As one of the most oddball character actors in comedy, David Koechner has built a thriving career playing such iconic roles as Todd Packer in the classic NBC sitcom “The Office” and obnoxious sportscaster Champ Kind in the “Anchorman” movies. He’s now riding high as one of the stars of the hit CBS sitcom “Superior Donuts,” part of a remarkable ensemble cast that includes Judd Hirsch, Katey Sagal and Maz Jobrani.
The Kansas City native and father of five has a particularly strong interest in children’s charities, as the co-founder (with fellow comedy stars and Kansas City natives Jason Sudeikis, Paul Rudd, Rob Riggle and Eric Stonestreet) of the Big Slick weekend for Children’s Mercy Hospital in his hometown. He also works with the Los Angeles-based charity Children of the Night, which helps rescue girls ages 11 to 17 from lives in prostitution.
This weekend he will appear in the “Jokes for Joy: Benefitting Once Upon a Room” show at 5 p.m. Sunday at the Ice House comedy club in Pasadena.
“I got involved with Children of the Night and a drama about human trafficking called ‘Priceless’ because a friend of mine was a producer and asked if I was interested,” says Koechner. “All you have to do is Google human trafficking and you’ll have tons of stories that will break your heart. Having four daughters growing up, it’s a concern about what’s going on out there in the world, and I’m happy to help with a children’s charity. Men need to think twice about what they do with their lives and their money that might possibly support human trafficking. It’s this bad an epidemic because many things go unnoticed.”
Sunday’s show is in support of a decidedly more upbeat cause, as Once Upon a Room is a volunteer organization that personalizes hospital rooms for children facing extended stays at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. The show is produced by Reagan Meyers, an 18-year-old student at La Cañada High School, who created the benefit as her senior class project after she had spinal surgery to remedy severe scoliosis in 2015 and found her own room during a weeklong stay at CHLA fixed up by the charity’s volunteers.
“They asked what I like and made all the colors in the room my favorite colors, which are turquoise and aquamarine,” says Meyers. “They put the bedspread in those colors and a sign with my name above the bed. Now I help decorate the rooms sometimes, and we provide things like nail polish and stuffed animals for girls and toy cars for boys. They surprise the kids by creating the room while the kid is out in a therapy session, after finding out from their parents what the kid will like. It really made the biggest difference for me.”
Reagan enlisted the help of her father Ron, a popular Ice House headlining comic, in attracting the A-list talent for the benefit, which also features Jobrani and Emmy-winning “Tonight Show” veteran Anthony Griffith in addition to her father.
“I know from personal experience from what they did for my daughter that it’s an awesome organization,” says Ron Pearson. “When you’re in a hospital, you’re on high alert and it’s tough because your child has serious problems. They come in and take it from a sterile room to make it a place you want to be. That’s really powerful and we’d like to give back, so 100 percent of the door will go straight to Once Upon a Room.”
For his part, Koechner is finding his own joy these days on the set of “Donuts,” for which CBS afforded him the rare honor of giving him his role as Tush — a colorful customer who frequents the Chicago donut shop the series is named after — without even having to audition. Based on a popular play by Tracey Letts, the series landed at CBS after more than 20 years of the concept bouncing around Hollywood.
“CBS took a chance on it and I think they got it right,” says Koechner. “I had a few people who had known my work over at CBS and I was fortunate enough to be given the role, but I think it was my turn. I’ve been doing this long enough, that it’s probably my turn to be given one. We are blessed to have a truly remarkable cast who are good people and we enjoy each other’s company, and the showrunners and writers make us blessed to put on this fun little play every week.”
“Jokes for Joy: Benefitting Once Upon A Room” starts at 5 p.m. Sunday at the Ice House, 24 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena Tickets are $20. Call (626)577-1894 or visit icehousecomedy.com. For more information about Once Upon a Room, visit onceuponaroom.org.