Last week Jon Stites — an Indy comedian who has appeared on Comedy Central and Bob and Tom — called me from his home in Los Angeles to discuss the details for an upcoming comedy show in Indianapolis.
"All I am doing is drinking beer and telling jokes," he laughs. "Which I love to do."
While there will be plenty of libations and laughs, the show isn't just about comedy. The profits will go to Connor, 11, and Danny, 9, to see that they have a sound trust fund for their future.
It was last year when Connor and Danny went through the biggest changes that they will ever likely face in their lifetime. They were in the next room when their father murdered their mother, then took his own life.
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Shannon O'Malia Hall, the boys' mother and victim of brutal domestic violence, was not only well known around town; she was always noticed for her smiling. It's because of her cheer that a comedy show just seemed to fit.
Shannon graduated from Cathedral High School, which is where Stites knew her.
"I am really not just saying this, she was one of the sweetest and universally beloved people I have ever met," says Stites. "She literally was an absolute saint."
Shannon was a part of a group of roughly ten women, who would go out or go on a trip once a month together. They all went to school with Stites and decided to go see his standup act before he moved to L.A. three years ago.
Colleen O'Malia Stine — Shannon's sister and now guardian of her two sons — recalls hearing about how much she enjoyed the show. So when Stites contacted her about doing a benefit show in Shannon's honor, she was thrilled.
"We are still blown away that over a year after this horrible tragedy that happened to our family, that people care so much," says O'Malia Stine. "It stabilizes our faith in God and humanity ... It reaffirms our belief that we are going to be okay."
Stites spoke highly of O'Malia Stine, especially since she just had her third child not including Shannon's two.
"Being a lifelong bachelor, sometimes I am stressed out about how I am going to pay for dog food much less the cost of two additional children," says Stites.
Stites, who has been a professional comedian for the last six years, is no stranger to comedy with a cause. He started Operation Comedy as a way for military members, veterans and their families to see free standup acts.
"No matter the cause or the charity or whatnot, you just have to go out and do what you do," says Stites.
His first charity-based show was in Cleveland to raise monetary support for the victims of Ariel Castro's abuse. When the manager told him it was a benefit, Stites was hesitant at first.
"A group of rowdy G.I.s is one thing," he laughs. "With comedy, people just want to laugh. As long as you are a working pro you don't really need to overthink the charity versus just putting on a dynamite show."
He hopes that the night will reach out to people outside of the O'Malia circle as well.
"It's going to be a great show. We are looking to reach people that didn't know her.
"With Shannon, her family and mine, we are both Irish Catholics, that's how we celebrate death. We drink, we dance, we laugh. That's how we remember people. ... It's going to be remembering Shannon's spirit."
Comedy: Shannon Smiles
What: Jon will headline, Todd McComas (co-owner of Morty's) will open
When: Sept. 5, 7 p.m. comedy, 9 p.m. music by Sour Mash
Where: Rathskeller, 401 E. Michigan St.
Tickets: $20 shannonsmiles.bpt.me