Derek Donovan

Jason Sudeikis talks ‘Thundergong!’, helping charities and playing Joe Biden on ‘SNL’

“Saturday Night Live” alum and Overland Park native Jason Sudeikis is in Kansas City for the “Thundergong!” concert Saturday at the Uptown Theater. It’s a benefit for the Steps of Faith Foundation, a local nonprofit that helps amputees who can’t afford prosthetic limbs.

Sudeikis stopped by The Star’s studio Friday morning for a show on Facebook Live. He brought along his longtime friend Billy Brimblecom, Jr., whom he met doing improv comedy in Kansas City in 1995. Brimblecom lost his left leg to cancer, and today he is Steps of Faith’s executive director. Here are some edited excerpts from their chat with my editorial board colleague Melinda Henneberger and me. Watch the full video here.

Henneberger: What’s the biggest challenge for people who need prosthetics?

Brimblecom: It doesn’t matter who you voted for or who you will vote for. For the foreseeable future, unfortunately, health care is a mess in America, and medical things are always expensive. And some people even have health insurance and it doesn’t cover prosthetic care. So, we were talking off camera earlier about the Insurance Fairness for Amputees Act, which is a state-by-state thing, which is to try to hopefully help that. … There’s a ton of challenges. You don’t have a prosthetic leg, one for the rest of your life. It wears out like anything. Unfortunately, the need for what we do isn’t going away any time soon, but that’s why we’re here: to help people that are stuck in a Catch-22: They’ve lost a limb and they just want to get back to work, but they don’t have any money.

Donovan: Is there an average cost for a prosthetic limb?

Brimblecom: The cheapest possible thing that would bill out to insurance would still be at least $5,000 to $7,000, and that can go up to over $100,000.

Sudeikis: And that’s just taping a 9-iron to someone’s leg.

Brimblecom: Exactly, five grand.

Henneberger: Jason, when you’re doing something like playing Joe Biden on “Saturday Night Live,” you’re really shaping Americans’ views on these people, right?

Sudeikis: I don’t think we’re aware of that when we’re doing it. I think you’re giving us too much credit. … You do that show, and you kind of forget that it’s on TV until you walk around Sunday afternoon, after you woke up from working hard and playing hard all week, that someone will walk by and say, ‘Hey, good show.’ And you’re like, ‘Oh right, right, it was on TV.’ Because it kind of feels like you’re doing it for yourself and for the crew, and then for about the 200 to 300 people in the crowd right there. It feels like you’re doing a little piece of theater. You forget it’s being broadcast to millions of people all over the country, certainly, and then with the internet, all over the world.

If I were to think I was doing anything important with comedy, if it’s not the death of it, it might at least stun it a little bit.

Henneberger: What was the key to playing Biden?

Sudeikis: Well, they gave me a great set of false teeth. … That was a big part of it, so you just can’t help but have a big, toothy grin there. But part of it was just a version of my dad, and just his openness and loquaciousness. … If you ask him a question, you’re going to get an hour-long answer. That, Vice President Biden and my father have in common.

Years ago, I guess it was in 2008, when (Biden) was stumping here, my mom was like, ‘Hey, Joe Biden is in town. You should go say hi.” … And then, sure enough (my dad) did it. And he went over and introduced himself: ‘Hey, you do a great impression of my son.’ And (Biden said), ‘Hey, we gotta get a picture.’ And my dad didn’t have a camera, and I was like, ‘Yes, you did, Dad, it’s on your phone. We all have cameras now.’”

Donovan: How can performers like you help raise interest for causes such as Steps of Faith’s?

Brimblecom: You need to have attention. You need to have awareness for there then to be action, whether it’s people knowing about this great band or this great movie they need to go see, or this great charity. And so if you’ve got a big billboard, that’s going to help you, right? Any charity, if they can have some sort of celebrity endorsement, that’s great. It’s even better when it’s organic and it’s one of your best friends that you grew up with, and you come together and then you just call upon your friends, famous or not, and you put on a big thing.

“Thundergong!” is at 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9, at the Uptown Theater. Tickets are available through thundergong.org.

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Derek Donovan is a member of The Star’s editorial board and community engagement editor. He selects guest and syndicated commentaries, and edits the letters to the editor
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