The first Secret Policeman’s Ball was actually three nights at Her Majesty’s Theatre in 1976. It had its genesis when Amnesty International asked Monty Python’s John Cleese if he might be able to round up a few friends for a fundraiser. Cleese’s friends turned out to be a members of Monty Python plus other British funny people including the ensemble comedic group The Goodies.
The Secret Policeman’s Ball quickly morphed into a comedy/music event and helped introduce the acoustic or “unplugged” trend. Artists such as Pete Townshend and Sting showed their music needn’t always be electrified. Sting’s acoustic rendition of “Roxanne” is still a fan favorite. The same goes for Townshend’s acoustic performances of classic Who songs such as “Pinball Wizard” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”
Amnesty International is celebrating its 50th anniversary by bringing the Secret Policeman’s Ball across the pond for a U.S. performance scheduled for New York City’s Radio City Music Hall March 4. Appearing will be Coldplay, “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Mumford & Sons, Russell Brand, and Reggie Watts with more to be announced in the coming weeks.
“Secret Policeman’s Ball has a long and hilariously off-color history of using comic genius to fight for free speech and human rights around the world,” Secret Policeman’s executive producer Lily Sobhani said. “We are thrilled that the leading lights of comedy and music are coming together to bring the Secret Policeman’s Ball to the United States for the first time.”
American Express cardmembers get first dibs on tickets via a special presale beginning today. The general onsale begins Jan. 30. There are also chances to win tickets. For more information, visit the Secret Policeman’s Ball on Facebook and check out the event’s Twitter page.