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February 28th, 2014
06:06 PM ET

Seth Rogen: It's not just about the testimony of a 'stoner, idiot, actor'

(CNN) – Actor Seth Rogen slammed senators for ignoring not only his personal pleas for more Alzheimer's funding and research, but those of a former colleague.

"I could totally understand if they didn't want to hear the testimony of a stoner, idiot, actor," Rogen told CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper."

"Honestly, to me the most distressing thing is another (lawmaker), who these guys actually knew, was talking about how he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's," said Rogen, referring to the testimony of former Congressman Dennis Moore.

Researchers and statisticians also testified, detailing the financial toll of Alzheimer's, and "they still couldn't be bothered to hang around to hear it," said Rogen.

"The whole point of a plea like that, to me, would be to get the personal connection with the people who were actually making these decisions," said Rogen.

Rogen testified on Capitol Hill about Alzheimer's disease Wednesday, but was disappointed that the hearing was sparsely attended. Only two senators stayed for his testimony – the chair and ranking member of the subcommittee. He quickly took to Twitter to begin calling out absentee lawmakers.

After Republican Senator Mark Kirk tweeted a picture saying: "Thanks to @sethrogen for speaking out about efforts to #endalz," Rogen tweeted back, writing: "Pleasure meeting you. Why did you leave before my speech? Just curious."

Rogen also tweeted a photo of the empty senators' seats saying it was "(v)ery symbolic of how the government views Alzheimer's. Seems to be a low priority."

Rogen and his wife created the Hilarity for Charity fund to bring awareness of the disease to a younger audience. Watching the decline of his mother-in-law sparked his passion for the issue; she was diagnosed with the disease in her early 50s.

"By the time she was 60, actually, she lost her ability to walk, talk, dress herself, pretty much all of her motor skills," said Rogen. "The things that made her who she was were gone."

"It was truly something that I had never seen before at all. I didn't even know the disease could do that to people at all, nonetheless people that age," said Rogen.

CNN reached out to all 18 members of the Senate subcommittee that held the hearing. Of the 16 who did not stick around for Rogen's testimony, nine responded, citing a variety of scheduling conflicts: Sen. Dick Durbin was at a funeral, Sen. Mark Kirk was meeting with an astronaut, five others said they were meeting with constituents, and two were chairing their own committee hearings.

Seven senators – Sens. Lamar Alexander, Mike Johanns, Mary Landrieu, Jeff Merkley, Barbara Mikulski, Patty Murray, and Mark Pryor – did not respond to CNN's inquiry.

"In a way it more speaks to how like the government works in general," said Rogen. "I'm equally disappointed that this whole system is set up to hear the personal pleas of people, and they are not there to hear it. They read a transcript of it later, or something like that."

"It would have a bigger impact if they were there, and it would show people that it was a higher priority if they were there," said Rogen.

The committee is trying to mitigate the negative press Rogen's public shaming has garnered. One of the two senators who attended Rogen's testimony, Republican Senator Jerry Moran, said in a statement that the committee "shares Seth's commitment to finding a cure."

The committee "increased funding for Alzheimer's Research by $100 million in FY 2014 – $20 million more than requested by the President – and increased funding for the NIH by $1 billion in the last appropriations bill," Moran said.

While Rogen says he "shouldn't scoff" at those numbers, he maintains that it is simply not enough.

"The funding is still out of whack," Rogen said. "It's exponentially more costly than other diseases that get, you know, more funding than it does."

During his testimony, Rogen addressed the misconceptions about Alzheimer's disease, and acknowledged that Hollywood is partly to blame.

"I, as someone who makes movies, understand why it hasn’t been portrayed that much honestly because there’s nothing remotely uplifting about it, there’s no bright side to it, there’s no cure, there’s no treatment. It’s very hard to have an uplifting story about someone who has Alzheimer’s," said Rogen.

To learn more about Seth and his wife's cause, visit hilarityforcharity.org.

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