Tina Fey, Robert De Niro, Billy Joel Offer Hope for New York in 'Rise Up' Telethon: "We're All in This Together"

Tina Fey, Robert De Niro and Billy Joel - Getty - Split - H 2020
Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images; Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images; Walter McBride/WireImage

Stars such as Mariah Carey, Spike Lee, Barbra Streisand, Lin Manuel-Miranda, Jennifer Lopez and more also made appearances during the event, which aimed to raise funds for the city's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Some of New York's biggest stars, including Robert De Niro, Chris Rock, Jennifer Lopez, Jimmy Fallon and more, joined forces Monday to help raise money for the city's response to the coronavirus pandemic during Rise Up New York! 

Tina Fey hosted the hourlong telecast, during which she assured residents and viewers that "we're all in this together." "We're going to honor the incredible city and show how we can rise up," said Fey, while also announcing that over $1.5 million in donations had already been raised for the city at the start of the broadcast. The telethon was presented by Robin Hood and iHeartMedia.

De Niro opened the event with some encouraging words for the Big Apple: "Our city is under attack, but we've been here before … you can take your best shot, but you can't break our spirit. Some say New York is the center of the universe but, for us, it's home. We're a community, and we take care of our own. The pandemic forces us to distance from each other, but it also draws us closer together."

Throughout the telecast, musicians such as Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys, Bon Jovi and Sting performed. "New York, I know we're strong enough to get through this. We will rise together," Carey told viewers before singing. "Even if you are in self-isolation, you are not alone," Sting said before performing on his guitar. 

Other stars, including Spike Lee, applauded the city's courage and fight. "New Yorkers don't just want to win — they expect to win. That's why New York doesn't give up. We got more cups, rings and trophies than any other city because New Yorkers are champions and we don't give up on each other," the filmmaker said. 

Jessica Chastain, Michael Strahan, Bette Midler, Awkwafina, Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick also made appearances during the broadcast. Parker and Broderick paid tribute to the Broadway world that was shuttered amid the pandemic. 

"When I think back to being 21 and opening on Broadway, it was so exhilarating because everything was changing by the minute. When all the Broadway theaters went dark, it was a shock," guest Barbra Streisand said, admitting that "it was painful to think of all that creative energy suddenly shut down." She added, "I can't wait for all the lights to come back on." 

Meanwhile, Patti LuPone somberly reflected on her last live performance, explaining that "live performances will most likely be the last to come back after this nightmare." She also assured that while "the lights of Broadway [are] now dimmed," they will light up again because "the show must go on." 

In a further tribute to the theater community, Lin-Manuel Miranda recruited Broadway stars Ben Platt, Andrew Rannelis, Idina Menzel, Cynthia Erivo, Karen Olivio and Chris Jackson for a virtual collaboration of Frank Sinatra's "(Theme From) New York, New York." 

The Daily Show host Trevor Noah and The Tonight Show host Fallon also paid tribute to New York (both late-night hosts' shows film in the city). Noah acknowledged that there were many "in peril" even before the virus and encouraged viewers to make donations so they can do their part in providing "job training, food and hope to people who desperately need it." 

Meanwhile, Fallon wrote "Thank You" notes for the city — Fallon features a "Thank You" notes segment on his late-night show — such as, "Thank you, Brooklyn Bridge, for keeping Brooklyn and Manhattan socially distanced" and "Thank you, New York, for showing the world what an Empire State of mind really is: perseverance, belief in the future and belief in each other. Thank you for showing we're not only the city the never sleeps, but the city that bounces back." 

By the end of the telethon, Fey said over $115 million was raised, bringing the actress to tears. "We did this. You did this. We are difference makers," she emotionally said.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo thanked viewers for their donations and praised the city for exemplifying courage and bravery. "New York knows that the strongest four-letter word is still 'love.' It is the Empire State of mind and it lights the world. I've never been more proud to be a New Yorker," he said. 

Billy Joel concluded the telethon with a performance of "Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)" on the piano. 

The virtual telethon raised funds for Robin Hood's relief and recovery efforts, which aim to help front line organizations working with the city's most vulnerable during and after the crisis. Donations were made to help New Yorkers rebuild their lives following the pandemic.