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Stand-up comedy, an intelligent form of conveying humor, is colloquially known as improv, short for improvised comedy. The term improv has been adopted by comics and comedy enthusiasts alike, and a particular comedy club is responsible for not only spreading the term but also boosting the popularity of stand-up comedy. Perhaps no comedy club holds more importance than The Improv.
The historic club started out as the brainchild of visionary actor and comic Budd Friedman in 1963. Thinking of putting up a venue where actors, singers and comedians can unwind and perform after their shows, Friedman created The Improv’s very first branch at Hell’s Kitchen, New York City. At first, celebrity performers flocked the club so they could relax and at the same time display their prowess in singing and sometimes acting, like in a theater.
One year after its inception, its first comic, Dave Astor, went on stage to present his material. Astor’s performance drew much attention, as the news reached other comics. Not before long, comics from all parts of the country took the slots of other performers. The Improv soon became an official venue for stand-up comedy, starting a trend that would later sweep the nation.
Friedman, out to further the establishment’s success, opened the Improv’s second branch at Los Angeles, California, beginning what would soon be a multitude of Los Angeles comedy clubs. Seemingly, there was no stopping improvisation comedy’s winning trend, as branches all over the nation were established, much to the delight of Friedman and the thousands of fans of stand-up comedy. It was the beginning of an empire that would continue to this day.
Like with any trend, The Improv’s success wouldn’t have spread all across America if it didn’t have a collection of fine performers, and that’s exactly what their roster contains, even up to now. Being the pioneering hub of stand-up comedy, the club is often graced by the most popular comedians, actors and other performers that the country has to offer. Notable talents, such as David Letterman, Bill Cosby, Drew Carey, Andy Kaufman and George Carlin, built their stellar careers by performing at the club.
The Improv is also credited for starting the careers of young comics and performers, en route to superstardom. One good example is Freddie Prinze Jr. At 16 years of age, Prinze graced The Improv’s stage. His performance drew raves from audiences, and rapidly spread like wildfire in the acting industry. That single performance would eventually blossom into a successful movie and TV career, which stamped Prinze’s image as a bona fide Hollywood celebrity.
The Improv: Present Day
Today, The Improv is a popular haven for the world’s best comics and most Hollywood stars. It has revolutionized comedy and turned it into a recognized performance art, which is why even non-comedians can strut their stuff on-stage. Don’t be surprised if you find big names like Dustin Hoffman and Barry Manilow playing the piano and Hollywood actors manning the door and serving food and drinks, like real wait staff.
As for the on-stage performances, no other club has the incredible line up of world class comics that The Improv has. It’s everyone’s first choice for stand-up, and for good reason.
write by Sigrid