INWOOD — An El Barrio organization for domestic violence survivors is taking a different tack on raising money — making people laugh.
The Violence Intervention Program (VIP), which operates women's shelters throughout the five boroughs, will hold a night of sketch comedy Thursday night at Inwood's 809 Lounge to raise money for their efforts.
VIP board member and amateur comedian Rachel Strauss-Muniz said she's excited to make people laugh for a good cause.
"We're trying to raise awareness of the resources we have for domestic violence victims," Strauss-Muniz, 34, said. "I’m excited because I'm marrying my love for comedy and performing to connect with Latinos and Latinas at once."
VIP has offered victims assistance for more than 30 years. The organization connects women with case workers and offers them havens when needed. VIP also provides services in Spanish, something Strauss-Muniz said could have helped women such as Deisy Garcia, who was stabbed to death by her husband in February after her police report was reportedly never translated into English.
"A lot of women who don’t speak English feel like there's a barrier and they can’t seek help because they don’t speak the language," Strauss-Muniz said. "If [the police] were to offer her help in a native language program she might still be alive today."
To help get the word out, Strauss-Muniz has enlisted the help of Room28, a sketch troupe founded in 2008 by Michael "Juan Bago" Diaz and Jamie Fernandez, stars of the web series "Studio Heads." The show Thursday is the group's first performance since 2009.
Strauss-Muniz was a supporting member of the group in 2008 but is a full-fledged cast member now. She said the idea to use the group to help VIP came naturally.
"Fundraisers tend to be more low-energy or community-based — not as loud and sexy as a comedy show," she said. "I took a dare and approached the founder with the idea and she said OK."
Nine sketches will be performed during the evening, including one in which several of the troupe's male members try to join a sorority. "You’ll see a surprise appearance by women with lots of facial hair,” Strauss-Muniz said.
The night, co-hosted by the Dyckman BID, will feature a raffle for gift items donated by Michael Kors and Mario Badescu Skin Care, plus purple Swarovski crystal bracelets made by designer Michelle Valentin and a gift card to DSW.
Emblem Health will be on hand to help residents sign up for health insurance.
Tickets to the event, which begins at 7:30 p.m. at 112 Dyckman St., can be purchased for $10 online and $15 at the door. Should the event go well, Strauss Muniz said more comedy would follow.
"We're hoping to start a movement," she said.