Interview with Richard Tienken The Owner of World Famous Comic Strip Live

judah friedlander, Richard Tienken

By: Laura High
March, 3rd 2016

Richard Tienken

I just started stand up comedy and had no clue what to do. One comic suggested I audition for Late Night at Comic Strip Live. Comic Strip is the oldest comedy club in New York. I had seen performances there when I was a teenager. I was terrified because this was going to be the seventh time I had ever performed stand up. I got there and found out that there was a panel of judges who will ‘roast’ each of us and let us know if we pass (get hired) in front of a packed room. My heart went in my throat. I went up, and miraculously did well. I had no expectations. One of the judges asked how long I had I been doing stand up, I said this was my seventh performance. Then Richie said, “You’re passed.” I’ve been working on jokes there ever since.

Buy Comic Strip Live Tickets

https://bestcomedytickets.com/venue-profile/comic-strip-live/

Laura: You are the owner and founder of Comic Strip Live. When did you open it?
Richie: June 1st, 1976. So, It’s been forty years.

L: So it’s safe to say you know everyone in the business?
R: (He laughs) Pretty much.

L: Who are the ‘big name comics’ who started here?
R: Everyone started here. Jerry Seinfeld, George Wallace, Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy, Ray Romano, Louis CK, Robin Williams, Adam Sandler, everybody. Even Tom Hanks prepped for Punchline here.

L: What was Jerry Seinfeld like?
R: We called him the doctor, ’cause he could fix any joke.

L: How did Chris Rock get his start at Comic Strip?
R: He used to clean the tables here, so I put him up. I also managed Eddie Murphy, and he came in one night. He asked, “Do you have any black acts?” I checked with the manager. He said we didn’t have any, but Chris was there. I didn’t want Eddie to leave, so I put Chris up. Chris was so nervous. I told him, “Just go up. If you don’t think you’re doing well, just get off.” Eddie watched him. When he got off Eddie took him over by the ice machine and talked. After they finished I asked Eddie what happened. Eddie said, “I asked Chris: What do you think about coming out to California and being in my movie?” Eddie changed the script of Beverly Hills Cop 2 so Chris could be in it.

L: When you look back, did you know that those guys were going to rise as much as they did?
R: Honestly, the whole thing is unbelievable to me. Everyone who was here went through the roof. I’m like, “How did that happen?” I knew these guys. We had a softball team. They were just guys to me. The fact that they had that kind of talent was amazing.

L: This was one of the clubs that Robin Williams started at. He seems like such a larger-than-life person. What was he like in a small intimate comedy club?
R: Same way. He was Robin Williams.

L: After being in the game so long, what do you look for in terms of hiring new comics?
R: My attitude towards comics is, “Wow, this is something you want to do. I would never want to do it.” I want to try and help them as much as I can. I just like giving comics a chance. That’s why I’m the only club who still auditions comics regularly.

L: It seems like you really love the comedians.
R: Yeah. When we started the club, comics didn’t get paid. None of those guys made money. One day Larry David came in and asked if he could get a hamburger on the house. I asked, “You don’t have any money?” He said, “No, I spend any extra money I have on notebooks and pens.” I asked, “Are all comics struggling this badly?” He replied, “Yes.” I told him, “You can tell everyone to come here and they’ll eat.”

L: What makes Comic Strip Live so special?
R: I think it’s special because I’m the only club that still auditions people. I audition new comics every week. No one auditions anymore. Everyone does bringers. You know, bring ten people and then you can have a spot. I’m not going to do that. I want to give these comics a real chance. I like being able to say that they started here.

L: Why do you love stand up comedy so much?
R: It’s not so much the comedy as it is the dream. God has been good to me, and if this is something that the comics want to do, then I want to help.

L: What are your favorite Comic Strip Live stories?
R: Adam Sandler and I were talking about golf at 2:00am. He asked: “If you could hit a golf ball down Second Avenue, how far do you think it would go?” I said, “If you hit it straight it could hit Fifty-Ninth Street.” Mind you, the club is on Eighty-Second Street. We talked about it more, then I said, “Come on, let’s to do it.” I set it up, hit it. Now, between you and me it went right, but he didn’t see it. He says, “Where is it?” I said, “Ahh it’s probably still bouncing.” He keeps arguing that he doesn’t see it. So, I put another ball down. Then a cop showed up and started shaking his head. We went back inside after that.
Also, when you come in our club, it’s filled with headshots. Well, Larry Miller didn’t have one. So he gave me an 8’10” of his family sitting shiva. (Richie starts laughing.)

