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Budd Friedman Speaks on His Newest Improv Venture in Atlanta, Fond Memories, and the Secret to His Success – By Lindsey Riley

By Dltmontana


Budd Friedman Speaks on His Newest Improv Venture in Atlanta, Fond Memories, and the Secret to His Success – By Lindsey Riley

The Improv Atlanta, Atlanta’s new comedy club, featuring 4000 sq ft of laughs and a menu to die for.

On October 19th, Atlanta celebrated the opening of a new Improv comedy club by opening its doors to the public and to the media. The Improv franchise has a rich history dating back to 1963 and is perhaps best known for its A&E network show “An Evening at the Improv”. This 4000 square foot venue has the Improv’s trademark brick wall stage and photos of famed comedians that have graced the stages across the U.S. Over the decades, Improv stages across the country have seen incredible talent play center stage including Richard Pryor, Billy Crystal, Lily Tomlin, Eddie Murphy, Jay Leno, Chris Rock, Dane Cook, Ellen DeGeneres, Jamie Foxx, Adam Sandler, Jeff Dunham , and Dave Chappelle to name a few.

Budd Friedman Speaks on His Newest Improv Venture in Atlanta, Fond Memories, and the Secret to His Success – By Lindsey Riley

Amazing menu selections for any pallete

Atlanta now has its very own Improv venue located in the Andrews Entertainment District. The Atlanta Improv Comedy Club and Dinner Theatre is quite unique in that it features menu favorites from Andrews Entertainment District such as Cellar 56’s BBQ pork egg rolls, sushi from Czar, and Stout’s pub fare. The selection of upscale cocktails provided by Prohibition and other establishments include inventive drinks with equally inventive names guaranteed to make you blush such as Better Than Sex, Tie Me to the Bedpost, and Painkiller. While enjoying the amazing food, drinks, and night of incredible comedy provided by Sullivan and Son’s Owen Benjamin and a surprise appearance from George Wallace, I had the great pleasure of sitting down with the legendary founder of the Improv franchise, Budd Friedman. Was I in for a treat!

The Improv has venues all over the nation, and this Improv venue just opened. You had a grand opening at the first of this month [October 4]…

Budd: I consider this the grand opening. I don’t know what these guys are doing here. They are in the restaurant business and they open, so before they invite the press they want 3 to 4 weeks to shake down everything. Well, they didn’t have to do that here. There was a little lack of communication on our part.

So you consider this the grand opening?

Budd: Oh, yeah.

What prompted the decision to open an Improv venue here in Atlanta?

Budd: Well, I consider myself one of the wisest and smartest business men in the business, [smiling slyly] and you know how I came into comedy right?

I do. It was kind of by accident.

Budd: Exactly. Jay Leno says, “I drove three nights in a row down here from Boston.” I said, “What?! You’re on!” So, Stan calls me, and says we’re thinking of opening a comedy club here. We have six restaurants…um, and we were thinking of opening a comedy club, and then I said “I’ll be right down.” So, my partner and I flew down to meet Stan and Steve. We saw this operation and just went bananas.  My partner and I, Mark and I, I think every other club we’ve ever opened was not even four walls, just an open shell space, and we loved the location and what’s around, but here it’s a campus situation. These guys are good. We feel very lucky to be involved with Stan and Steve and the whole Andrews Entertainment District. So far it’s been great. I came down, and we had auditions here for local people. We found a lot of good acts. Uh, and a gal named Jessica Hinkle sent me a tape with about 10 other acts on it. So, you know, we’re very pleased. Actually, I came to Atlanta about 20 years ago with my wife. We were doing a comedy search for Johnnie Walker Scotch, and we’re at the airport getting out luggage, and this young man comes up to me and says, “Excuse me, Mr. Friedman.” I said, “Yes?” He says, “My name is John Henton, and I auditioned for you two years ago on Melrose, and I didn’t pass. Can I audition for you again?” I said, “Why don’t you enter the competition we’re doing?” He says, “Great!” So he not only won Atlanta, he came back to L.A. for the finals, won the finals, got to The Tonight Show that night, got the William Morris agency as an agency, and he got his own show. And he was just here. He was headlining a show here. And then another young lady we found. We had a hundred people, two minutes during the day and then eight finalists at night. One of the two minute losers was a young lady my wife and I both felt had potential, and we talked to her and encouraged her a little bit. That was Aisha Tyler. You know her? They say she’s too beautiful to be funny. So, we have a fond place in our hearts for Atlanta. Oh, and my wife hasn’t been here yet! I only come down for two days, and she’s not crazy about flying [laughs], and I said something about there being a few bumps in the last flight.

Would you mind sharing one of or some of your most memorable experiences throughout your career?

