Magazine article Variety

Funny Now, Raw Then

Magazine article Variety

Funny Now, Raw Then

Article excerpt

Five famous standup comics talk about getting started, and staying relatively sane, at the Improv By Robert Hofier

omedians like Richard Lewis, Ray Romano and Keenen Ivory Wayans vividly recall their first time at one of the Improv clubs. Others, like Larry David and Bill Maher, remember an overarching sense of community that permeated those clubs in Gotham and Los Angeles.

As David explains, "The Improv was a place for me to finally do something with my life, because I was heading on a fastti^Mo nowhere and this gave me a ce to tryfthis new thing."

While he doesn't remember his very at the club, he does recall Heally late at night in the beginningland there were five or six people roughout the room. It wasn't *iBrtf it sort of became the center of rse. All my friends were there, d just hang out there, and we oftball team. I finally found a f people I couldn't offend."

er used to cab to all three clubs in - the Improv, the Comic Strip tch a Rising Star - clocking in ^^Bsets a night. But he has a special ment to the Improv on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles.

"When I came out here to California, one reason I have such affection for Budd Friedman is that the Improv was my home for 10 years," he says. "That was the Cheers, the place where everybody knows your name. That's what that club was for me my first 10 years out here, starting until doing 'Politically Incorrect' 10 years were the diciest career, because it wasn't the and it wasn't finally the thing I lowed me to have a career. The as my anchor when I was findoice, which has everything to do ^^^Hding your way in show business, ^^^*e thing in my life, the one thing I could count on and was relevant, was the *ιν. I always had the Improv. When I was coming off a shitty grade-B movie, I always kept up my two or three sets a week, and it's where I met girls."

ike Maher, Wayans has played all *ee clubs in Gotham, but did most of s standup at the Improv.

"Most comedians were pretty loyal to the club they started at, although some of us worked all three," he says. Each venue had its own personality. "The Improv on 44 th and 9 th, it attracted more tourists, a Jersey crowd, especially on the weekend. And they were rowdy and drunk by the time they go to the club," Wayans recalls. "Catch a Rising Star, because it was on the Upper East Side, had a little more upscale audience, and the Comic Strip was even further uptown so it had a more local feel. …

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