This ribald, made-for-cable documentary salute to the legendary club offers both a history of the bi-coastal haven comedians and a sampler of shifting tastes in stand-up.
The original, New York City Friars' Club was established in 1913 as a watering hole for hard-working comics and entertainers like George M. Cohan and Enrico Caruso. A second branch opened in Hollywood after show business shifted its activities to the West Coast. The club's membership is a Who's Who of show business luminaries that has included George Burns, Jack Benny, Robin Williams and Richard Pryor, and though the Friars' Club raises money for charities, its high profile stems from the annual "roasts" presided over by Milton Berle until his death in 2002. This documentary traces the highlights of the Club, including the time Phyllis Diller crashed a stag party in male drag; the final appearance of comedian Parkyakarkus, who died offstage after "killing" the audience; and the infamous Whoopi Goldberg salute, in which she convinced her then-boyfriend, Ted Danson, to appear in blackface. In the late 1980s the all-male bastion opened its doors to women, but only after feminist attorney Gloria Alldred forced the issue. The film concludes with observations from contemporary comedians like Janeane Garofalo, who've joined to keep Club traditions alive. Featuring never-before-seen clips and priceless interviews, this clever chronicle is an entertaining history in which the spotlight-hogging performers speak for themselves. Though a little disjointed, it manages to hit all the significant moments without ever forgetting to punctuate the history with a punch line and a rim shot.
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- Released: 2000
- Rating: NR
- Review: This ribald, made-for-cable documentary salute to the legendary club offers both a history of the bi-coastal haven comedians and a sampler of shifting tastes in stand-up. The original, New York City Friars' Club was established in 1913 as a watering hole… (more)