Weekly Webb: Turning to laughs for serious cause

2013-03-01T01:15:00Z 2013-03-07T17:55:21Z Weekly Webb: Turning to laughs for serious cause The Billings Gazette

Diane Kylander figures if anyone needs a good laugh, it’s the victims of domestic violence.

Kylander had never met Jamie Palmieri-Schoonover, nor had she heard of the Domestic Violence Abuse Awareness Society, but she wanted a cause to throw her Comedy Tsunami troupe into when she formed it last year. Then Kylander met Palmieri-Schoonover, who is the society's founder, and knew she’d found her mission.

Everybody Kylander talks to about helping the Domestic Violence Abuse Awareness Society gets as excited as she does. The bar manager at Bones Brewing, Greg Jacobs, offered to pay for Black Velvet Undercover to play at a March 9 fundraiser, featuring comedy, dinner, belly dancing and live music. Other comics, like Laurel police officer Jim Huertas who has dealt with domestic violence in his job, jumped on board to perform at the benefit.

Kylander, 69, did not suffer from abuse, but she said her generation of women were encouraged to suffer abuse in silence. That’s what the Domestic Violence Abuse Awareness Society, now 40 members strong, fights against.

“Sometimes the emotional abuse is worse because it lasts longer than the physical,” said society co-vice president Serena Anderson.

The 2011 Montana Comedian of the Year, Mark Dawson, hosts Comedy Tsunami, which includes comics Tamara Upton, Mark Kramlich and Kylander. Inspired by Louie Anderson performing at a fundraiser for nonprofits last week at the Alberta Bair Theater, where board members were introduced, Kylander plans to give up a few minutes of her set so the society can get its message out.

“If it starts a conversation with one of the DVVAS about abuse, that’s just another bonus of this event,” Kylander said.

Kylander said she asked all of her comedians to go PG-13 on their set to keep the event family-friendly. As part of the show, Palmieri-Schoonover will be interviewed by Dawson about her recovery from being a victim of domestic abuse. Palmieri-Schoonover said it took counseling to help her understand that the abuse was not her fault. After years of abuse during her troubled marriage, she left in 2009 with her children. Now she is working on a degree at Montana State University Billings.

“I almost didn’t survive,” Palmieri-Schoonover said. “This last time he got a hold of me, he shattered the cartilage in my nose. My work fired me because I was in the hospital so much. The courts kept putting my case back and forth between municipal and city. He ended up getting a slap on the wrist.”

Money raised at the Comedy Tsunami fundraiser will go to the YWCA’s Gateway House, a shelter for abuse victims and their children.

Anderson said hopes are to eventually expand the organization beyond the Montana State University Billings campus, where it is now housed. The group meets every first Monday of the month at 4 p.m. in the Student Union Building. New members are welcome.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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