Budd Friedman, the American comedian, and creator of The Improv Comedy Club died on Saturday, November 12, at the age of 90. He died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles from heart failure. Hollywood Improv’s official Twitter account announced his death. The tweet said,
“Today, the comic world lost a titan. In 1963, he revolutionized the world of comedy by establishing the first comedy club where the public could laugh together. He altered the world in 1963. He went international. He was a trailblazer. He was a true gentleman. He was a celebrity.”
In 1963, soon after leaving his job as an advertising executive, the actor and producer founded the Improv in New York City.
Budd Friedman’s admirers and celebrities paid homage to him on Twitter.
Budd Friedman, born on June 6, 1932, in Norwich, Connecticut, served in the United States Army’s infantry during the Korean War in the early 1950s. Friedman was hospitalized after being injured by an enemy grenade on his first day of combat in the summer of 1953. He received the Purple Heart and the Combat Infantryman Badge (CIB). The comedy club pioneer, together with his future wife, Silver Saunders, created The Improv in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen district in 1963. The club’s only location was on 44th Street, at the southeast corner of 9th Avenue.
Originally, the Improvisation Comedy Club was an after-hours café where Broadway actors would perform. Over time, the comedians began to use the club to test new material, and talent scouts from other New York-based shows began to book modern performers from the venue. Rodney Dangerfield, Richard Lewis, Robert Klein, Jay Leno, Andy Kaufman, Freddie Prinze, Steve Landesberg, and Jimmie Walker are just a few of the famous comedians Budd Friedman has helped launch.
The untimely death of a man of such legendary and influential importance drew tributes from a wide range of followers and celebrities. Friedman was a well-known personality in the comedy world, and comedians and fans mourned his death on Twitter. The Improv became a comedy club chain, with sites around the United States including Hollywood, Miami, Ontario, Tampa, Kansas City, Cleveland, and many more. Budd Friedman’s comedy club business offered a stage for various industry heavyweights to perform at one time.
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, 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
Friedman worked as a warm-up host for the A&E Network television series An Evening at the Improv from 1982 through 1996. In addition to his work as an MC, the recognized figure has starred in films such as Star 80, National Lampoon’s Funny Money, Jim Carrey’s Man on the Moon (as himself), and Judd Apatow’s 2009 comedy Funny People.
Budd Friedman sold the Improv franchise to Levity Live in 2014. He co-wrote The Improv: An Oral History of the Comedy Club That Revolutionized Stand-Up in 2017. His wife Alix, children Zoe, Dax, Beth, and Ross, and grandkids Noah, Sophia, Jacob, Bronte, and Gibson survive him.