The stars came out tonight with hopes of brightening the way for years to come.
Halle Berry, Jennifer Garner, Jennifer Aniston, Salma Hayek, Ellen DeGeneres, Keanu Reeves, Billy Crystal, Scarlett Johansson, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Casey Affleck, America Ferrera, Fran Drescher, Forest Whitaker, John Krasinski, Christina Applegate, Josh Brolin and Masi Oka are just some of the A-listers who participated Friday in the Stand Up to Cancer telethon, benefiting cancer research, at Hollywood's Kodak Theatre.
But despite a roster of names that wouldn't have seemed out of place at the Oscars, it was sobering to see how many of the event's participants' lives have been affected by cancer, including Applegate, who, after being diagnosed with breast cancer this year, underwent a preventative double mastectomy, and Katie Couric, whose husband, Jay Monahan, died of colon cancer in 1998.
Couric presided over the special with her network news competition, NBC's Brian Williams and ABC's Charles Gibson, both of whom have also lost family members to the disease. On a rare night of Nielsen disregard, the show aired live and commercial-free on NBC, ABC, CBS.
"It's all about collaboration," Couric said. "Collaboration among the networks, collaboration among cancer researchers all around the country…and ultimately, the collaboration of the American people, who can unite behind a single cause that affects so many people."
Addressing the audience before the show, executive producer (and cancer survivor) Laura Ziskin took a swipe at Fox for not getting with the program.
News Corp exec Peter Chernin sent flowers, she quipped, but "a very large donation from News Corp" would be better.
While the overall tone of the evening was about as serious as it gets, what with the heartrending montage of sick children, testimonials from those who have battled or lost someone to cancer and some very sobering statistics (someone dies of cancer every minute in the U.S.), Ziskin didn't forget to bring the funny.
Among the lighter moments were a James L. Brooks-provided Simpsons short, in which Homer gets a colonoscopy ("Mmmm, Mayo," he said when welcomed to the Mayo Clinic), Brad Garrett bending over for a prostate exam ("I can't believe Fox is counterprogramming against this") and the usual shenanigans courtesy of Jack Black.
"I usually watch these things at home in my underpants, saying, 'Look at all these celebs!'" the Tropic Thunder star said before urging Brolin, who was on the phone taking pledges, to call up DeGeneres, who was sitting a few seats away, and donate some of that No Country for Old Men cash.
Also spied answering phones were Rob Lowe, Mandy Moore , Jon Favreau, Jimmy Fallon, Christina Ricci, Marg Helgenberger, Goran Visnjik, Mekhi Phifer, Marissa Jaret Winokur, David Spade and Sharon Osbourne.
The celeb quotient multiplied significantly, as well, when Beyoncé, Miley Cyrus, Mariah Carey, Rihanna, Leona Lewis, Fergie, Mary J. Blige, Carrie Underwood, Keyshia Cole, Ciara, LeAnn Rhimes, Nicole Scherzinger and Ashanti performed via satellite (from Fashion Rocks at Radio City Music Hall) the cause's new anthem, "Just Stand Up," which went on sale Tuesday on iTunes.
Melissa Etheridge, yet another of the survivors in the house, performed the song live to close out the show.
—Additional reporting by Marc Malkin