Improv extension " and How(ie)
Laughter will continue for at least two more years at Lake Tahoe’s Improv.
The ongoing comedy at Harveys Resort and Casino opened in January 2001 has adjusted its schedule. Beginning March 14, there will be two Saturday night shows. There will be no show on Mondays or Tuesdays.
“We outlasted everybody,” Improv pioneer Budd Friedman said from his Los Angeles office. “When we started there were so many other shows, plus we shared the showroom with a review. Now we’ve got it all to ourselves.”
Friedman opened the first Improvisation Comedy Club in 1963 on West 44th Street in Manhattan. He opened a club in Los Angeles in 1975 and in 1980 started the television program “Evening at The Improv,” which lasted 14 years.
He helped spur the careers of Rodney Dangerfield, Richard Lewis, Robert Klein, Jay Leno, Andy Kaufman, Freddie Prinze, Steve Landesberg and Jimmie Walker, along with Howie Nave, who has been the host of Tahoe’s Improv since its inception.
“They call him the godfather of the modern-day comedy chain,” Nave said. “The first one was an old Chinese restaurant, and it had the brick background.”
Nave opens each show at The Improv and introduces the middle and headline performers. Comics covet a place on the club’s circuit. There are 23 Improvs throughout the nation.
“We have a stable of comedians we’ve been using for years until they get too big for us,” Friedman said. “We have a guy go off the deep end every once in a while but not too often. We had an incident in Vegas where the guy got too drunk to go onstage, but fortunately it was just the middle act. That really hasn’t happened in any of our other clubs in over 10 years as far as I know.”
Nave sends critiques of the comedians’ performance and hotel behavior to Friedman each week.
“I tell him if their demeanor was like the Flying Nun or Nurse Ratched,” Nave said. “It’s rare when we get a prima donna comic.”
Friedman said the oversight is why The Improv is a national success.
“It’s good, quality comedians; the best we can afford doing pretty clean material ” we stress that,” he said. “It’s our reputation, so we work very hard to keep the quality up all of the time.”
Nave promotes The Improv each week with a column in Lake Tahoe Action and by putting the comics on his morning radio show on 93.9 KRLT-FM.
“He does a great job, and we don’t have that at any of our other clubs, so that’s unique,” Friedman said. “It’s appreciated.”
Nave never intended to be a comic: He has a music degree from Humboldt State University.
His first album included a couple of comedy songs, which captured the attention of critics and the disc jockey Doctor Demento. His follow-up record was mostly comedy, and then he began opening for musical groups such as Jimmy Buffett, Los Lobos and Garth Brooks.
Friedman hired Nave to host a comedy club in 1998 at the Reno Hilton. It was the first time The Improv had a full-time host.
“I was the beta tester,” said Nave, who helps with scheduling and ensuring that the comics will be able to make it to the show.
Nave figures to be working indefinitely for Friedman, who, at age 76, has considered retirement.
“I do think about retiring, and it scares the hell out of my wife,” he said.