Wyandotte funnyman raises big bucks for Goodfellows
For more than a decade of holiday seasons, Wyandotte native Mark Knope has entertained area residents with his comedy shows at local venues, while raising funds for the Wyandotte Goodfellows and collecting gifts for children through Toys for Tots.
In 2020, the COVID-19 global pandemic forced the cancellation of what would have been the comedian’s 12th annual pre-Christmas stage performance, but it did not slow down his fundraising for the Goodfellows.
Through social media, Knope spread the word about his dilemma, but also asked fans to continue supporting Goodfellows and their cause of “no child without a Christmas.” He wound up generating more than $3,500 to donate to the charity to purchase gifts and food – more than double the average of $1,000 to $1,500 raised during the comedy shows.
“I figured with COVID, a lot of people are hurting financially. Fifteen hundred dollars would have covered my fundraising,” Knope said. “I’m completely blown away… I’m completely humbled.”
Knope’s comedy shows have been a tradition in the Downriver area. He invites multiple comedian friends to perform. The original venue was LTB’s (Lions, Tigers and Bears) until the Biddle Avenue restaurant/bar closed after a fire. Since then, the show has been hosted by the Wyandotte Knights of Columbus.
Attendees fill multiple boxes of new toys for the Downriver United States Marine Corps Toys for Tots campaign and provide funds for Goodfellows through ticket purchases, a 50/50 raffle and donations.
Knope said he originally chose the Downriver USMC Toys for Tots campaign as the benefit charity because his son Andrew Knopp serves in the Marines. Currently, Major Knopp is a helicopter pilot deployed in Japan. (Note that Knopp is the original family name. Mark changed his professional stage name to Knope for easier pronunciation. “Kuh-nope” is how the name is pronounced either way.)
Several years later, the comedian added Goodfellows as a benefactor because his parents, Charlie and Blossom Knopp, were heavily involved in the group before they passed away. Charlie Knopp was a Wyandotte firefighter who became a part-time city inspector after retiring from the Fire Department.
Knope, who now lives in Toledo – exactly 62 miles from his parents’ former home, said he continues to support the people of his original hometown. After reading a sentimental essay about his love for Wyandotte in an essay Knope posted on Facebook, then-Mayor Joseph Peterson told him he would always been a “Wyandotter.”
“I support Goodfellows in honor of my dad and mom,” he said. “They believed in Goodfellows… My heart lies in Wyandotte. You can kick the boy out of Wyandotte, but you can’t kick the Wyandotte out of the boy.”
The fundraising performance was not the only show that had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus. Knope said he has worked “a couple virtual events” in which he performs via live and/or pre-recorded. During one virtual event, he performed live and inserted pre-recorded segments in which he presented awards while impersonating Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jack Nicholson, Sylvester Stallone, Rodney Dangerfield and the character “Doc Brown” from the movie “Back to the Future.”
“As far as my stand-up shows are concerned, I’ve lost track of how many I’ve lost” due to the pandemic, Knope said. “I thought that by September or October (2020) things would open up again. Obviously, it has not.”