Why not laugh?
Russell Westbrook’s charity comedy event comes to Tulsa
Demetrius “Juice” Deason for Russell Westbrook’s Why Not? Foundation comedy event
NBA superstar and Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook grew up in Long Beach, California, in a crime-ridden neighborhood with more liquor stores than places to buy groceries. Despite their challenges, Westbrook and his brother were taught to respond “Why not?” whenever someone told them they couldn’t accomplish their dreams. Since his rise to stardom, the NBA player has sought to instill this type of hard-earned resilience into another generation of kids in Oklahoma.
In 2012, Westbrook started the Why Not? Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to helping children who grew up in the same types of traditionally marginalized communities gain the strength and support to chase their dreams. This group has hosted events to support regional food banks, reading skills for elementary school children and partnered with national groups like the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Now the foundation is hosting a charity comedy event in Tulsa with the organization “Layups2standup” on Thursday, July 11 at Cain’s Ballroom. The event will feature acclaimed national and local comedians, hosted by Russell Westbrook and Demetrius “Juice” Deason.
Westbrook and Deason have been close friends since the sixth grade. Their business collaboration began with the Why Not? Basketball Camp for kids nearly a decade ago. Like Westbrook, Deason grew up facing a number of challenges. “I come from a single [parent] household. I lived in a motel growing up. I was homeless a few times,” Deason said. “I was going through it, playing basketball trying to figure it out. That’s how Russell and I became such good friends. He was there with me through some of the toughest times of my life.”
It was during the process of working on the camp that Deason and Westbrook came up with the idea of using a comedy event to raise money for kids in need. “I’ve been doing comedy for about five years now. Me and Russell are best friends and business partners,” Deason said. “I run his basketball camps in L.A., Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Some parents saw me performing comedy and suggested that Russell and I should do a comedy show together for the kids. So I put together the pieces for a show in Oklahoma City a few years ago, and everyone kept asking when we were gonna do a show in Tulsa. So I found a venue and organized it.”
Each of the previous Why Not? Comedy events have raised money for a different children’s charity. This year a portion of the proceeds from the July 11 event will go to the Light It Up Foundation. This foundation was created by Seattle Seahawks player and Tulsa native Tyler Lockett. The Light It Up Foundation partners with churches to identify and serve underprivileged youth and families in the Tulsa and Seattle communities struggling with food insecurity. “Tyler’s work is exactly the kind of model we want to lift up for athletes and people in the business community,” Deason said. “Returning to the place you grew up and trying to improve the lives of kids is one of the most important ways to give back.”