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Aug 28, 2014

There are a lot of legendary comedy clubs in America and they come with equally colorful founders: Budd Friedman and the Improv; Mitzi Shore and the Comedy Store; Rick Newman and Catch A Rising Star; Caroline Hirsch and Caroline’s on Broadway; and Richie Tienken and the Comic Strip. They all have their own crop of talented standup comedians devoted to one over the other and one of them, The Comic Strip, now has a book devoted to lionizing its greatness.

JEFFREY GURIAN podcast excerpt: "(The Comic Strip co-founder) Richie Tienken started going to Catch A Rising Star every night and he saw the place was always packed. So he thought to himself, 'Hey, there's probably room for another club.'"

In Make ‘Em Laugh: 35 Years of the Comic Strip, the Greatest Comedy Club of All Time!, comedian, comedy journalist and Sirius/XM host of “Comedy Matters” Jeffrey Gurian and Comic Strip co-founder Richie Tienken interview dozens of comedians about their experiences and memories of the long-running club. Some, such as Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock, are reverent about the joint; others – okay, just Gilbert Gottfried is kind of a jerk about the place. But he’s Gilbert Gottfried, so I’m not sure what else to expect. The only voice noticeably missing from this oral history is Eddie Murphy, who got his start at The Comic Strip and was managed for many years by Tienken. The issue isn’t addressed, but it seems likely there are still some rough feelings simmering beneath the surface.

JEFFEY GURIAN podcast excerpt: "Things went down that weren't comfortable for Eddie Murphy. People who were close to him told me that he doesn't like to discuss his past. We would have loved to have him in the book; he was like a son to Richie Tienken. They were together many years, but it's public knowledge that he fired Richie. But Richie took him from his days on 'Saturday Night Live' through 'Beverly Hills Cop.' That's how Chris Rock -- who wrote the introduction to 'Make 'Em Laugh' -- got started. It was Eddie that discovered Chris at the Comic Strip in 1986."

But even without Murphy, Make ‘Em Laugh is packed from start to finish with history, laughs, and more than a few nervous moments – usually recalled by the comedians in regard to their efforts to be “passed” by the club’s late manager Lucien Hold. If you love comedy and enjoy the rare moments when comics such as Lisa Lampanelli, Ray Romano, George Wallace, Billy Crystal, Jackie “The Jokeman” Martling from the “Howard Stern Show,” Susie Essman from “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “The Daily Show”’s Lewis Black, and Jim Breuer, take off the mask and talk about things that really matter, you’ll enjoy reading Make ‘Em Laugh.

JEFFREY GURIAN podcast excerpt: "Comedy is a very solo business. You're on stage alone. You write alone. People do improv in groups, but comedy, per se, is alone. You're going on stage alone, in front of strangers, trying to convince them that what you think is funny is actually funny. But there was a camaraderie at the Comic Strip, especially in the early days, because there were very few comedy clubs then. Now there are probably 18 club in Manhattan alone. In those days, the comics banded together and Richie Tienken was a nurturing force."

Joining me today to talk about his book is co-author Jeffrey Gurian. Gurian is a man of many hats, including comedian and host of “Comedy Matters” on Sirius/XM. He also is a regular every Monday with Sirius/XM’s “Ron & Fez,” talking about the world of comedy.

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