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Comedian Budd Friedman, The Improv Club Founder, Dies at 90



Comedian Budd Friedman, The Improv Club Founder, Dies at 90

(CTN NEWS) – Budd Friedman, the Broadway producer responsible for launching the careers of some of Hollywood’s biggest comic voices, died of heart failure Saturday in Los Angeles. His age was 90.

“The comedy world lost a giant today,” the Hollywood Improv wrote in a statement Saturday night.

“In 1963, he changed the world of comedy by creating the first comedy club for the masses to come together in laughter. In 1963 he changed the world. He went global. He was a pioneer. He was a gentleman. He was a luminary.”

Budd Friedman’s legacy is embodied in the 22 Improv comedy clubs across 12 states that Friedman and co-partner Mark Lonow sold to Levity Entertainment Group in 2018.

In 1963, Budd Friedman opened the first location in New York at West 44th Street and Ninth Avenue, which remains the chain’s flagship.

In 1964, the Improv in New York saw its first on-stage comedian, Dave Astor, as members of the Broadway community assembled for food, drinks, and music.

As a result of the set’s success, more comics followed suit; the club became a dedicated comedy venue.

I became a comedy genius because of Dave Astor, Budd Friedman previously said. “I didn’t have the idea of opening [a comics venue].

There was always a nuance I could pick up on when a comic did the same jokes repeatedly, but I got bored of singers singing the same songs all the time.

Opening in 1974 on Melrose Ave, the Los Angeles Improv attracted aspiring talent like Judd Apatow, who worked the door, and Leslie Moonves and Kevin Nealon as bartenders.

A flood of tributes poured in from creatives Friedman had helped succeed.

Among those who praised Friedman’s fatherly warmth and selfless desire to see others succeed were Apatow, actor Rob Schneider, and comic Richard Lewis.

“Budd Friedman passed tonight. In 1971, my father, a hero to me died young. I was lost and found by this man who was a veritable kingmaker for many young comedians at his famed Improv.

In many ways he was a lifesaver. I loved him and his family. RIP pal,” Lewis Tweeted

Friedman also helped launch Jerry Seinfeld, Robin Williams, Jimmy Fallon, Larry David, Billy Crystal, Chris Rock, Keenen Ivory Wayans, David Brenner, Lily Tomlin, David Steinberg, Steve Landesberg, and Dick Cavett to success.

Budd Friedman’s New York comedy club also hosted Jay Leno, Robert Klein, Bette Midler, Richard Pryor, and Andy Kaufman, who often took extra measures to gain his attention.

Friedman, for example, noticed Leno hanging around the venue every week because he drove between Boston and New York every week.

Baseball was invented by the guy who gets all the credit. The guy who came up with the idea – we wouldn’t be here without him, you know? Leno told CBS News in 2018. “I mean, he was a guy who gave us all a break.”

Born June 6, 1932, in Connecticut, Budd Friedman moved to New York in 1941, where his show business aspirations took headway.

Throughout his life, Budd Friedman went on to have minor acting credits in films like 1983’s “Star 80” and 2009’s “Funny People,” and even starred as himself in the 1999 film “Man on the Moon,” directed by Milos Forman.

Budd Friedman is survived by his wife, Alix; his children, Zoe, Dax, Beth and Ross; and his grandchildren, Noah, Sophia, Jacob, Bronte and Gibson.


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