OCEAN CITY — Though there are few things more serious, one local group plans on using comedy to spread awareness of a tragic subject and combat suicide rates in Worcester County.
Entering its fifth year this month, the SOS! Suicide Prevention Comedy Tour will visit Ocean City on April 19. When it began back in 2008 at the suggestion of local comedian Dave Miller, the tour had a number of skeptics who felt jokes and suicide made strange bedfellows.
Ron Pilling, secretary/treasurer for the Jesse Klump Memorial Fund, a non-profit suicide awareness group, admitted he was surprised when he first heard of the tour, but quickly realized that the concept worked.
“It’s been a pretty good, proven fundraiser for the last four years,” he said.
Stressing that the tour never makes light of suicide or attempts to turn it into a joke, Pilling explained that when facing something as dark as suicide, especially youth suicide, which is a major focus for the Klump Foundation, comedy can be a way to get people interested in an often uncomfortable subject.
“We bring them in laughing,” he said.
Through the tour, the Klump Fund is able to raise awareness about suicide, including how prevalent it is in the area, warning signs that could preclude an incident, and how to deal with the aftermath when prevention fails.
According to Pilling, Worcester has the highest rate of youth suicides, adjusted by population, in Maryland. Hoping to lower rates, the Klump Fund works on spreading information about suicide, especially what parents, teachers and members of the community should take as indicators that an individual is at risk.
“Our goal is to get as many people locally as we can to know the warning signs,” said Pilling.
Pilling explained that the common denominator in most cases is clinical depression and that friends and relatives should take notice if a loved one seems to lose interest in things they used to enjoy, give away prized possessions or generally withdraw from society.
While it’s a subject that many people don’t enjoy dwelling on, Pilling asserted that a huge percentage of people know someone or at least know of someone that committed suicide. With the comedy tour, the Klump Fund is able to get people to acknowledge a difficult topic they might otherwise have not considered.
The tour this year will feature Robert Kelly, Nikki Glaser and Ryan Hamilton, with Miller serving as host.
Kelly has been featured on the HBO series Tourgasm, Last Call with Carson Daly, and on Comedy Central.
Glaser was a semi-finalist on Last Comic Standing and has appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
Hamilton has appeared in comic festivals in Boston and Las Vegas and was named one of Rolling Stone’s “Five Comics to Watch.”
In addition to the comics, there will be music by Galaxy Collective and Rick Kennedy.
Funds raised will be used to support the Klump Fund and its services, including visiting county schools to discuss the realities of youth suicide and prevention techniques.
“Every penny of profit goes to our work to end youth suicide in Worcester County and to host support groups for family members and friends of suicide victims,” said Kim Klump, president of the Jesse Klump Fund. “Overall suicide rates in our county are higher than both state and national averages, and our goal is to end suicide by teaching recognition of its warning signs and the simple ‘first aid’ that anyone can use to preserve lives.”
The event will be held at Seacrets at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the door. Tickets may be purchased online at www.jessespaddle.org or by calling 443-982-2716.