Sex Therapist Lora Somoza. New Republic’s Senior Editor Jeet Heer. Budd Friedman and Trip Whetsell talk about their new book “The Improv: An Oral History of the Comedy Club that Revolutionized Stand-Up.” Comics Sean Donnelly, Dave Sirus and Farah Brook talk Sean Spicer, Emmys, and why we shouldn’t forgive anybody associated with Donald Trump.
Jeet Heer is a Canadian author, comic critic, literary critic and journalist. He is a senior editor of The New Republic and as of 2014 was writing a doctoral thesis at York University in Toronto. He has written for publications including The National Post, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and Virginia Quarterly Review and was on the 2016 jury for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Heer has published several books, including: Sweet Lechery (2014) In Love with Art (2013).
Often referred to as the “Naughty Dear Abby,” Lora Somoza is a sex educator, advice columnist and the host of the weekly podcast, "Between the Sheets with Lora Somoza." (www.LoraSomoza.com) Lora writes an online sex advice column that goes out bi-weekly to over 30,000 loyal readers all over the world with circulation growing everyday. Known for her blunt, straight talk laced with her own brand of humor, her readers are fiercely loyal followers. She is also the host of the weekly "Between the Sheets with Lora" where she and a wider variety of guest discuss every topic related to sex, blending education and entertainment. (Available both on iTunes and on her website) Lora graduated from UCLA with a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing. After spending seven years working in the film industry honing her skills in script development, she turned her talents towards freelance journalism writing articles for various online magazines. Realizing the needs of what her readers really wanted to hear, she started immersing herself in the research of all things SEX. She interviewed hundreds of couples, experts in the field and read every book on the subject she could get her hands on. The result is her e-book, “Bliss in the Bedroom: A Real Woman's Guide to Better Sex.” She has been heard on The Playboy Channel, KABC Los Angeles, KBPI Denver, and The Naughty Show. She has also been a frequent guest on The Dr. Drew Show on HLN. Now it warms Lora’s heart every time she receives a marriage proposal from a stranger in Nigeria or Ibiza. And she knows she’s doing God’s work when a fan writes in to say, “Thanks to you, Lora, I’m GOING to try out a vibrator for the first time.” She continues to write about sex, Rush Limbaugh, and everything in between. To sign up for newsletters, order her book or ask Lora a question, please visit www.LoraSomoza.com.
When he’s not catching a nap with his bulldog, Rickles, Sean Donnelly can be found headlining clubs and festivals all over the country. He has appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman, Conan and NBC’s Last Comic Standing. Sean co-hosts the podcast Defend Your Movie with Farah Brook. He released his debut comedy album “Manual Labor Face” in 2015 on Comedy Central Records. Sean has been featured on the truTV series World’s Dumbest and Almost Genius as well as Adam Devine’s House Party, The Half Hour, Broad City, and Inside Amy Schumer on Comedy Central, Amazon’s Alpha House, GSN’s Lie Detectors, Limitless on CBS, and Billions on Showtime.
It’s no joke to say that our world would be a lot less funny without Budd Friedman!
In 1963, thirty-year-old Friedman—who had recently quit his job as a Boston advertising executive and returned to his hometown of New York to become a theatrical producer—opened a coffee house for Broadway performers called the Improvisation. His goal? Simply to make a living, and if all went according to plan, to also make enough professional contacts to be able to mount his first Broadway show within a year’s time.
Later shortened to the Improv, its first West 44th Street location in a seedy section of Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen had previously been a Vietnamese restaurant. Initially attracting the likes of Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli, Albert Finney, Christopher Plummer and Jason Robards, as well as a couple of then-unknowns named Dustin Hoffman and Bette Midler, Friedman’s new venture was an instant hit.
But while it drew near capacity crowds almost from day one, it wasn’t until comedians began dropping by to try out new material that the Improv truly hit its stride, not only becoming the first venue ever to present live stand-up in a continuous format, but in the process reinventing the art form and creating the template for all other comedy clubs that followed.
Now, in The Improv, Friedman, along with a Who’s Who of his most famous alumni—including Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld, Jimmy Fallon, Bill Maher, Richard Lewis, Robert Klein, Larry David, Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, Lily Tomlin, Judd Apatow, Al Franken, Paul Reiser, Howie Mandel, Bob Saget, Dick Cavett, Paul Provenza, Drew Carey and many more—tell it like it was in the first-ever oral history of how this game-changing comedy club came to be.
From the microphone to the iconic brick wall, the Improv has been the launching pad for practically every major name in American comedy over the last five-plus decades since, also placing Friedman side by side with other men who transformed entire industries. Today, at the age of 85, he is still comedy’s master imprimatur, and his fabled club endures as one of the most important incubators for live stand-up anywhere—even though its original New York location is long gone.
The Improv gives readers an exclusive look at what really happened on stage and off-mike at one of America’s most venerable institutions. From the revelry and the rivalry to the smash hits, near misses, love affairs, chemical experimentation, exhilarating rises, tragic downfalls and just plain fun, it’s all here—emceed by the man who unofficially provided the laugh track for an entire nation, despite inevitable power struggles, personal and professional disappointments, and ever-changing times.