The Improv Comedy Club

August 1, 2012 — Leave a comment

 

For almost half a century, the Improvisation Comedy Clubs have remained the premiere stages for live comedy in the United States. Over the decades, the talent who has played center stage represents the Who’s Who of American Comedy, including Richard Pryor, Billy Crystal, Lily Tomlin, Freddie Prinz, Andy Kaufman, Eddie Murphy, Jerry Seinfeld, Tim Allen, Jay Leno, Chris Rock, Dane Cook, Ellen DeGeneres, Jamie Foxx, Adam Sandler, Jeff Dunham, and Dave Chappelle.

Today, the Improv stage continues to be the most important live venue for new comedians. But, its start in 1963 was anything but legendary. The Improvisation was founded in New York City by Broadway producer Budd Friedman. Budd hoped for a place where Broadway performers could meet after their shows, an intimate setting where performers could simply eat, drink, and sing. The Improvisation quickly gained attention as the gathering spot where young Broadway artists would hold sing-alongs into the wee hours.

The iconic brick wall started in the NY club as well – out of necessity. When Budd ripped the red wall panels and mirrors off the wall left by the previous tenants, a Vietnamese restaurant, he discovered the great red brick wall. Since he knew nothing about dry walling (and couldn’t afford it) he simply left the brick in place, which soon gave the club its signature.

One year later, the Improvisation’s first comedian, Dave Astor, appeared on stage to try new material. It worked and others quickly followed. Soon, comedians began to dominate the rotation, as singers were phased-out of the nightly line-up. The Improvisation became the place for live comedy. Future giants of American comedy all vied for stage time at the New York club. In an effort to be noticed by Budd, nothing was off-limits to young comedians desperately hoping to be selected. Jay Leno drove weekly between Boston and New York, hoping that someone would notice him hanging around the Improv.

Budd had a vision to expand the Improv and, in 1975, he headed West. Budd opened his second Improv in Hollywood where it still stands today. The club included the trademark piano and the iconic brick wall. Jay Leno helped paint the ceiling.

A new century began with a new generation of explosive comedy talent. so the Improv was expanded. In 2002, Budd partnered with Al Copeland to create six new clubs: Irvine, San Jose, Brea, Ontario, Pittsburgh, and the re-launch the historic Improv on Melrose Avenue.

WHAT: The Improv Comedy Club
WHERE: Multiple locations
WHEN: Check local listings

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