Guild Hall in East Hampton is presenting another star-studded benefit on Sunday, August 16 at 8:00 p.m. The Pack will feature a trio of comedy shorts penned and directed by Eugene Pack.
The evening will encompass Let’s Meet Up with Matthew Broderick and John Leguizamo; Hold with Sherri Shepherd, Blair Underwood and Dayle Reyfel; and Aunt Cora with Rachel Dratch, Santino Fontana, Maulik Pancholy, Cecily Strong and Andrea Martin.
We had the pleasure of chatting with Pancholy about the virtual fundraiser, 30 Rock reunion, his non-profit, Act to Change, and much more.
Could you speak to the importance of supporting the arts and institutions like Guild Hall right now?
MP: I’m an actor that does a lot of theater in New York and I know how important it is to sustain live theater through this time – and how special that moment is when an audience can gather in front of a theatrical event and how raw it is. I’m hoping it’ll come back soon.
Getting to do a fundraiser to help raise money for Guild Hall, and to support theaters right now, and support the arts right now is just super, super important. And also, for myself, I think this time has taught so much of us about how much we rely on the arts. Certainly, as we’re all isolated, it’s been so much of TV and listening to music or watching movies, but I think it also reminded us how much we miss that connection that we got in live theater. I’m super excited that we’ve found a way to support Guild Hall during this time and to do it virtually.
Have you had the pleasure of either seeing a production at Guild Hall or performing in one?
MP: I have had opportunities to perform with them and I haven’t been able to do it just because of scheduling. But I have been to Guild Hall before and I love it. I think it’s amazing. Everything from the live theater to the film festival to art exhibits, it’s just such a wonderful thing to have out here.
For The Pack, you’ll star in Aunt Cora alongside Rachel Dratch, Santino Fontana, Cecily Strong and Andrea Martin. What drew you to the role?
MP: Well, I’ve actually worked with Eugene Pack, who wrote it and is behind this entire fundraiser, a number of times. I’ve done Celebrity Autobiography with him countless times. I actually also just did a thing that he started called The Pack Podcast, which is also raising money, it’s a fundraiser for The Actors Fund and for Feeding America. So, then he reached out to me and he said, “I’m doing this thing for Guild Hall.” He sent me the piece and it’s really, really, really funny. I think at the time he had a few of the cast in place and they’re all people that I love. I’ve worked with Rachel a few times in the past – just on little things here and there. Obviously I’m a huge fan of everybody else and it’s really, really funny. I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s actually perfect for this format because the piece, it takes place on a video call. So, the way we recorded it makes perfect sense and the way it’ll be viewed makes perfect sense. It’s a really funny piece and people will have a good time not only getting some escapism and laughter at this tough time, but also recognizing the way a lot of their virtual calls have probably been going.
After seven years, what was it like to reunite with your 30 Rock co-stars?
MP: Oh my gosh, it was so fun. We’ve obviously been in touch over the years on a personal level, but getting to read a script and see people fall back into these roles, it was thrilling. It was really, really thrilling. I filmed from my house on my iPhone on a Zoom call and it was all very bizarre, but when I saw it all come together, I was like wow, they really made that work. They somehow made that technology feel like a TV show. I thought they were so smart about it too, in terms of having Jack McBrayer playing two characters in his own home and just the way they managed the whole isolation thing, I thought was really, really fun.
I hear that you have a house in the Hamptons. When you’re in the area, what are some of your favorite things to do and spots to visit?
MP: I’ve had a place out here for seven years now. I love it! I have a kayak, I like to go into Three Mile Harbor and go kayaking. Definitely a lot of the restaurants – Sam’s Restaurant for pizza is definitely a favorite. All the classics like Nick & Toni’s and Highway. But, I would say most of my time out here, we have a pretty large friend circle and it’s dinner parties at home and that kind of thing. What’s been really nice is a lot of people are out here at this time and so being able to socially distance and see a few people has been really, really nice.
I know a lot of productions have been put on hold at the moment, but are you working on anything right now – or have plans to?
MP: I am. I’m really lucky because I was in a Broadway show that closed right before COVID kind of hit New York City in a way that forced other shows to close. We actually got to finish our run, which is a really nice thing.
I do a voice on a cartoon called Phineas and Ferb. We have a new movie coming out on August 28 on Disney+. We actually finished some of the recording from our own homes. Disney sent us some equipment and we finished some of the recording. I’ve been doing that cartoon since 2007, I think, so it’s really exciting that we have this new movie coming out and that it’s still popular with fans. I’m really excited about that.
I wrote a book that came out last October, called The Best at It. We’re working on adapting it for television at the moment, which has been a really fun writing thing to work on while we’re all sequestered away. I was supposed to do a book event at BookHampton that we had to postpone. Which is really sad to me, but I’m looking forward to hopefully, in the next several months, being able to do that in person at some point, in some way.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
MP: I started a nonprofit. I served on a commission under President Obama, 2014 to 2017, and the commission was on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Out of that commission, I helped to co-found an anti-bullying nonprofit for Asian American youth. Obviously, with COVID hitting, it was a really tough time for Asian Americans. There was a lot of racism, a lot of hatred and a lot of hate incidents. So, we’ve been really, really busy over the last several months. The organization is called Act to Change (acttochange.org).
But it’s been great. We’ve had so much celebrity and influencer support. We did a huge event in May, a huge virtual event with Padma Lakshmi and Tan France and Daniel Dae Kim and Lisa Ling. It’s just been a really nice way to give back when there are a lot of people dealing with a lot of tough things during this time.
Do you have any other upcoming events or initiatives that you’re working on?
MP: When COVID hit, we launched a series of webinars called COVID Convos that got a lot of traction. Tomorrow [Friday, August 7] we actually are launching our first webinar called Classroom Convos and the idea is to do these fun, but informative classes for young people on how to deal with race and conversations around racism. We’ll continue them throughout the summer and into the fall with the idea that we know that kids are like enough school on Zoom, but we work to try to make them short and fun and hopefully very interactive.
We launch our first Classroom Convo at 1 p.m. EST. All these Convos that we’ve filmed, they live on our website and on our Facebook page. So even if people don’t get to watch that live, they can watch them later.
The Pack tickets are $50 per household. For more information, visit www.guildhall.org.