Budd Friedman, the comedy legend who founded the iconic comedy club The Improv, has died at 90, The Hollywood Improv announced Saturday.
“The comedy world lost a giant today,” the venue tweeted. “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.”
Friedman had just celebrated his 90th birthday at the comedy club’s Hollywood location.
“Budd Friedman’s influence on live stand-up comedy is immeasurable,” National Comedy Center Executive Director Journey Gunderson said in a statement. “From the opening of his original Improv in New York nearly 60 years ago, which ushered in stand-up comedy clubs across the country, to his much beloved club on Melrose, Budd has always been stand-up comedy’s most important cheerleader, coach and master of ceremonies. He will be dearly missed by the comedy community.”
The former advertising executive launched The Improvisation in New York City in 1963 as a gathering place for Broadway performers where they could meet after their shows in an intimate setting. Despite not yet having a liquor license, the Broadway producer’s spot quickly attracted the likes of Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli, who would sing alongside Peter Allen on the piano.
The Broadway hotspot first tried on its comedy kicks when comedian Dave Astor took the stage to try out new material and a slew of budding comedians, including Lily Tomlin, Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David, followed suit, vying for Friedman’s attention.
As the New York club launched many into stardom, Friedman opened a second location on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood and employed Jay Leno to help paint the ceiling.
As both locations boomed in the 1980s, A&E’s “An Evening at the Improv,” hosted weekly by Friedman, brought stand-up comedy to screens across the country. During the successful decade, Friedman partnered with producer and director Mark Lonow to bring The Improv to San Diego, San Francisco, Brea, Irvine, Tempe, Washington D.C., Dallas, Addison, Cleveland, Miami, Las Vegas, Reno and London.
Friedman also had roles in a number of comedies, including “Star 80,” “Mambo Café,” “The Boneyard Collection,” Funny People” and “Louie.”
Following the news of his death, comedy staples like Whitney Cummings, Rob Schneider and Richard Lewis, among others, paid tribute to Friedman.
Judd Apatow, who was door manager at the New York location, applauded Friedman for making the “world much happier,” and Adam Sandler, who also performed at the venue, thanked the founder for giving countless comedians stage time, advice and a “comedy home.”
So sad to learn of the passing of the legendary Budd Friedman, the owner of The Improv, who discovered everyone you love. A great man who we all loved. He made the world much happier! @HollywoodImprov pic.twitter.com/YrA9R7iPnU
— Judd Apatow
(@JuddApatow) November 13, 2022
Budd Friedman. Can’t thank this man enough for what he gave to all of us. A comedy home. All the stage time. All the tips. All the encouragement. A place for comedians to hang out and talk about nothing but comedy. pic.twitter.com/2fwnuVTzrk
— Adam Sandler (@AdamSandler) November 13, 2022
RIP Budd Friedman, one of the great champions of comedy and comedians. Just a monumental, incredible man. I will never stop performing at the Improv Comedy Clubs.
— Whitney Cummings (@WhitneyCummings) November 13, 2022
Budd Friedman died yesterday.Budd literally invented the modern stand up comedy club.He made it possible for me & so many others to make a living for our families doing what we love! It was because of Budd’s support & kindness that I had chance to live my dreams & get discovered. pic.twitter.com/cc6kWezHeq
— Rob Schneider (@RobSchneider) November 13, 2022
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 https://t.co/fRSb3jBslu pal. RL
— Richard Lewis (@TheRichardLewis) November 13, 2022
Budd Friedman, a legend in the comedy world. I personally loved the man, gave me one of my first breaks on his classic stand-up show, Evening at the Improv. And when I moved to LA he gave this goofy ass San Francisco kid a regular place to perform, the Melrose Improv. RIP Budd. pic.twitter.com/FE5ALhpebr
— Brian Posehn (@thebrianposehn) November 13, 2022
Such sad news to hear of the passing of my friend Budd Friedman. If it weren’t for him and his club I wouldn’t have a career. Always grateful. God bless you Budd. pic.twitter.com/xkbpBs02D2
— Kevin Nealon (@kevin_nealon) November 13, 2022