On October 7, Ben Stiller returns to town as the "host and creative director" of the Project ALS gala at the Waldorf=Astoria; it's a benefit for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the degenerative neurological disease that befell his friend Jennifer Estess, with whom he co-founded downtown theater group Naked Angels in the early eighties. "With all the other causes out there in the world, it's been hard to gain attention," says Stiller, who has hosted several ALS events in the last decade. "The theme of the evening is that we're getting away from doing the typical fund-raiser. So I'm going to do it like it's my own talk show, like Carson or Letterman, which I'm ill-equipped to do because I'm just not good at that."
Chris Rock and Jon Stewart are expected to appear; Daily Show writer Ed Helms and Pippin Parker, Sarah Jessica's brother, have contributed material. "It will have a format and band," says Stiller. "Just hopefully be a lot of fun and ridiculous. Everyone knows why they're there — we don't need to pound them over the head with the heaviness of the disease."
Proceeds partly benefit a foundation for stem-cell research. As for the election, "I'm a big Obama supporter, he says. "But it's interesting to see how people watch the debates through their own lens. For me, it's just very important — regardless of where people come down on the debates, even what their views are — everybody has to vote. We have to get out the youth vote, and everyone has to exercise their right to vote. This election is just too important."