Budd Friedman, known for kick-starting the careers of many notable comedians as the founder of the Improv, died on Saturday in Los Angeles. He was 90.
Adam Sandler shared gratitude for getting a chance to know Friedman, who helped him establish a name in the comedy circuit.
“Budd Friedman. Can’t thank this man enough for what he gave to all of us,” 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 first 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 break into the business.
The Hollywood Improv shared a clip of Friedman while discussing 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 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.”
Friedman reportedly 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.
He described discovering Robin Williams in the book, “”From the moment he walked in, it was obvious to me and everybody else that he was going to become a big star, perhaps even one of the biggest we’d ever seen, which, of course, turned out to be true beyond anything we could have ever imagined.”
Budd’s comedy days began after opening the Manhattan location for Broadway performers to hang out following shows.
He hired Liza Minnelli to sing, Barry Manilow played the piano, and Rodney Dangerfield was once a host. Danny Aiello was also once hired to be a bouncer.
Rob Schneider tweeted, “Budd Friedman died yesterday. Budd literally invented the modern stand up comedy club. He made it possible for me & so many others to make a living for our families doing what we love! It was because of Budd’s support & kindness that I had chance to live my dreams & get discovered.”
Richard Lewis wrote how Friedman acted as a father figure following the death of his own “hero” dad in 1971.
“I was lost and found by this man who was a veritable kingmaker for many young comedians at his famed Improv,” Lewis tweeted. “In many ways he was a lifesaver. I loved him and his family. RIP pal.”
George Wallace shared a picture with Friedman and wrote, “We all get the light someday. Thank you for everything, Budd Friedman. They’re clearing the aisle for you at that big Improv in the sky.”
Director Judd Apatow said he was “so sad to learn of the passing of the legendary Budd Friedman, the owner of The Improv, who discovered everyone you love. A great man who we all loved. He made the world much happier!”
Loni Love admitted Budd was the reason “many comics you see today are working.” 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 changed the world now rest.”
Late night host Jimmy Fallon wrote, “St. Peter’s like ‘Out of the aisles, out of the aisles, Budd’s coming through.’ Rest in peace, Budd Friedman.”
Fallon gave Friedman a huge shout-out in 2017 when Friedman released a book detailing a few of his favorite memories running the hottest club in town. “Budd gave me my start,” Fallon said at the time before joking his mom was just happy he was getting fed by the club.
Kevin Nealon wrote, “Such sad news to hear of the passing of my friend Budd Friedman. If it weren’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, incredible man. I will never stop performing at the Improv Comedy Clubs.”
“Budd Friedman was always so kind to me. We’d have dinner together in Vegas and LA,” Rich Vos tweeted. “He would go on stage just to introduce me. I talked to him about comedy at length. Gave me two of my first TV spots. He hosted many of the deaf shows Bob Golub put together in NY. May he RIP.”
Friedman is survived by wife Alix, children Zoe, Dax, Beth and Ross, and five grandchildren.