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By Amy Houston | Senior Reporter

September 27, 2023 | 3 min read

The video hopes to underscore how important it is to take threats of gun violence seriously.

As the US surpasses 230 school shootings in 2023, setting the stage for a record-breaking year of school gun violence, Sandy Hook Promise has launched its latest public service announcement.

Titled ‘Just Joking,’ features a lineup of renowned comedians – including Billy Eichner, Wanda Sykes, Margaret Cho, Jay Pharoah, Roy Wood Jr, Caitlin Reiley, 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 video, real audience members assume that the stand-ups perform regular routines. 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.”

“As the US is on track to have its deadliest year yet, the urgency to protect our children from gun violence is stronger than ever,” said Nicole Hockley, co-founder and chief executive officer at Sandy Hook Promise and mother of Dylan, who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. “Even if it seems small – or like a joke – recognizing and reporting a potential threat of violence can have a massive, life-saving impact. We can all do more to learn about the warning signs of violence and take action immediately when we see them.”

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.’ Henry-Alex Rubin was behind the camera, directing the film.

“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,” said Gary Toit and Lance Vining, creative directors at BBDO New York. “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 us to learn the warning signs and act on them when we see them.”

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