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Budd and Alix Friedman

Improv Founder Budd Friedman Dead At 90

Budd and Alix Friedman (Shutterstock)
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LOS ANGELES (CelebrityAccess) — Budd Friedman, the actor, producer, and founder of the famed Improvisation Comedy Club, died on Saturday in Los Angeles. He was 90.

Friedman’s wife Alex told the Hollywood Reporter that Friedman died of heart failure.

His passing was also confirmed by the Hollywood Improv, who tweeted: “The comedy world lost a giant today. In 1963 he changed the world of comedy by creating the first comedy club for the masses to come together in laughter. In 1963 he changed the world. He went global. He was a pioneer. He was a gentleman. He was a luminary.”

Born Gerson M. Friedman, and raised in New York City, Friedman served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War but suffered an injury on his first day in combat and spent the remainder of the war in a hospital.

In 1963, he launched the first Improvisation Comedy Club in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen, serving as the master of ceremonies for the after-hours coffee club, which started with an open mic for music, but soon branched into comedy as well.

The club played a key role in the careers of numerous stand-up comics, such as Rodney Dangerfield, Richard Pryor, Lily Tomlin, Jay Leno, and Gilbert Gottfried, who would test new material at the Improv.

In 1974, he expanded the club with a West Coast location, opening a new venue in Los Angeles, and starting a chain that would eventually grow to 22 clubs around the country.

By the time he and his partners sold the club chain to Levity Entertainment Group in 2018, the Improv chain had grown to 22 locations around North America.

Friedman also brought the famed comedy club to television viewers and produced and hosted An Evening at the Improv, which aired on A&E in the 1980s and 1990s.

“Budd Friedman. Can’t thank this man enough for what he gave to all of us,” comedian Sandler tweeted Sunday. “A comedy home. All the stage time. All the tips. All the encouragement. A place for comedians to hang out and talk about nothing but comedy.”

Friedman is survived by wife Alix, children Zoe, Dax, Beth and Ross, and five grandchildren.

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