In 2006 there was the Chicago Improv in Schaumburg...One of the largest in the country with seating for 425 guests, private party rooms, host to hundreds of corporate events and bringing quality comedy to the Chicago area. Our stage has been graced by many of comedies stars, as well as future stars.
But, in the beginning….there was Budd.
For almost half a century, the Improv Comedy Clubs have remained the premiere stages for live comedy in the United States. Over the decades, the talent who has played center stage represents the Who’s Who of American Comedy, including Richard Pryor, Billy Crystal, Lily Tomlin, Freddie Prinz, Andy Kaufman, Eddie Murphy, Jerry Seinfeld, Tim Allen, Jay Leno, Chris Rock, Dane Cook, Ellen DeGeneres, Jamie Foxx, Adam Sandler, Jeff Dunham, and Dave Chappelle.
Today, the Improv stage continues to be the most important live venue for new comedians.
Since its start in 1963 by Budd Friedman in New York City, future giants of American comedy all vied for stage time at the New York club. In an effort to be noticed by Budd, Lily Tomlin hijacked a parked limousine and had the stunned driver circle the block so she could make the proper entrance for her meeting. Jay Leno drove weekly between Boston and New York, hoping that someone would notice him hanging around the Improv, or sleeping in the Improv parking lot. Andy Kaufman interviewed with Budd and never broke out of his “Latka” accent. It wasn’t until Kaufman performed on stage that Budd realized he had been duped!
A remarkable list of talent was building; the debut of 16 year-old Freddie Prinz one night, legendary Milton Berle the next. In one month, audiences could catch the greats and soon-to-be-greats-- George Burns, Robert Klein, George Carlin, Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David, Richard Lewis, and Rodney Dangerfield, who was the Improv’s part-time emcee for four years.
Budd opened his second Improv on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood, California, where it still stands today. The club included the trademark piano and the iconic brick wall. Jay Leno helped paint the ceiling.
The Improv began expanding its comedy empire opening locations in San Diego, San Francisco, Brea, Irvine, Tempe, Washington D.C., Dallas, Addison, Cleveland, Miami, Las Vegas, Reno and London, England. In 2002, Budd partnered with Al Copeland to create six new clubs: Irvine, San Jose, Brea, Ontario, Pittsburgh, and the re-launch the historic Improv on Melrose Avenue.
In recent years, The Improv opened in Chicago, Denver, Tampa, West Palm Beach, Arlington, Louisville, Baltimore and Orlando.
New clubs are now being planned, both domestically and internationally, ensuring that The Improv promise remains true— To deliver the best comedy talent, quality food and service in the most celebrated—and largest—comedy club chain in the world.