L: Any advice for new comics?
R: Three times. If the joke doesn’t work after three times; good-bye.

L: What did you think of Chris Rock’s performance at the Oscars?
R: I thought he did great. Afterwards I texted him, “Congrats, I’m so happy you started at the Strip.” He texted back, “I’m glad I started there, too.”

One Comment

  1. Wow – what an amazing life he has led

    Reply
    1

Leave a Reply

  • *

Aaron Berg, Greer Barnes, Nathan Macintosh, Quentin Heggs, Rich Aronovitch

May
22

11:00 PM
Gibran Saleem, Jason Salmon, Nore Davis

May
23

7:00 PM
Marvin Bell, Quentin Heggs, Steven Scott, Warren Holstein

May
23

8:00 PM
Marvin Bell, Quentin Heggs, Steven Scott, Warren Holstein

May
23

8:00 PM
Aaron Berg, D.C. Benny, Mike Vecchione, Mike Yard, Veronica Mosey

May
23

8:00 PM
Marvin Bell, Quentin Heggs, Steven Scott, Warren Holstein

May
23

8:30 PM
Aaron Berg, Greer Barnes, Nathan Macintosh, Quentin Heggs, Rich Aronovitch

May
23

9:00 PM
Aaron Berg, Jocelyn Chia, Peggy O'Leary, Yamaneika Saunders

May
23

9:15 PM
Drew Fraser, Dustin Chafin, Greer Barnes, Mike Cannon

May
23

9:45 PM
Aaron Berg, Greer Barnes, Nathan Macintosh, Quentin Heggs, Rich Aronovitch

May
23

11:00 PM
Aaron Berg, Jocelyn Chia, Peggy O'Leary, Yamaneika Saunders

May
24

7:00 PM
Marvin Bell, Quentin Heggs, Steven Scott, Warren Holstein

May
24

8:00 PM
Aaron Berg, D.C. Benny, Mike Vecchione, Mike Yard, Veronica Mosey

May
24

8:00 PM
Marvin Bell, Quentin Heggs, Steven Scott, Warren Holstein

May
24

8:00 PM
Marvin Bell, Quentin Heggs, Steven Scott, Warren Holstein

May
24

8:30 PM
Aaron Berg, Greer Barnes, Nathan Macintosh, Quentin Heggs, Rich Aronovitch

May
24

9:00 PM
Emma Willmann, Rachel Feinstein, Todd Barry

May
24

9:00 PM
Aaron Berg, Jocelyn Chia, Peggy O'Leary, Yamaneika Saunders

May
24

9:15 PM
Drew Fraser, Dustin Chafin, Greer Barnes, Mike Cannon

May
24

9:45 PM
Aaron Berg, D.C. Benny, Mike Vecchione, Mike Yard, Veronica Mosey

May
24

10:15 PM
Aaron Berg, Greer Barnes, Nathan Macintosh, Quentin Heggs, Rich Aronovitch

May
24

11:00 PM
Aaron Berg, Jocelyn Chia, Peggy O'Leary, Yamaneika Saunders

May
25

6:30 PM
Aaron Berg, D.C. Benny, Mike Vecchione, Mike Yard, Veronica Mosey

May
25

8:00 PM
Marvin Bell, Quentin Heggs, Steven Scott, Warren Holstein

May
25

8:00 PM
Marvin Bell, Quentin Heggs, Steven Scott, Warren Holstein

May
25

8:00 PM
Emma Willmann, Rachel Feinstein, Todd Barry

May
25

9:00 PM
Aaron Berg, Greer Barnes, Nathan Macintosh, Quentin Heggs, Rich Aronovitch

May
25

9:00 PM
Drew Fraser, Dustin Chafin, Greer Barnes, Mike Cannon

May
25

9:45 PM
Aaron Berg, D.C. Benny, Mike Vecchione, Mike Yard, Veronica Mosey

May
25

10:15 PM
Aaron Berg, Greer Barnes, Nathan Macintosh, Quentin Heggs, Rich Aronovitch

