I had the honor yesterday, along with many others, to attend Budd Friedman’s funeral. During the 80s and 90s, the Improv was my home and where you’d find me most nights, sitting with comics and writers, new and old, famous and obscure, giving and getting writing tips and industry connections, a of us sharing one common thread, comedy.
It was a clubhouse and once you became a member, you were a member for life, as proven by the interactions by those in attendance yesterday, who hadn’t seen each other for years, but quickly embraced in memories of those days. Budd was head of the clubhouse, and no matter whether you were a star performer or an obscure writer, he would always greet you with a smile, a nod or a reminder to get out of the aisle, letting you know you were welcome home.
It was one of those reminders that helped change my life. I was on the second date with my now wife, and after an early screening, she suggested that we go to the Improv since, in an attempt to impress her, I had told her how I was a regular there and knew everyone. With great trepidation, I drove over, explaining how it was early Friday night and all the people I knew didn’t get there until much later in the evening. Upon entering the club I scoured the room, looking for any friendly face, that would prevent me from looking like a fraud, but there was no one. That was until Budd step up, tapped me on the shoulder and said those magical words, “Glenn, out of the aisle.” Upon hearing Budd call me by name, Laura assumed, well if Budd knew me…
That reminder to exit the aisle was a running theme in most of the tributes this week and possibly the highlight of the remembrances of Budd at the funeral, when Ross Mark, his son, shared the personal family moment shortly after Budd’s passing. As he explained, mortuary workers had arrived at the hospital to transfer Budd, and as they pushed the gurney with Budd upon it out of the room and into the hallway, he smiled excitedly, informing the other members of the family that he had to do it, and shouted at Budd, “Out of the aisle!”