Dozens of stars part of ‘Stand Up to Cancer' fundraiser show

Program to air tonight on more than 30 networks

HOLLYWOOD - More than a year of planning and weeks of long rehearsals have gone into preparing for the 2014 “Stand Up To Cancer” televised fundraiser — but to hear the show’s director talk about it, you’d think it’s been a breeze.

“It’s all been good stress because it’s for a good cause,” Joel Gallen said Thursday in a phone interview. “When you compare it with the shows we did after 9/11 and Haiti, this one’s probably a lot easier because we’ve had a long time to prepare.”

The biennial “Stand Up To Cancer” fundraiser returns for its fourth airing tonight. The show will features dozens of stars including Robert Downey Jr., Steve Carell, Sofia Vergara and Jon Hamm. Music acts on tap to perform include The Who, Dave Matthews Band and Ariana Grande.

“Stand Up To Cancer” will air commercial-free on all four major American television networks, 28 cable channels and will stream live on Hulu and Yahoo.

With that many networks on board, it would seem the production notes being handed down by executives would be endless. Gallen said that hasn’t been the case.

“With this kind of show, (network executives) put their faith in us,” Gallen said. “The networks really donate the time and leave us alone.” A 10-time Emmy nominee, Gallen won an Emmy in 2002 for “America: A Tribute to Heroes,” which he produced and directed.

Joel Gallen in 2011. (Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

The work done by the non-profit Stand Up To Cancer charity has raised millions of dollars for cancer-related research since 2008. The 2012 fundraiser broadcast collected over $81 million and Gallen said they hope to top the $100 million mark with this year’s show. According to the foundation’s website, 100 percent of their donations go to fund research into finding a cure.

Along with Gallen, “Stand Up To Cancer” is co-executive produced by actress Gwyneth Paltrow. The charity was co-founded by Katie Couric, who will join Paltrow as a participant in the broadcast.

Several factors will separate this year’s broadcast from the three previous shows. The venue has moved to Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre, site of the Academy Awards since 2002. But Gallen said viewers at home will note a lighter vibe to the show.

“We’re actually going to have a few funny things in the show,” he said, adding that bits from Danny McBride and Will Ferrell will be included. “In 2012, we took the show very seriously — and still do — but want the world of comedy to be included.”

The biggest change will be the show’s lack of a phone bank staffed by celebrities, normally a staple of this kind of show. Instead, a feature dubbed the “digital lounge” will include stars reaching out to people who’ve made donations, via phone, Facebook, Instagram and other platforms.

With more than 1.6 million Americans diagnosed with cancer on a yearly basis, Gallen estimated the show’s cause is a universal one. “I don’t think there’s anybody on the planet that has not been affected by cancer,” he said, adding that his brother is a cancer survivor.

“This is a show that should inspire people and give them hope,” Gallen said. “To me, this show is a ‘live documentary ’— if there were such a thing — about the steps being taken to reduce and end cancer. It’s really an important, informative and entertaining show.”

“Stand Up To Cancer” airs live at 8 p.m. EDT.

Follow this writer on Twitter @MrClintDavis.

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