By Will Keffler
Cleveland and Pittsburgh both have their respective comedic scenes, but which city is the funniest? Tonight in downtown Youngstown, Meridian Healthcare hopes to put the rivalry to rest by hosting their Crossroads Comedy Rivalry at the DeYor Performing Arts Center, located at 260 West Federal St.
The event begins at 7 p.m. and costs $20. It will pit two comedians from Cleveland against two comedians from Pittsburgh to determine once and for all which city has a better sense of humor.
Representing Cleveland will be Bill Squire, one of Cleveland’s rising comics, and Mike Paramore, who was a featured comedian on the FOX television show “Laughs”. On the flip side, representing Pittsburgh will be Aaron Kleiber, who was voted best comedian by Pittsburgh Magazine, and Mike Wysocki, who brings his comedy to Pittsburgh radio every morning on the Jim Krenn and The Morning Q Show.
For Scott Landy, development manager at Meridian Healthcare, the idea of having the two cities face off on the neutral ground of Youngstown was a no-brainer.
“It’s always been an intense rivalry in this area,” Landy said. “People either like the Browns or the Steelers, and since we’re at the crossroads of the two cities, we thought it would be a good idea to invite comedians to meet in Youngstown and see who the funniest city is.”
Additionally, the proceeds from the night will benefit Meridian Healthcare’s drug prevention and recovery programs in the Mahoning and Trumbull counties. Last year, the organization held a comedy show of a recovery theme, and it received high attendance. However, this year they decided to stir things up a bit and make the event more local with the Cleveland/Pittsburgh theme.
Renee Amacher, the marketing director for Meridian Healthcare, said when they plan events for the year, they try to focus on three foundational goals. They either try to bring awareness to a topic, raise money for a cause or simply put on a fun event for the community. With this event, the team is hoping to have a perfect blend of the latter two.
“With this event, we’re obviously trying to raise money to help our prevention and treatment programs, but we’re also trying to have a fun event and create a good night out for the community,” Amacher said. “Sometimes we don’t want to be constantly pushing our agenda. We want people to be aware that this is for prevention and addiction treatment, but it’s mainly to let people have a fun night out, let loose and, hopefully, start the weekend off right.”
Specifically, the proceeds from the night will go toward Meridian Healthcare’s Prevent and Neutralize Drug and Alcohol Abuse program, or (PANDA Leaders Club). The afterschool program, which has been in Mahoning and Trumbull County schools for almost 30 years now, focuses on educating youth in the areas to help them make successful life choices.
Ashley Farinelli, prevention coordinator for PANDA, said that the program began with drugs and alcohol, but over the years it has evolved and adapted to cover a variety of problems that teens may face.
“The PANDA Leaders Club empowers teens by giving them the knowledge to make responsible decisions about the issues that affect them most today,” Farinelli said. “When we first started, we only covered drugs and alcohol, but then we realized that those aren’t the only issues that teens are facing, so we opened it up to encompass more matters such as healthy relationships, peer pressure, internet safety and self-esteem.”
With the heroin and opiate epidemic in Northeast Ohio and most of the state, the group hopes that their programs like PANDA can help to create a brighter future for youth.
“If we can stop these kids from going down a dangerous path, hopefully, that will help us stem that kind of addiction, and in 10 years maybe we won’t be where we are now,” Amacher said.