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The Improv: An Oral History of the Comedy Club that Revolutionized Stand-Up Hardcover – September 19, 2017
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�The Improv was a cauldron of talent. Whetsell writes about it wonderfully and with respect for its importance to comedy.� ---Robert Klein --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
“The Improv was a cauldron of talent. Whetsell writes about it wonderfully and with respect for its importance to comedy.”
“They used to say that if you made it New York you could make it anywhere. Maybe so, but if you didn’t make it at the Improv, it was time to pack your bags and move to ‘anywhere.’”
“This book is a great walk down memory lane for me. All hail the Improv and all the laugh-filled times and wonderful nights that happened in front of those brick walls.”
“The Improv played a vital part in my early stand-up days as it did in the careers of the dazzling array of stars, eccentrics, and colorful characters whose stories adorn this bright and greatly entertaining book. Get at least two copies, in case you lose one.”
“Here’s a book I’ll probably never finish, because for years to come I’ll be picking it up again and again and rereading parts over and over, whenever I need perking up. It’s the history of an art form, though that sounds way too stuffy, and of an institution—the great American comedy club, especially the Improvs of New York and LA.”
—Tom Shales, Pulitzer Prize–winning former television critic for The Washington Post and #1 bestselling coauthor of Live from New York and These Guys Have All the Fun
“An entertaining ride through the glory years—the people, the stories, the feuds, the laughs—of the club that started the stand-up comedy boom in America.”
—Richard Zoglin, author of Hope: Entertainer of the Century and Comedy at the Edge: How Comedy in the 1970s Changed America
“The Godfather of the comedy club is finally called to testify . . . and he sings like a canary.”
—Bill Knoedelsder, author of I’m Dying Up Here: Heartbreak and High-Times in Stand-Up Comedy’s Golden Era
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"We wouldn't know for certain [who started the Improv fire] until 2014, nearly 30 years after the incident, when Ollie Joe [Prater] confessed to setting the fire on his deathbed in a Los Angeles hospital."
AMAZING! That should have made every paper on earth. "Man Confesses to Crime 23 Years AFTER He Dies!"
Ollie Joe Prater died in 1991, not 2014, in Albion, Michigan, not Los Angeles. And he died of a stroke. There was no "Deathbed Confession" to anything. Is the rest of Budd's blather this accurate and reliable? Anyone can double check these facts. Just google "Ollie Joe Prater Death."
Ollie Joe Prater was my friend, a very good friend. Ollie got me my doorman job at The Comedy Store when he told Mitzi she should hire me. I suppose that if he MUST be libeled in Bud's book, at least it's in a sentence which got the spelling of his name correct and nothing else!
The book was not boring (Though I skipped chapter one, as I did not care about Budd's life before the Improv), and there are some great stories inside it, along with the lies and the libels and Budd's still grinding his ax against Mitzi Shore, who herself is too sick to read and comprehend anything, let alone defend herself. Ollie also is too dead to defend himself against Budd's lies, which is why I'm stepping up here for my friend.
Curious is the utter absence of Mark Lonow. Mark was Budd's partner in the Hollywood Improv, and the photo of the Hollywood club in the book shows his name on the building equal in size to Budd's, Yet apart from Budd noting that Mark "declined" to participate in the book, we hear NOTHING about him. I'd love to hear Mark's side, since clearly that relationship is in tatters also.
But it wasn't until the The Improvisation, later renamed The Improv, turned into an outlet for young comedians that the club and Friedman himself become the iconic star-maker that it still is today. Comedians such as Robert Klein, Robert Lewis, and Jay Leno learned their comic chops on the stage of the Improv, and they in turn made it famous. Now it's hard to name a comedian who hasn't known time before that famous brick wall: Billy Crystal, Larry David, Robin Williams, Drew Carey, Lily Tomlin, Andy Kaufman, Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, Bob Saget, Howie Mandel, Jerry Seinfeld, and so many more. Dustin Hoffman would show up to play the piano every once in awhile, and none other than Danny Aiello was the bouncer. It was the place to be in New York City.
All of the stories are here in The Improv: An Oral History of the Comedy Club that Revolutionized Stand-Up, from the beginning of Budd Friedman's dream through his success and his mentorship of some of the greatest comedians of the last fifty years. A wealth of comedy shows, movies, books, and television shows can all trace their origins to the comedians who learned on Friedman's stage, and the next generations of comedians will no doubt still have much to thank him for. The man turned comedy into art, and we are all the better for his contribution to popular culture.
Anyone who is interested in comedy should devour this book. With contributions from names throughout the world of entertainment, The Improv is a masterclass in making people laugh, in learning timing, and in the history of all our modern stand-up comedy legends. Required reading for all would-be comedians, most certainly, and fun reading for those of us who love to laugh. Very highly recommended.
Galleys for The Improv were provided by BenBella Books through NetGalley.com, with many thanks.