Budd: Oh, sure. Some of my greatest nights didn’t involve comedy because in the beginning we also had singers. We had a night…my personal best was Liza Minnelli used to come in the club and sing when she was 15. And, one night, she brought her mother. Oh, wait, before her mother came in, you remember those old-fashioned coffee makers where you have to pour the water over? Anyway, I was making the coffee. I’ve never forgotten it. Liza came up when she was 16 and says, “Budd, can I sing tonight? My dad’s here, and he’s never heard me sing.” I said, “I’m sorry, but I’m too busy tonight, too tired.” I’m joking, of course. You know who her father was, Vincent Minnelli. Vincent Minnelli, I was like, “Are you kidding me!?” Anyway, then later on, Liza brought her mother in later with her fiancé, Peter Allen, and the three of them sang together. And another, when the IRS took Judy’s [Garland] charts because she owed them money, this was brilliant on the IRS’s part because she wouldn’t be able to work. So, she found this piano player who used to work for me; he was a friend of mine. They became romantically involved, and John Meyer used to bring Judy in. And one night, we did an hour and a half concert. John was playing the piano, and Judy was singing, and a friend of mine who was an actor and a singer, 6’1”, very handsome, very strong. We were all singing. And you know, there was only 15 people in the room. And we had this terrazzo floor in front of the little stage, and one of the songs we did, I’m sitting in the chair and he’s pushing me like we’re on the board walk, and we’re singing, “On the Boardwalk” like we’re singing on the boardwalk in Atlantic City. And then there’s two couples sitting in there, and they’re overdressed, just a little too new and well looking. They were gypsies. Not Broadway gypsies, but real gypsies. The woman says, “I want to sing.” I said, “Sorry, Miss Garland is singing.” She said, “She’s sung long enough!” So, I said, “Get out!”, [laughs] and I threw them out. My greatest, one of my funniest comedy nights was, uh, well, Rodney Dangerfield was like our house, our unofficial house DJ for at least two years. He was on stage, and the same guy, Jack Knife, that was quite a, what is it, a houndsman?

A tomcat?

Budd: Yes. And he’s sitting with two women, and this gorgeous woman walks in, and he gets so excited he jumps up, and his head hits this art-deco glass chandelier. Breaks. Now, this goes back 30 years. Now, you’re too young to remember, but there used to be a thing called metal garbage cans. And the bus boy comes out, scoops up the glass. Rodney is still going on. He [the bus boy] goes to the back of room, and he throws the glass into an empty, metal trashcan. It echoes, reverberates throughout the room. Rodney, without missing a beat, says, [Budd pretends to adjust his tie Rodney Dangerfield style] “Hey, sounds like a robot just threw up.” [laughs] And that to this day is my favorite. Oh, yes, and there’s one other thing. We used to have singers and comics, and um, the singers hated the comics and vice the versa. And so, if I walked in late, I could tell whether a singer or comic was on because the other half would be in the bar because the singers wouldn’t listen to the comics much. So, this young lady is singing, John Meyer playing the piano again, and uh, we had a party just for the performers. And, this young lady who’s a very intense singer, you know…. Richard Pryor goes into the bathroom, gets completely undressed except for his shoes and socks and hat, and parades right in front of her as she’s singing. She merely closes her eyes and keeps singing. And my wife looks Richard up and down and says, “There goes another myth.” I had so many good times there. I mean, it’s just amazing.

Thanks for sharing. I know there are probably plenty more.

Budd: Oh, yes.

You have been instrumental in giving millions of Americans and millions of people around the world the gift of laughter and comedy and also getting comedians started with their careers. What does it feel like to know you’ve had such a huge impact on the world of comedy?

Budd: Well, they all pay me 5 percent, so that’s pretty gratifying. [laughs] Well, it’s like, you know, there’s a Jewish expression, Kvell. It means you take great pride in what you see. Uh, you know, Bette Midler, Jay Leno, Richard Pryor, uh, Chris Rock, Billy Crystal, Robin Williams. Years ago when Robin [Williams] was doing Mork & Mindy, he was very hot. All the paparazzi were outside the club in Hollywood on Melrose Avenue. They were all standing around, about 15 of them, and all of a sudden they started running down the street. And, I asked, “What’s going on? Who’s here?” One said, “It’s Robin Williams!” I said, “Oh.” [laughs] You know, I know Rob. But, it’s very gratifying. You know it is.

To what do you contribute your longevity in this business?

Budd:  As, I said earlier, it’s a lot of fun. It’s 50 years. And it’s amazing that I was only able to start the club when I was only six years old. [laughs]

Thank you so much!

Budd: My pleasure, my pleasure.

By Lindsey Riley

Photos by Chuckyfoto 

Amazing menu selections for any pallete
The exciting and delicious Andrews Entertainment District
The Improv Atlanta, Atlanta's new comedy club, featuring 4000 sq ft of laughs and a menu to die for.
_CFM4922 - Copy_copyImprov-500px
Budd Friedman Speaks on His Newest Improv Venture in Atlanta, Fond Memories, and the Secret to His Success – By Lindsey Riley

The exciting and delicious Andrews Entertainment District

Budd Friedman Speaks on His Newest Improv Venture in Atlanta, Fond Memories, and the Secret to His Success – By Lindsey Riley
Budd Friedman Speaks on His Newest Improv Venture in Atlanta, Fond Memories, and the Secret to His Success – By Lindsey Riley
Budd Friedman Speaks on His Newest Improv Venture in Atlanta, Fond Memories, and the Secret to His Success – By Lindsey Riley

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