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Super Bowl? What Super Bowl? Who needs the Super Bowl when you have Jane Fonda, Gloria Steinem and a room full of comedians including SNL’s Sasheer Zamata, The Daily Show’s Wyatt Cenac, 30 Rock’s Judah Friedlander, Comedy Central’s Michelle Buteau, Rosie O’Donnell and Broadway star Sarah Jones performing to benefit women’s rights?

Fonda, Steinem and the comedians partnered with the Women’s Equality ERA Coalition to put on A Night Of Comedy With Jane Fonda at Caroline’s On Broadway in New York last night, raising funds and awareness for the Equal Rights Amendment, and I was lucky enough to attend (Don’t worry, I was on YouTube searching for Beyoncé’s halftime performance — the only part of the Super Bowl that matters — as soon as I got home). The ERA is an amendment guaranteeing equal rights for women that was proposed in 1923, fought for in the 1970s, and still does not exist today.

“Everything happens from the bottom up, not the top down, so it has to be a populist, contagious movement to explain why it is we need the ERA,” Gloria Steinem told BUST before the show began. “The problem is that so many people think we already have it, that we have to really raise consciousness.”

Holding the event on the same night as the Super Bowl might seem a counterintuitive way to raise awareness, but writer and activist Agunda Okeyo, who produced the event, told BUST, “I was well aware when I booked the night that going against the Super Bowl wouldn’t work against us, because we are a community of people who are maybe not the people who would be watching the Super Bowl. So it’s really a great night for women to get together.”

Gloria Steinem had another take on the timing. “I’m fairly confident that we will end up with fewer brain injuries,” she told BUST.

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Talk about diversity in Hollywood was big on the red carpet and at the cocktail party before the show began. “I think it’s very good that it’s a big part of the dialogue,” Jane Fonda told BUST of the #OscarsSoWhite conversation. “We have to be talking about it. The Academy is taking steps, and I think there are going to be changes.”

“There is so much that needs to be done in terms of women in Hollywood,” actress and director Christine Lahti told BUST. “Diversity and the Oscars, yes, but also women need to be behind the camera. There weren’t any women directors nominated this year, or last year.”

The men performing and attending — though there weren’t many of them — were just as passionate about feminism. 30 Rock actor Judah Friedlander talked to BUST before going onstage, saying that he’s “definitely” a feminist. “Feminist means you’re for equal rights. I’m for equal rights, so I’m a feminist,” he said.

The show itself began with Gloria Steinem welcoming “the most fan-fucking-tastic room” before introducing Jane Fonda. “I cannot think that we would ever, ever, ever find a better friend, a better sister, a more talented woman, a more courageous woman,” she said.

Fonda put her comedy skills, lately honed from the Netflix series Grace and Frankie, on display as she introduced each comedian (and sometimes, as with Sarah Jones, joined in on the act). But she knew when to be serious, too.

“Today, in 2016, women have no legal hammock under us to hold us and protect us when we face discrimination,” she said onstage. “When we’re fired because we get pregnant, when we are brutalized or raped. When we’re not being paid the same thing that men are paid for doing the same work. You know, most countries have equal rights in their constitution and we harangue those who don’t, but we don’t have it in our own constitution.”

Take action at ERAcoalition.org.

Images: Facebook/Jane Fonda, Facebook/ERA Coalition

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Erika W. Smith is BUST's digital editorial director. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @erikawynn and email her at erikawsmith@bust.com.

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