Hey Ladies – Girls Night Out features comics for a good cause

Carol Metcalf
Carol Metcalf

For Girls Night Out, a benefit comedy show, this will be an evening of firsts. It’s the opening of the 428 Club, formerly Sevilla, formerly Scotch Bonnet, formerly a whole lot of other venues (but always at the same classy location). And it will be the first comedy benefit the Autism Society has put on, since a karaoke benefit in April.

It will also be the first time these three comedians — organizer Carol Metcalf, along with Jann Karam and Karen Rontowski — will share a stage together, providing the laughs to earn money for a good cause.

Jann Karam
Jann Karam
Karen Rontowski
Karen Rontowski
Karam’s résumé as a stand-up covers all the major stops on a comic’s tour: “The Late Show with David Letterman,” “Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher,” “The Tonight Show,” etc. As an actress, she appeared on “Seinfeld,” “Dr. Katz,” “ER,” and “Mike Hammer Private Eye.” She’s certainly paid her dues.

She’s also bringing in Rontowski, a self-described “baby boomer hippie,” who has been in the biz for some 17 years.

Carol Metcalf, who also works for the County when she isn’t acting or doing her stand-up routine, approached Cathy Arbaca with the idea of a comedy night. The two had already met at a Girls Night Out event in March for breast cancer awareness, and worked at the April karaoke event. Arbaca indeed does seem to appear at any and all fundraisers.

“I’m the volunteer advocate of Santa Barbara County,” she jokes, saying that when people ask her to help out on an event, she finds it hard to say no. But the autism issue is very close to her heart, and a matter of some urgency. Her adopted son has mid-level autism.

Arbaca lists the figures. In 1990, she says, 4,400 people were diagnosed with autism in the state of California. That number is now 43,895. And only 20 percent of that rise is attributed to diagnosis. Of that number 85 percent are under the age of 12.

“So what’s going to happen to them in 10 years?” asks Arbaca. “We don’t have programs and services, private schools. We have virtually no public agencies. There’s nowhere to go.”

After volunteering for many years, and seeing what parents of autistic children go through, Arbaca is working on starting up her own nonprofit, designed to give parents the tools to cope with their children and also learn how to advocate for their kids in the face of schools and government.

“If you think there’s a drain on social security now,” she says. “What’s gonna happen when they turn 18 and they can’t work?”

Girls Night Out also features a bachelor auction, as well as a more traditional silent auction of various donated goodies.

The 428 Club is helping out by footing the comedians’ bill in addition to providing the space. And by the by, the 428 Club marks another venue opened by Matt Olufs and Mark Lawrence, who have transformed downtown with high-end bars such as Marquee, Blush, Indochine and Tonic.

Arbaca assuress those concerned that all proceeds won’t go back to the Autism Society of Santa Barbara that nothing will go out of state — a situation she’s been dismayed to see at past events. Girls Night Out is keeping it in the community.

“The ladies are funny, there’s bachelors, and it’s all for a good cause,” she says. What’s not to like?

GIRLS NIGHT OUT
When: 8 p.m. Thursday
Where: 428 Club, 428 Chapala St.
Cost: $15
Information: (805) 450-0531

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