Passion for comedy, helping others has raised $10M in 10 years

Posted 3/20/24

I’ve been funny my whole life,” said Warwick native Bill Silas.

For Silas, who has been a comedian for 16 years, March 23 will be a “huge night:” a sold out celebration …

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Passion for comedy, helping others has raised $10M in 10 years


I’ve been funny my whole life,” said Warwick native Bill Simas.

For Simas, who has been a comedian for 16 years, March 23 will be a “huge night:” a sold out celebration with 240 attendees at the West Warwick Elks Lodge commemorating his business’ milestone of raising $10 million in 10 years.

Simas found a way to capitalize on his humor while helping others, co-founding Funny4Funds with Mike Murray, a business that hosts comedy show fundraisers to raise money for nonprofits, sports teams, medical bills and any other causes. He estimated that they have put on at least 2,800 shows since launching.

“I could do comedy anywhere,” Simas said. “But when you can make people laugh and serve people by helping them with their cause, it’s the best soul food on the planet.”

Ten years ago, while actively involved in the New England and east coast comedy circuit, Simas ran into his comedian friend Mike Murray. While catching up, they realized that they were both doing fundraising events independently.

They decided to combine forces and “create a monster,” and Funny4Funds was born. After their first show, Simas knew that they found a niche of a “passion-driven company with funny comedians at a reasonable price.”

14 branches in 11 states

According to Simas, Funny4Funds provides more services than their specially curated 90 minute comedy show with three acts. In order to ease the stress of fundraising, they also supply electronic fliers, a Facebook invite and the entire stage set-up complete with sound and light systems. Their services cost $1,500, but organizations are required to pay a flat fee of $300 up front. The remaining $1,200 is met through a portion of the donations. Simasbelieves that this is a reasonable price, given that the average show raises between $6,000 and $7,000.

When the pair first began their enterprise, they were working out of Simas'’ Dodge Ram 1500 and doing one show a night. Bill recalled having to load the sound system into the truck a particular way because if they did it wrong, they would have to start all over.

During the first six years, Simas recalled arriving home at 1 or 2 in the morning for 45 weekends a year. He said that even though it was an exhausting pace, he drove home “feeling like a million bucks.”

Now, the business has 14 branches in 11 states, from Rhode Island to Florida to Texas with places in between. Even though these branches are based in different locations, they use the same sound systems and branding so that they “all feel the same.”

Funny4Funds also brought Bill and his wife Beth together. Seven years ago, Beth was bartending at the Knights of Columbus, one of the venues that Bill performed in. Beth said that she started going to his shows more often as a guest than as a bartender, and she liked how he is “always looking to make people laugh.”

In late 2019, Simas amicably bought out Murray in the “best divorce ever,” and as the company continued to grow, Bill realized he needed help. He asked Beth if she wanted to come on board, and now she manages the office. Beth said she was initially hesitant about blending work and personal life, but reasoned that they “work so well together.” They married on September 23, 2023.

“I’m the funny, and she’s the funds,” Bill joked.

The pair works out of their home office, and they have a meticulously color-coded white board that is constantly being updated with new shows. Simas, who graduated from Hendricken in 1992, said he could not imagine building the business out of anywhere but Warwick.

“We love this city,” he added.

100 comedians

In order to meet the community demands, Funny4Funds draws upon a network of experienced comedians. From his comedy experience, Simas “knew about 50 comedians off the top of his head” who would fit the brand. In the early days, Simas and Murray handpicked the first 40 comedians.

Now, they have about 100 comedians in their ranks, and their returning comedians occasionally bring new talent into the fold. “Our comedians are fishing lines to other comedians,” Simas added.

Simas still performs most weekends. He describes his comedic style as “high energy ranty storytelling,” and he is particularly fond of one of his bits about school buses and how frequently they stop. “That one usually gets a laugh,” he added.

Community members are grateful for the support that Funny4Funds has provided. Dave Schiappa has used Funny4Funds multiple years in a row. As the “one man show” behind the Gershkoff Autobody American Legion Baseball Auburn Post-20, Schiappa said that Funny4Funds’ model really works. As a community-based nonprofit trying to keep costs low, Schiappa relies upon fundraising. At his Funny4Funds show on March 2, he raised $20,000.

Julie Huddon approached Simas when the company was “just starting out” to raise money for a wheelchair accessible van for her son, Evan. On a Wednesday evening in 2015, “the community came out,” and they raised over $15,000. Huddon still drives the van today.

Huddon added that it was “such a wonderful thing to see everyone coming out to help and to have a good time at the same time.” She said that Evan, who is 24 now, has remained in touch with Simas, messaging them on Facebook. He performed his own stand-up set at an open mic night.

“They are such wonderful friends to all of us,” Huddon said. “They are awesome, kind and generous people.”


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