For over a decade, Joe Amero has been a frontline social worker in shelters helping people cope with homelessness and substance abuse issues. He is inspired by his own lived experiences with drug use and has always been a prolific guy, entertaining himself through punk rock, hip hop and most recently comedy.
Once COVID hit, it left live comedy; his improv troupe, The Pepperoni Pizza Cats, closed and he hasn’t returned to a show since.
“I don’t intend to do it,” he said. “Over time, I grew until I no longer pursued this.”
He didn’t give up comedy entirely, however. A sequel to his one-man show “Blood”, which mixed his lived experience with his art, was going to be his next big project.
“It’s a show I’m going to do again called Drugs!” (The Musical), âAmero said. “It’s all about my drug story, but it’s a musical.”
Since the pandemic hampered his plans, he has found another way to draw attention to the overdose crisis before telling his own story.
âI wanted to draw attention to this, so I came up with the idea of ââa fundraiser,â he said. âHow do you promote drug fundraising? Well you do it like a weird 24 hour telethon because nobody has a phone and nobody knows what a telethon is, so that was just plain nonsense. ”
Medications! (The Musical) (The Telethon) was conceived and the idea snowballed. He ended up with a five-hour pre-show and the 24-hour telethon turned into 28 hours. Amero describes the project as “a beast”, but it was successful and so far it has raised approximately $ 7,000 for harm reduction across Canada.
Now he’s putting the finishing touches on Drugs! (For the Holidays) which will be available on YouTube and most social media platforms on Christmas Eve at 8 p.m. to increase the donations to $ 14,000, so that each of the community partners receives a contribution of $ 1,000.
Community partners from across Canada are: Toronto Indigenous Harm Reduction, Hamilton AIDS Network, The Association QuÃ©bÃ©coise pour la promotion de la santÃ© des personnes users de jeux drugs, The ALLY Center of Cape Breton / Sharp Advice Needle Exchange, Avenue B, SUNAR – Substance User Network of the Atlantic Region, AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador, Turning Point, Prairie Harm Reduction, Manitoba Harm Reduction Network, Moms Stop The Harm, Yellowknife Women’s Society / Yellowknife Street Outreach, Blood Ties Four Directions Center and Nunavut Kamatsiaqtut Help Line .
âMy friends die in real life,â Amero said. âThere have been overdoses and it just keeps on going. You know what I mean. Just like no reprieve.
To make the link between this telethon that he launched and partner initiatives, he had to rely on his friends, many of whom are also survivors of the lived experience of drug use.
âThey’re all psychiatric nurses and social workers across the country and they have rock-solid reputations and stand behind me – this guy is the real deal, you have to join us,â Amero said. âIt took so much work to get 14 initiatives. I researched and selected 14 separate initiatives so that there is one in each province or territory, two in Ontario.
Essentially, its goal was to connect the whole country through a network of harm reduction initiatives.
“So if you needed help anywhere we would have someone in your area and if they couldn’t help you they would definitely have the resources to direct you to someone who could.” , did he declare. âI didn’t want to use their name to fundraise without their permission. It took months and months and thanks to my friends across the country, good people who have worked in the field for all these years since we ourselves gave up on all these drugsâ¦ partners. ”
For Amero, the whole idea was that this fundraiser would be a great love letter to everyone doing harm reduction across the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic, working through the silent pandemic. – which is the overdose crisis.
âJust to thank you and let them know that we are seeing you,â he said. âIt’s like harm reduction is a vacuum. It’s a tight-knit community, so everyone is screaming into the void. We’re just listening to each other, so maybe the idea was to bridge a bit moreâ¦ to educate the general population.
While he hopes the videos he spent most of this year making will be entertaining, he’s also put them in place so they can be an educational tool. The telethon was divided into 24 segments on topics such as bereavement, death and drug addiction.
âWe had a lot of cool contributors,â Amero said. âComedians, I have a lot of friends from acting, social workers, I’ve been in social work for about 10 years. I have a lot of connections there. Also, people who have used drugs because I am one. I was one for a long time so I know a lot of them too. I tried to go all out and bring everyone down. I think it was a resounding success.
Medications! (For the holidays) was supposed to last an hour, but there were so many contributors that it is now four hours and 20 minutes.
âI would love to keep it there just for the lame daddy joke of it all,â Amero said. “Drugs: 4:20 man. Someone’s gonna think it’s funny. I think it’s funny.
âIt will be wherever we can, on all social media platforms,â Amero said. “I even did a TikTok page but then I was like ‘I don’t like this here’ so it just sat dormant.
âI’m too old for this shit. I can’t go down with this. It gives me a headache.