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The Improv

Have you heard the one about the aspiring Broadway producer who bought a closed restaurant and changed the course of American comedy? It's no joke-his name is Budd Friedman, and his legendary club helped shape the stand-up comedy that is still a staple of entertainment today. From the microphone to the iconic brick wall, the Improv has been the launching pad of the nation's most talented comedians. By providing a stage for them to riff on everything from race and religion to politics and sex, the Improv not only generated legions of comedy fans, it reinvented the art form by overturning the comedy traditions of the Borscht Belt. Budd Friedman's legendary comedy club wasn't the first to feature comedians, but it was the first of its kind to present comedians in a continuous format, and the first one to give unknown performers the opportunity to try out new material in front of a live audience-with the opportunity to be discovered by talent agents and late-night TV bookers. The Improv is an oral history of the most important comedy club in America, emceed by Budd Friedman himself, and featuring in-depth interviews with some of the most important names in comedy -including Jay Leno, Michael Keaton, Bill Maher, Larry David, Larry Miller, Jeff Garland, Jerry Stiller, Kevin Nealon, Gilbert Gottfried, Joe Piscopo, Tim Reid, Will Shriner, Roseanne Barr, Judd Apatow, Robert Klein, Richard Lewis, Leslie Moonves, Howie Mandel, Bill Engvall, Lily Tomlin, Rick Newman, Norman Lear, Billy Crystal, Alan Zweibel, Dick Cavett, Fred Willard, Jimmie Walker, David Steinberg, and many more! The Improv gives readers an exclusive, insider look at what really happened on stage and off-mike. From the revelry and the rivalry to the smash hits, near misses, love affairs, show biz politics, chemical experimentation, exhilarating rises, tragic downfalls and just plain fun, The Improv features true insiders' accounts of a unique institution in America's cultural history and the man who unofficially provided the laugh track for an entire nation.
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Table of Contents

Foreword by Jay Leno Prologue Introduction Part One Growing Up Fatherless and Struggling to Find My Way Broadway Bound and the Unexpected Detour Building the House That Hilarity Built Flying by the Seat of My Pants The Improv Gets Hot A Future Film Legend Wanders into West 44th Street and I Nearly Produce My First Show The Singing Waitresses Liza Minelli and Judy Garland . . . Onstage at the Improv Not So Blown Away by Bette Midler . . . at First Comedians Start Coming to the Improv The Anointment of King Richard Part Two Revelry and Rivalry Stiller and Meara More Momentum, My Monocle-and Lily Tomlin's Grand Entrance The One and Only Rodney Dangerfield Robert Klein Elevates Stand-Up-and the Improv-to a New Level Locking Horns with David Brenner Richard Lewis The Hippest Room in America The Improv's Gentle Giant The Improv and The Tonight Show A Tale of Two Comedy Clubs Meeting Jay Producing My First Show Part Three Expansion My Early California Adventures Andy Kaufman Turns Stand-Up Upside Down Dissing Larry David A Tsunami Named Robin Comedy's Tragic Prinze A Troubling Nemesis Named Mitzi Shore Going Up in Flames Old Enemies and New Beginnings Part Four An Evening at the Improv The Improv Explodes . . . and the Stakes Get Even Higher The Comedy Boom Busts and Finding Fallon Passing the Baton and Looking Ahead: The 2000s to the Present Acknowledgments About the Authors

About the Author

Budd Friedman, the man who could well be called the father of the modern comedy club, was born in Norwich, Connecticut, moved to New York, fought in Korea and returned to Manhattan, where he obtained a degree in Advertising and Marketing from New York University. Less than enthralled with advertising, he hit upon the idea that was to become the Improvisation. The rest, as they say, is history. Ever the entrepreneur, Budd produced a political/satirical theatrical revue in New York entitled What's a Nice Country Like You Doing in a State Like This? He became Jay Leno and Bette Midler's first manager, and in 1975 he opened a West Coast branch of the Improv on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. Budd auditioned for and won the coveted role of "Budd Friedman" in Man on the Moon, the biopic about Andy Kaufman starring Jim Carrey and Danny DeVito. In 2002, he hosted and executive produced a one-hour primetime special for NBC celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Improv. He also co-created and executive produced National Lampoon's Funny Money for the Game Show Network. More recently, he reprised his role of "Budd Friedman" in Judd Aptow's Funny People. He continues to bring stand-up into the hearts and minds of everyone in the United States. As of 2015, there were 22 Improv comedy clubs in 12 states. Tripp Whetsell is a New York-based author, entertainment journalist and critic specializing in comedy, television, film, music and pop culture history. His work has appeared both in print and online for such publications as VanityFair.com, TV Guide, The Wall Street Journal, New York Post, The New York Times, New York Magazine, New York Daily News, Closer Weekly, The Los Angeles Times and The Hollywood Reporter. This is his third book.

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