Seth Rogen recently gave a heartfelt and humorous speech in Congress about Alzheimer's disease, mentioning the devastating effects it has had on his mother-in-law, and later slammed senators who did not attend the hearing.
The 31-year-old popular comedy actor and writer, who heads a charity to raise funding and awareness for the incurable ailment, testified in front of members of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health & Human Services on Wednesday.
"After forgetting who she and her loved ones were, my mother-in-law, a teacher for 35 years, then forgot how to speak, feed herself, dress herself and go to the bathroom herself -- all by the age of 60," said Rogen, who C-Span dubbed an "Actor and Alzheimer's disease activist."
After his speech, Rogen posted a photo on Twitter that shows him sitting at the hearing in front of many empty seats. A subcommittee spokesperson told OTRC.com that six senators out of the 18 members attended the hearing. Several of their staff members sat behind Rogen and many laughed and clapped as he made jokes and several pop culture references, such as the Netflix political drama series "House of Cards" and the 2007 movie "Knocked Up," which helped launch his film career.
"Not sure why only two senators were at the hearing," Rogen said on Twitter. Very symbolic of how the Government views Alzheimer's. Seems to be a low priority."
He also tweeted at Illinois Senator Mark Kirk, saying: ".@SenatorKirk pleasure meeting you. Why did you leave before my speech? Just curious."
Kirk said he had a meeting with Apollo 13 commander Captain Jim Lovell at the time of the hearing but that he watched a video of the actor's testimony. He thanked Rogen and also shared a photo of himself standing with him in Congress on his Twitter page. The subcommittee spokesperson told OTRC.com it is not unusual for senators to miss hearings due to scheduling conflicts and sometimes opt to watch streaming webcasts of it or send staffers to attend on their behalf.
"@SenatorKirk symbolically, it hurts the cause to see that many empty seats," Rogen added. "Wish you hung around. Nice meeting you."
Check out a full transcript of Seth Rogen's remarks at Congress and watch a video of his speech.
SETH ROGEN: "Thank you very much for having me, Mr. Chairman, ranking member [Jerry] Moran and the members of the subcommittee. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today and for the opportunity for me to be called an expert in something, 'cause that's cool. I don't know if you know who I am at all -- you told me you never saw 'Knocked Up,' Chairman, so [spectators laugh] it's a little insulting."
SENATOR TOM HARKIN (D-IA): "I want the record to know ..."
SETH ROGEN: "It's very important, guys."
SENATOR TOM HARKIN (D-IA): "I want the record to know, this is the first time, I will wager, this is the first time in any Congressional hearing in history that the words 'Knocked Up' have ever been used."
SETH ROGEN: [Laughs] "Oy. You're not gonna like the rest of this, then. [Senators laugh] First, I should answer the question I assume many of you are asking -- yes, I'm aware this has nothing to do with the legalization of marijuana. In fact, if you can believe it, this concerns something that I find even more important."
"I started dating my wife Lauren nine years ago when her mother was almost 54 years old. The first time I met her parents, being the mensch* that I am, I was excited to spend time with them and make Lauren thing I was the type of guy she should continue dating. It was this trip, the first time I met my now-mother-in-law, that Lauren first admitted to herself and then to me that something was off with her mother."
"I guess the clues were, unfortunately, easy to spot since both of Lauren's mother's parents had Alzheimer's disease. Soon after this trip, at 55 years old, Lauren's mother was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's."
"Now, at this point, my impression of Alzheimer's was probably was I assume most people's impression is -- I thought it was something only, like, really, really old people got and I thought the way the disease primarily showed itself was in the form of forgotten keys, wearing mismatched shoes and being asked the same question over and over. This period, which was the only way I'd seen Alzheimer's displayed in movies or television, lasted a few years for Lauren's mom. After that, however, is when I saw the real, ugly truth of the disease."
"After forgetting who she and her loved ones were, my mother-in-law, a teacher for 35 years, then forgot how to speak, feed herself, dress herself and go to the bathroom herself -- all by the age of 60. Lauren's father and a team of caregivers dedicate their lives to letting my mother-in-law be as comfortable as she can be. They would love to do more but can't because, as you've heard, unlike any of the other top 10 causes of death in America, there's no way to prevent, cure or even slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease."
"Another thing I didn't realize until I was personally affected was the shame and stigma associated with the disease. It was before I was born, but I'm told of a time when cancer had a stigma that people were ashamed by. Celebrities and other public figures that were stricken would hide, rather than be voices of hope for people in similar situations, and although it's turning, this is currently where we are largely at with Alzheimer's disease, it seems like."
"And it's because of this lack of hope and shameful stigma that my wife, some friends and myself decided to actually try and do something to change the situation."
"We started Hilarity For Charity. Hilarity For Charity is a fund we have, as a part of the Alzheimer's Association, to raise money to help families struggling with Alzheimer's and support cutting-edge research. That's right, the situation is so dire that it caused me -- a lazy, self-involved, generally self-medicated man-child -- to start an entire charity organization."
"It was through this that we felt we weren't just complaining there was nothing to be done, but actively taking steps to do something. Instead of being disappointed that young people were so misinformed about the reality of the disease, we've started to educate them. We recently started a college program that allows university students to hold their own Hilary For Charity events, and in the months since it started, 18 schools nationwide had signed up to hold events."
"The fact that we actually got college students to stop playing video games and volunteer their time is a huge accomplishment, especially considering both Xbox One and Playstation 4 came out this year -- I'm sure these people know what I'm talking about [laughs]."
"I came here today for a few reasons. One, I'm a huge 'House of Cards' fan. [Senators laugh] Just marathoned the whole thing. Had to be here. Two, is to say people need more help. I've personally seen the massive amount of financial strain this disease causes and if the American people ever decide to reject genitalia-driven comedy, I will no longer be able to afford it. Please don't."
"Therefore, I can't begin to imagine how people with more limited incomes are dealing with this. As you've also heard, studies show that Alzheimer's and related dementia is the most costly condition in the United States. Yes, it's more costly than heart disease in a country where, for $1.29, you can get a taco made out of Doritos. They're delicious but they're not healthy."
"While deaths from other major diseases, like heart disease, HIV and strokes continue to decline, deaths from Alzheimer's have increased almost 70 percent in the last 15 years. Over five million Americans have Alzheimer's and at this rate, in 35 years, as many as 16 million will have the disease."
"The third reason I'm here, simply, is to show people that they're not alone. So few people share their personal story, so few people have something to relate to. I know that if me and my wife saw someone like me talking about this, it would probably make us feel a little less alone."
"Americans whisper the word 'Alzheimer's' because their government whispers the word 'Alzheimer's,' and although a whisper is better than silence that the Alzheimer's community has been facing for decades, it's still not enough. It needs to be yelled and screamed to the point that it finally gets the attention and the funding that it deserves and needs."
"I dream of a day when my charity is no longer necessary and I can go back to being the lazy, self-involved man-child I was meant to be. People look to their government for hope and I ask that when it comes to Alzheimer's disease, you continue to take more steps to provide some more. I would like to thank the committee again for the opportunity to share my story and to voice my whole-hearted support for the continuing work that pursues a cure for Alzheimer's disease. Thank you very much." [Applause]
SENATOR TOM HARKIN (D-IA): [Clapping] "Thank you Mr. Rogen, that was great. That was very, very good. Thank you, thank you."
* A "mensch" is a Yiddish word that means "a person of integrity."
Watch a video of Seth Rogen's speech at Congress.