The Improv: An Oral History of the Club that Revolutionized Stand-Up
Get an insider's oral history of the World's most iconic comedy club, featuring exclusive interviews with today's most hilarious stars recalling their time on stage (and off) at the Improv.
In 1963, 30-year-old Budd Friedman—who had recently quit his job as a Boston advertising executive and returned to New York to become a theatrical producer—opened a coffee house for Broadway performers called the Improvisation. Later shortened to the Improv, its first seedy West 44th Street location initially attracted the likes of Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli, Albert Finney, and Jason Robards, as well as a couple of then-unknowns named Dustin Hoffman and Bette Midler.
While it drew near-capacity crowds almost from day one, it wasn’t until comedians began dropping by to try out new material that the Improv truly hit its stride. The club became the first venue to present live stand-up in a continuous format, and in the process reinvented the art form and created the template for all other comedy clubs that followed.
From the microphone to the iconic brick wall, the Improv has been the launching pad for practically every major name in American comedy over the last five-plus decades. Now, in The Improv, Friedman, along with a Who’s Who of his most famous alumni—including Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld, Jimmy Fallon, Larry David, Billy Crystal, Lily Tomlin, Judd Apatow, Al Franken, Paul Reiser, Howie Mandel, Bob Saget, Drew Carey, and many more—tell it like it was in the first-ever oral history of how this game-changing comedy club came to be.
The Improv gives readers an exclusive look at what really happened onstage and off-mic at one of America’s most venerable institutions.