May
25

11:00 PM
Aaron Berg, Nathan Macintosh, Nore Davis

May
26

7:00 PM
Emma Willmann, Rachel Feinstein, Todd Barry

May
26

7:00 PM
Marvin Bell, Quentin Heggs, Steven Scott, Warren Holstein

May
26

8:00 PM
Marvin Bell, Quentin Heggs, Steven Scott, Warren Holstein

May
26

8:00 PM
Daniel Simonsen, Harrison Greenbaum, Jeffrey Joseph, Meghan Hanley

May
26

8:00 PM
Aaron Berg, D.C. Benny, Mike Vecchione, Mike Yard, Veronica Mosey

May
26

8:00 PM
Drew Fraser, Dustin Chafin, Greer Barnes, Mike Cannon

May
26

8:00 PM
Marvin Bell, Quentin Heggs, Steven Scott, Warren Holstein

May
26

8:30 PM
Aaron Berg, Greer Barnes, Nathan Macintosh, Quentin Heggs, Rich Aronovitch

May
26

9:00 PM
Emma Willmann, Rachel Feinstein, Todd Barry

May
26

9:00 PM
Drew Fraser, Dustin Chafin, Greer Barnes, Mike Cannon

May
26

9:45 PM
Aaron Berg, D.C. Benny, Mike Vecchione, Mike Yard, Veronica Mosey

May
26

10:00 PM
Marvin Bell, Quentin Heggs, Steven Scott, Warren Holstein

May
26

10:30 PM
Marvin Bell, Quentin Heggs, Steven Scott, Warren Holstein

May
26

10:30 PM
Marvin Bell, Quentin Heggs, Steven Scott, Warren Holstein

May
26

10:30 PM
Emma Willmann, Rachel Feinstein, Todd Barry

May
26

11:00 PM
Aaron Berg, Greer Barnes, Nathan Macintosh, Quentin Heggs, Rich Aronovitch

May
26

11:00 PM
Aaron Berg, Chuck Nice, Nathan Macintosh, Nore Davis

May
26

11:30 PM
Drew Fraser, Dustin Chafin, Greer Barnes, Mike Cannon

May
26

11:45 PM
Aaron Berg, D.C. Benny, Mike Vecchione, Mike Yard, Veronica Mosey

May
27

5:00 PM
Emma Willmann, Rachel Feinstein, Todd Barry

May
27

7:00 PM
Marvin Bell, Quentin Heggs, Steven Scott, Warren Holstein

May
27

8:00 PM
Marvin Bell, Quentin Heggs, Steven Scott, Warren Holstein

May
27

8:00 PM
Gary Vider, Myq Kaplan, Sheba Mason, Vincent James

May
27

8:00 PM
Aaron Berg, D.C. Benny, Mike Vecchione, Mike Yard, Veronica Mosey

May
27

8:00 PM
Marvin Bell, Quentin Heggs, Steven Scott, Warren Holstein

May
27

8:30 PM
Drew Fraser, Dustin Chafin, Greer Barnes, Mike Cannon

May
27

8:30 PM
Emma Willmann, Rachel Feinstein, Todd Barry

May
27

9:00 PM
Aaron Berg, Greer Barnes, Nathan Macintosh, Quentin Heggs, Rich Aronovitch

May
27

9:00 PM
Christian Finnegan, D.C. Benny, James Mattern, Mike Yard, Yamaneika Saunders

May
27

10:00 PM
Drew Fraser, Dustin Chafin, Greer Barnes, Mike Cannon

May
27

10:30 PM
Marvin Bell, Quentin Heggs, Steven Scott, Warren Holstein

May
27

10:30 PM
Marvin Bell, Quentin Heggs, Steven Scott, Warren Holstein

May
27

10:30 PM
Aaron Berg, Greer Barnes, Nathan Macintosh, Quentin Heggs, Rich Aronovitch

May
27

11:00 PM
Emma Willmann, Rachel Feinstein, Todd Barry

May
27

11:00 PM
Christian Finnegan, D.C. Benny, James Mattern, Mike Yard, Yamaneika Saunders

