Dennis “The Swan” Swanberg, America’s Minister of Encouragement

WHAT: 8th annual Comedy Night benefiting the SOWEGA Council on Aging’s Meals on Wheels program

WHEN: Aug. 15; pre-show Italian Feast, 4:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m.; show, 7 p.m.

WHERE: Italian Feast, Hilton Garden Inn, 101 S. Front St.; show, Albany Municipal Auditorium, 200 N. Jackson St.

TICKETS: $30, general seating; $40, ground-level seating; $20, Italian Feast

TO GET TICKETS: Go to 1105 Palmyra Road; visit sowegacoa.org; call (229) 432-1124

“We enjoy putting on the Comedy Night because it gives us the opportunity to laugh and have a good time. Even though we receive budget cuts, we don’t want to be discouraged to the extent in which we can’t enjoy life,” Kay Hind, executive director of SOWEGA Council on Aging, said. “It is important to us that this event is appropriate for the whole family, and we always select a comedian with good, clean humor.”

Swanberg is no stranger to many in the Albany area, having previously performed at Sherwood Baptist Church. In addition to entertaining audiences with his often hilarious tales of growing up, family life and quirky things that can happen at church, he has a repertoire of 20 impressions, including the late Don Knotts’ unforgettable character Barney Fife.

Swanberg, who’s currently performing on a cruise, says he developed his Fife character and other parts of his routine thanks to some unintended inspiration from his mother. “Most moms yell at kids to go outside and play,” he says in a biography section on his website, “My mom would say, ‘You sit there and watch that television — your daddy worked so hard for it!’”

A class clown in high school, Swanberg says he expected a career as a “crazy radio DJ” or a “Funny TV weatherman,” when he started school at Baylor University, but then felt led to enter the ministry. Inspired by Grady Nutt, a Southern Baptist preacher and comedian who appeared on “Hee Haw,” he maintained his entertainment moonlighting while serving as pastor of a number of churches.

He reached a point, however, when he decided to step up to the microphone full time. This year Swanberg is scheduled to appear at more than 150 churches, conferences, businesses and concert events while his TBN and FamNet television shows continue air weekly. His eighth book, this one on men’s ministry. is scheduled to hit the marketplace this year.

Those budget cuts have made success for this year’s Comedy Night fundraiser even more critical. Each of those 186,000 meals that were delivered to homes on weekdays in 2012 costs $7. In addition, the Council provided 146,000 meals at its senior centers in its district.

“Our funding isn’t necessarily for seniors in financial need,” Izzie Sadler, development director for the Council. “It’s for the total number of seniors in the area.

With more seniors locating in north Georgia, the Southwest Georgia regional council has been cut $352,000, Sadler said. Of that cut, $200,000 was from funding for the senior center meals and Meals on Wheels programs.

“We’ve had some pretty severe cuts,” she said, “and that doesn’t include sequestration, which will be kicking in.”

Figuring out ways to make up for spending cuts of that magnitude can leave a person looking for a reason to smile or laugh.

“I think that’s why I love Comedy Night,” Sadler said. “These are serious programs and serious needs. It’s a lighthearted way to raise those funds.”

Swanberg’s performance is set for 7 p.m. Aug. 15 at the Municipal Auditorium, 200 N. Jackson St. For the first time, the Council is selling premium seating tickets.

“This year we’re offering reserved seating,” she said, adding the cost for a ground-level seat will be $40, while general admission is $30. “In the past, we’ve just opened the doors (with all seats general admission).”

Before the event, attendees can enjoy an Italian Feast at the riverfront Hilton Garden Inn at 101 S. Front St. between 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. The cost of the meal is $20 per person.

“It’ll be a good, entertaining evening — good entertainment, good meal at an affordable cost,” Sadler said. “Plus, it benefits a great cause. And that’s what it really comes down to.”

Tickets are available online at www.sowegacoa.org or at 1105 Palmyra Road. Contact (229) 432-1124.