Budd Friedman, known for launching the careers of many notable comedians as the founder of improv, died Saturday in Los Angeles. He was 90 years old.
Adam Sandler shared his gratitude for getting to know Friedman, which helped him make a name for himself in the comedy circuit.
“Budd Friedman. Can’t thank this man enough for what he’s given us all,” Sandler tweeted on Sunday. “A comedy house. All the time on stage. All the advice. All the encouragement. A place where comedians can hang out and just talk about comedy.”
Friedman opened the Improv in Manhattan in 1963 before launching a second location in West Hollywood on Melrose Avenue in 1974. He was Bette Midler’s first manager and helped Richard Pryor, Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Larry David and Andy Kaufman to break into business.
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The Hollywood Improv shared a clip of Friedman while explaining how he “changed the world” with his vision of bringing people together through comedy.
“The comedy world lost a giant today,” the club wrote. “In 1963 he changed the world of comedy by starting the first comedy club for the masses to come together in laughter. In 1963 he changed the world. He went global. He was a trailblazer. C was a gentleman. He was a luminary.”
Friedman died of heart failure, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He wrote “The Improv: An Oral History of the Comedy Club That Revolutionized Stand-Up” in 2017, with a foreword by Jay Leno.
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He described finding Robin Williams in the book, “”From the moment he walked in, it was obvious to me and everyone else that he was going to be a big star, maybe even one of bigger than we have ever seen, which, of course, turned out to be true beyond anything we could have imagined.”
Budd’s comedy days began after the Manhattan venue opened for Broadway performers to hang out after shows.
He hired Liza Minnelli to sing, Barry Manilow played piano, and Rodney Dangerfield was once a host. Danny Aiello was also hired once to be a bouncer.
Rob Schneider tweeted: “Budd Friedman passed away yesterday. Budd literally invented the modern comedy club. He allowed me and so many others to support our families doing what we love! C It was through Budd’s support and kindness that I had the chance to live my dreams and be discovered.”
Richard Lewis wrote of how Friedman acted as a father figure after the death of his own “hero” father in 1971.
“I was lost and found by this man who was a true kingmaker for many young comedians in his famous improv,” Lewis tweeted. “In many ways he saved my life. I loved him and his family. RIP mate.”
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George Wallace shared a photo with Friedman and wrote, “We’ll all have the light someday. Thanks for everything, Budd Friedman. They’re clearing the aisle for you at that big improvisation in the sky.”
Director Judd Apatow said he was “so sad to hear of the passing of legendary Budd Friedman, the owner of The Improv, who discovered everyone you love. A great man we all loved. He returned the much happier world!”
Loni Love admitted that Budd was the reason “many of the comics you see today work”. She added, “He put money in our pockets and provided a space for us to audition and be seen for our stand up…thank you so much Budd for believing in the power of comedy…you have changed the world now rest.”
Late night host Jimmy Fallon wrote, “St. Peter’s like ‘Out of the aisles, out of the aisles, Budd is coming. Rest in peace, Budd Friedman.”
Fallon paid tribute to Friedman in 2017 when Friedman released a book detailing some of his favorite memories of leading the hottest club in town. “Budd gave me my start,” Fallon said at the time before joking his mum was just happy he was fed by the club.
Kevin Nealon wrote: “Such sad news to hear of the passing of my friend Budd Friedman. If it wasn’t for him and his club I wouldn’t have a career. Always grateful. God bless you Budd. “
Whitney Cummings paid tribute to Budd as “one of the great champions of comedy and comedians”. Cummings added, “Just a monumental, amazing man. I will never stop playing Improv Comedy Clubs.”
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“Budd Friedman has always been so nice to me. We used to have dinner together in Vegas and LA,” Rich Vos tweeted. “He would come on stage just to introduce me. I talked to him at length about comedy. He gave me two of my first TV spots. He hosted many deaf shows that Bob Golub put on in New York. RIP.”
Friedman is survived by his wife Alix, his children Zoe, Dax, Beth and Ross and five grandchildren.
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