Degree Type

Honors Capstone Project

Date of Submission

Spring 5-1-2019

Capstone Advisor

Kendall Phillips

Honors Reader

Amos Kiewe

Capstone Major

Communication and Rhetorical Studies

Capstone College

Visual and Performing Arts

Audio/Visual Component


Capstone Prize Winner


Won Capstone Funding


Honors Categories

Social Sciences

Subject Categories

Speech and Rhetorical Studies


This study examines the relationship between the celebrity persona and the American telethon. Today, it is rare to find a celebrity that is not connected to a specific, charitable or social cause, making apparent strides in the charity industry because of their ability to influence the general public. In the last 70 years, telethons have evolved in a myriad of ways because celebrities and charity are intertwined. Most significantly, the seriousness and sacredness of the American telethon has decreased because of how many telethons are currently in existence. Additionally, an increase in the number of celebrities involved in telethons has contributed to this loss of inviolability. Evaluated through a descriptive analytical lens, this thesis examines three telethon events to paint a picture of this evolution and to demonstrate how celebrities from Jerry Lewis to Kanye West have played a role in the progression and eventual commercialization of telethons. Celebrities have learned from the standards Lewis set, both building upon them and steering clear of the ways in which he tarnished the relationship between celebrity and charity with his exaggerated persuasive appeals. These events do have a right to shy away from what was once considered to be the “gold standard” of telethons. There is no one formula; it is more so about striking the proper balance between charity and celebrity to ensure that the new standard reflects the goals and ideals its telethon has set out to achieve.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.



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