Henry-Alex Rubin Directs Sandy Hook Promise PSA "Just Joking" For BBDO NY


Robert Goldrich
Wednesday, Sep. 27, 2023


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As the U.S. surpasses 240 school shootings in 2023, setting the stage for a record-breaking year of gun violence in schools, Sandy Hook Promise (SHP) is launching “Just Joking,” its latest public service announcement (PSA) to underscore how important it is to take threats of gun violence seriously. The PSA features a lineup of comedians--including Billy Eichner, Wanda Sykes, Margaret Cho, Jay Pharoah, Roy Wood Jr., Caitlin Reilly, David Cross, Iliza Shlesinger and Rachel Bloom--who lend their wit to deliver a sobering message: Threats are not jokes. If you see a warning sign of violence, always say something. 

In the PSA, audience members assume that comedians are performing regular stand-up routines and “Just Joking.” However, it is later revealed that what the audience thought were punchlines were actually all real threats made by school shooters across the country – including the shooter at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, TX who said “I’m going to shoot up an elementary school right now,” and the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooter in Parkland, FL, who said “I want to kill people,” and several more across the country. The chilling realization that these comedians were not “Just Joking” wakes viewers up to the importance of taking all threats seriously and taking action when there are warning signs of violence.

Sandy Hook Promise partnered with BBDO New York to produce this video, as with its previous PSAs, including the Emmy Award-winning “Teenage Dream” and “Back-to-School Essentials,” as well as the Emmy-nominated “Point of View,” and multiple award-win“Evan.” Sandy Hook Promise once again partnered with SMUGGLER, a commercial, documentary, film and theater production company and with award-winning director Henry-Alex Rubin. To date, Sandy Hook Promise’s PSAs have won a combined 22 prestigious Cannes Lion awards and over 300 other industry awards. 

In a joint statement, BBDO NY creative directors Gary du Toit and Lance Vining shared, “We know that school shooters display warning signs before they carry out their plans. But too often we come up with excuses not to get involved. We tell ourselves that it’s ‘probably nothing’ or that the person who displayed the signs was probably ‘just joking.’ With this year’s PSA, we hope to convince people that it’s up to all of us not only to learn the warning signs, but to act on them when we see them.”

“Now that I have kids, each school shooting makes me physically nauseous. Some shootings are avoidable, and Sandy Hook Promise fights hard to find creative ways to get people to listen,” said Oscar-nominated and Emmy Award-winning director Rubin. “As a director, I think if you have a craft you can use to call attention to problems, you have an obligation to use it. I’m grateful to the creatives at BBDO as well as this group of comedians who gave us their time to help us make our point.” 

“Gun violence has just become this accepted plague on our American communities and I wanted to do something visible and positive for the cause,” said comedian and actress Shlesinger, who starred in the PSA. “Since participating in [the PSA] I have become more active in gun violence prevention--it can be as little as being vocal about it, calling your lawmakers or just voting. But we can’t allow this to become ‘just the way it is.’ And the fact that parents of the victims of Sandy Hook produced this, in all of their pain and suffering, means other people can do something proactive as well.”

To date, 21 million people nationwide have participated in Sandy Hook Promise’s lifesaving Know the Signs programs that focus on violence prevention by teaching youth and adults how to recognize warning signs of potential violence and get help. As a result, Sandy Hook Promise has averted at least 15 credible planned school shooting attacks, prevented 185 attempts of violence with a weapon, and saved more than 500 lives through crisis intervention. The Know the Signs programs are available to every school and youth organization at no cost.

Sandy Hook Promise is the bipartisan gun-violence prevention nonprofit founded/led by those who lost loved ones at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012


Client Sandy Hook Promise Nicole Hockley, co-founder & CEO; Dawn Lyons, chief operating officer; Jonathan Karron, VP, marketing; Aimee Thunberg, associate VP, communications; Penny Muldoon, associate VP, digital; Karen Louie-Joyce, director, digital marketing. Agency BBDO New York David Lubars, chief creative officer, worldwide;’ Luiz Sanches, chief creative officer, North America; Matt McDonald, chief creative officer, NY; Lance Vining, Gary Du Toit, creative directors; Jong Yeu Wu, designer; Alex Gianni, director of content production/GEP; Mike Woodall, sr. producer; Julia Millison, sr. music producer. Media Agency PHD Jessica Weiss, strategy director. Production Company SMUGGLER Henry-Alex Rubin, director; Tony Yacenda, supporting director (Los Angeles); Samantha Scaffidi, supporting director (New York); Brian Carmody, Patrick Milling-Smith, co-founders; Sue Yeon Ahn, managing director; Drew Santarsiero, exec producer; Alex Hughes, head of production; Catalina Restrepo, line producer; KJ Brown, Holland Kemp, associate producers; Darby Pearson, Svetlana Dekic, production supervisors; Boma Pennebaker, Matt Smith, 1st ADs; Justin Gurnari, Joseph Arcidiacono, DPs; Peter Benson, Justin Allen, production designers. Editorial Rock Paper Scissors Paul Hardcastle, editor; Nick O’Krepkie, assistant editor; Eve Kornblum, managing director; Justin Kumpata, exec producer; Niaomi McGarrell, post producer. Editorial Trim Editing Paul Hardcastle, editor; Helena Teixeira, Lorna Searl, assistant editors; Noreen Khan, exec producer; Tatyana Alexandra, post producer. Telecine Rare Medium Fergus McCall, colorist; Nicholas Hiltner, assistant colorist; Heath Raymond, exec producer/managing director. Conform & Finish Selected Works Alex Fitzgerald, exec producer; Libby Gandhi, producer; Eileen Chan, compositor; Noa Vuagniaux, production assistant. Music & Audio Mix Human and Post Human Sloan Alexander, music, mix & sound design, creative lead & chief engineer; Dean Wells, exec producer; Rob Suchecki, post producer. Comedians (in order of appearance) Billy Eichner, Wanda Sykes, David Cross, Margaret Cho, Jay Phaoroh, Roy Wood Jr., Iliza Shlesinger, Caitlin Reilly, Rachel Bloom


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