Natalie Morales Is Trying To Hold A Non-Political Anti-Gun Violence Variety Show

Natalie Morales speaks onstage during 'The Time is Now' panel at the 4th Annual Bentonville Film Festival - Day 5 on May 5, 2018 in Bentonville, Arkansas. (Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for Bentonville Film Festival)

Natalie Morales is a busy lady. You've seen her in everything from Parks and Recreation to White Collar, and she's starring in a new show on NBC — but she wanted to make time to support a cause she believed in.

The result is The ___ Variety Hour (pronounced "The Blank Variety Hour"), a big giant variety show this Saturday night at the Ace Hotel in downtown L.A. It's raising money for March For Our Lives: Road To Change, the bus tour by students from Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland to register people to vote.

But despite what they're raising money for, Morales told us that the show itself isn't political.

"There is zero, zero talk of politics and/or anything going on in the world in the show," Morales said. "This is not a partisan event. I don't care who you vote for — I just want you to have a good time, and to register to vote."

As Morales put it, she was able to put the show together because she has a lot of famous friends — from working on a bunch of canceled TV shows.

The lineup includes:

  • Ed Helms
  • Jon Cryer
  • Tony Hale
  • Joshua Jackson
  • Garfunkel & Oates
  • Paul F. Tompkins
  • Dave Foley
  • Retta
  • And way way way more actors and comedians and live music and MAGIC etc. etc. etc. — more than 40 in all, according to Morales

Morales promises surprises. She said that what Jon Cryer and some of the other big names are up to is under wraps until the show, but she says that a number of them will be playing an interactive game with some members of the audience.

It wasn't supposed to be this big a show. Morales had been targeting smaller theaters.

"You know, this town can be really rough on entertainers," Morales said, "and I thought it would be good to give them all a chance to get on stage. And I miss being on stage myself."

But the Ace Hotel made her an offer she couldn't refuse. So then she had to get a bunch of performers to bring people out and fill that space.

"We're going to be able to give a decent amount of money to these kids," Morales said.

While she's aiming away from politics with the show itself — beyond voter registration in the lobby — Morales has been an anti-gun violence advocate herself for years.

"I don't necessarily have the kind of money that's going to make a difference," Morales said. "But I do have a voice, and a platform, and a talent. I can direct stuff, I can write stuff, I can star in stuff, I can call friends, I can tweet stuff."

She was pulled into the issue after the Aurora shooting at a movie theater showing The Dark Knight Rises.

"Because it's what I do, and what I love to do — and going to the movies is my... my house," Morales said. "So the idea that we don't consider that a safe place to be anymore was really hard to think about."

Her work on the issue includes a PSA she directed with musician Andrew Bird:

Morales isn't just hosting the event — she's also producing and directing it, which basically means doing everything. That includes dealing with guests dropping out and all the other hiccups that come with a large production.

She put it all together during two weeks she had off from work — though she noted that she had some helpers, including Lyft partnering with her to help make it happen.

And she's got an even bigger project coming up. She's starring in the midseason NBC sitcom Abby's as, well, Abby. It's from the executive producers of Parks & Rec, so expectations are high.

"It's a show about a woman named Abby who owns an illegal backyard bar in San Diego," Morales said. "And we shoot it outdoors in the backyard of one of the Desperate Housewives houses at Universal Studios, with a live audience."

Morales has joked herself that she's known for a lot of beloved but cancelled series — but as the lead of this new show, she's hoping to turn that around.

"I try not to think that I'm some sort of bad luck charm," Morales said, laughing, "but I have been on quite a few shows that either didn't get picked up or cancelled that I really loved, like Trophy Wife, or The Grinder, or The Middleman."

They start shooting September, but Morales says she's making sure to take some vacation as soon as the variety show is done. "Because it has been a lot of work!"

The show is Saturday night at the Theatre at the Ace Hotel — tickets will run you $35 to $45.


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