Author: Marilyn

Budd Friedman’s Death: A History of the American Comedy Renaissance

Budd Friedman's Death: A History of the American Comedy Renaissance

Budd Friedman, founder of the Improv comedy club, dies at 90

By Associated Press and Sam Grover

Oct. 14, 2017

In this July 3, 1983, file photo, Budd Friedman, center, and his wife, Carol, pose for a photo in the kitchen of their home in the Bronx, New York. Friedman’s comedy was a crossroads for black culture in the 1960s and ’70s, when he used African-American characters in his productions. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

This story is part of the Next America Project, a collaborative project between the Institute for National Securitycontributors and the New America Foundation. The Next America Projectis producing films, videos and a podcast exploring domestic and foreign policy challenges and America’s next decade.

Budd Friedman died of natural causes at his home near New York on Sunday, Oct. 14 at age 90.

Friedman was a founding father of the Black Arts movement in the U.S. during the early 1960s, when he used black comedy and black characters in his productions to examine the issue of race and racism.

He was also a founding dad of American stand-up comedy.

This is not the first death in recent years of a longtime member of the New York City arts community. There have also been deaths of comedian George Carlin, poet and novelist Alice Walker and jazz drummer Herbie Hancock.

Here are three stories from Budd Friedman’s life and his work that illuminate the history of the American Comedy Renaissance that he brought to the forefront in the 1960s and ’70s.


Born to a father of Italian descent, Budd Friedman was the second of four boys in a working class family on the Lower East Side of the Bronx. Although his school records described him as a gifted third grader, he dropped out after failing his eighth grade class.

A year later, he joined the U.S. Army, where he served as a radioman in the medical department at the time of the U.S. invasion of Cambodia in 1970. He received the Purple Heart, the Vietnam Service Medal and the Bronze Star.

After leaving the Army he married Carol Friedman, a nurse’s aide at the

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