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HBO ‘COMIC’ BENEFIT HITS $2.1 MILLION : ‘COMIC RELIEF’ BENEFIT ON HBO HITS $2.1 MILLION

Times Staff Writer

Cable television’s “Comic Relief” benefit to aid homeless persons in 18 American cities has raised more than $2.1 million, organizers said Wednesday.

The four-hour program that aired Saturday night on the Home Box Office pay-TV network is still eliciting as many as 5,000 telephone pledges a day, said project president Bob Zmuda, and mail pledges won’t be tabulated until Friday.

HBO plans to rebroadcast parts of the show four more times, beginning Sunday, and there are plans for a videocassette, a record album and a book based on the program, Zmuda said.

“This is really exciting,” Zmuda said. “The show was not only a comedy success, but a financial success.”

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The latest in a series of celebrity programs to help disadvantaged groups, the program featured an array of talent spanning comedy styles and generations. Among the entertainers appearing were Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Crystal, Richard Dreyfuss, George Carlin, Carl Reiner, Sid Caesar, Penny Marshall, Minnie Pearl, Steve Allen, Jerry Lewis, Joe Piscopo, Howie Mandel, Paul Rodriguez and members of the cast of “Saturday Night Live.”

Similar fund-raising events featuring musical acts have been held over the last year to aid the hungry in Africa as well as American farmers who face a prolonged credit crisis.

HBO has edited the “Comic Relief” show into two 90-minute segments. Part 1 will air Sunday at 9:30 p.m. and again Wednesday night at 10. Part 2 is scheduled to air on April 15 and 25.

In addition, the DIR radio network, which broadcast the show over 80 stations to 5 million listeners, is planning to broadcast the 90-minute programs, Zmuda said.

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According to program organizers, the box-office take at the Universal Amphitheatre totaled about $345,000 while an additional $18,000 was raised through the sales of programs and T-shirts. With telephone contributions, the total raised as of Wednesday morning was about $2,103,000.

Funds will be distributed to projects in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and 15 other cities to help meet basic health-care needs of the homeless and to improve their access to public benefits and services.

The projects were selected from proposals submitted last year by 51 cities in a competition sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Pew Memorial Trust.


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