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Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Martin Short Talk Trump, Bring Laughs at NRDC Benefit

Variety logo Variety 4/26/2017 Jenelle Riley

No matter how serious things are, sometimes you have to laugh. And the stars came out to spread some joy while also fighting for the environment when the Natural Resources Defense Council held its “Stand Up! for the Planet” benefit on Tuesday night.

The crowd that gathered to watch the all-star performances at the Wallis Annenberg Center in Beverly Hills included Pierce Brosnan, Albert Brooks, and Rob Reiner, as well as executives, from Disney’s Alan Horn to NBCUniversal’s Ron Meyer. The lengthy list of supporters include co-chair and host committee members Leonardo DiCaprio, Rita Wilson, Tom Hanks, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Ari Emanuel.

The NRDC is an international nonprofit organization that works to protect the planet. Currently, they are keeping a watchful eye on President Donald Trump and his administration, including filing lawsuits over Trump’s “1-in-2-out” regulation order, the Keystone XL pipeline, and suspending protections for the endangered rusty patched bumble bee. At the pre-show cocktail party, posters filled the hallways with some of Trump’s Tweets, followed by NRDC facts disputing his claims.

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Laurie David, co-founder of the NRDC Los Angeles Leadership Council, kicked off the night with good news. “Together we have raised over $1.4 million for the litigation war chest of the NRDC,” she told the crowd. “Considering what is at stake and how environmental issues affect absolutely everyone, there is an appalling lack of coverage, awareness, and debate. Which is just one of the many reasons that I am so grateful for the NRDC. I know when we aren’t looking, they are.”

Martin Short , who served as emcee for the show, started out by noting, “I’m Canadian, we’re the aliens you don’t deport,” before addressing the current administration. “Do you realize if a drone hit this crowd, Trump eliminates all his problems? That’s the kind of power we have.”

Short headlined a lineup of guests that included Larry David, Laurie’s former husband, who joked, “I knew she was going to ask me to participate. Turns out she didn’t really ask me. We’ve been divorced for 10 years, but I don’t get treated like an ex. All I ask for is to be treated like an ex! When you’re divorced, you don’t have to do it and I’m still doing it! I have no divorce perks.”

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“Saturday Night Live” star Pete Davidson, who is dating the Davids’ daughter Cazzie, joked that it’s difficult to impress her. “Before her, I thought Martha’s Vineyard was a painting,” he said. “What could I possibly show this girl? Hey, you want to meet my friend Toby who has no thumbs and plays the guitar?”

Comics Tig Notaro and Jerrod Carmichael also performed, with the latter admitting he wasn’t familiar with the NRDC until that night. “I just heard about what this is backstage,” he said as he took the stage. “Really cool, you guys!”

“Veep” co-stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Tony Hale stayed somewhat in character while presenting a video of NRDC chief counsel Mitch Bernard. “Here is a film of a very intense man talking about lawsuits,” joked Hale.

In the video, Bernard called the Trump administration “the single worst enemy of the environment and human health that I think we’ve ever had.” He added, “One of the infuriating things about this administration and about the president himself is that he lies all the time; and he lies with apparent impunity. You cannot do that in court. It doesn’t work in court. Facts matter, evidence matters, there are no alternative facts.”

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Louis-Dreyfus and Hale then introduced NRDC president Rhea Suh, who went on to explain that the organization was “founded in 1970 by a bunch of scrappy law school grads who realized the environment was in need of a good lawyer.”

Suh talked about the morning after Trump was elected president, noting, she first “picked myself off the floor,” before she “asked our experts to create a threat list. Trump had gone on record saying climate change was a hoax, environmental protections were bad for business. But how would that translate into policy? I’ll tell you three things about the list they came up with. Number one: it’s long. Number two: it’s terrifying. Number three: the administration is ticking off its items at alarming speed.”

But the atmosphere, particularly at the after-party held in the theater courtyard, was one of hope. As Bernard noted in his interview, “Every unlawful move they make in the environment and human health arena, we’re doing to meet them in court. We’re going to sue them, and we’re going to prevail.”

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