May
27

11:45 PM
Drew Fraser, Dustin Chafin, Greer Barnes, Mike Cannon

May
28

12:30 AM
Marvin Bell, Quentin Heggs, Steven Scott, Warren Holstein

May
28

8:00 PM
Christian Finnegan, D.C. Benny, James Mattern, Mike Yard, Yamaneika Saunders

May
28

8:00 PM
Drew Fraser, Dustin Chafin, Greer Barnes, Mike Cannon

May
28

8:00 PM
Marvin Bell, Quentin Heggs, Steven Scott, Warren Holstein

May
28

8:30 PM
Emma Willmann, Rachel Feinstein, Todd Barry

May
28

9:00 PM
Aaron Berg, Greer Barnes, Nathan Macintosh, Quentin Heggs, Rich Aronovitch

May
28

9:00 PM
Drew Fraser, Dustin Chafin, Greer Barnes, Mike Cannon

May
28

10:00 PM
Christian Finnegan, D.C. Benny, James Mattern, Mike Yard, Yamaneika Saunders

May
28

10:15 PM
Aaron Berg, Greer Barnes, Nathan Macintosh, Quentin Heggs, Rich Aronovitch

May
28

11:00 PM
Marvin Bell, Quentin Heggs, Steven Scott, Warren Holstein

May
29

8:00 PM
Christian Finnegan, D.C. Benny, James Mattern, Mike Yard, Yamaneika Saunders

May
29

8:00 PM
Marvin Bell, Quentin Heggs, Steven Scott, Warren Holstein

May
29

8:30 PM
Aaron Berg, Greer Barnes, Nathan Macintosh, Quentin Heggs, Rich Aronovitch

May
29

9:00 PM
Aaron Berg, Greer Barnes, Nathan Macintosh, Quentin Heggs, Rich Aronovitch

May
29

11:00 PM
Christian Finnegan, D.C. Benny, James Mattern, Mike Yard, Yamaneika Saunders

May
30

8:00 PM
Marvin Bell, Quentin Heggs, Steven Scott, Warren Holstein

May
30

8:00 PM
Marvin Bell, Quentin Heggs, Steven Scott, Warren Holstein

May
30

8:30 PM
Aaron Berg, Greer Barnes, Nathan Macintosh, Quentin Heggs, Rich Aronovitch

May
30

9:00 PM
Aaron Berg, Greer Barnes, Nathan Macintosh, Quentin Heggs, Rich Aronovitch

May
30

11:00 PM
Marvin Bell, Quentin Heggs, Steven Scott, Warren Holstein

May
31

8:00 PM
Marvin Bell, Quentin Heggs, Steven Scott, Warren Holstein

May
31

8:30 PM
Christian Finnegan, D.C. Benny, James Mattern, Mike Yard, Yamaneika Saunders

May
31

10:15 PM
Marvin Bell, Quentin Heggs, Steven Scott, Warren Holstein

Jun
1

8:30 PM
Marvin Bell, Quentin Heggs, Steven Scott, Warren Holstein

Jun
2

8:30 PM
Marvin Bell, Quentin Heggs, Steven Scott, Warren Holstein

Jun
2

10:30 PM
Marvin Bell, Quentin Heggs, Steven Scott, Warren Holstein

Jun
3

8:30 PM
Marvin Bell, Quentin Heggs, Steven Scott, Warren Holstein

Jun
3

10:30 PM
Marvin Bell, Quentin Heggs, Steven Scott, Warren Holstein

Jun
4

8:30 PM
Marvin Bell, Quentin Heggs, Steven Scott, Warren Holstein

Jun
5

8:30 PM
Marvin Bell, Quentin Heggs, Steven Scott, Warren Holstein

Jun
6

8:30 PM
Marvin Bell, Quentin Heggs, Steven Scott, Warren Holstein

Jun
7

8:30 PM
Marvin Bell, Quentin Heggs, Steven Scott, Warren Holstein

Jun
8

8:30 PM
Marvin Bell, Quentin Heggs, Steven Scott, Warren Holstein

Jun
9

8:30 PM
Marvin Bell, Quentin Heggs, Steven Scott, Warren Holstein

Jun
9

10:30 PM
Marvin Bell, Quentin Heggs, Steven Scott, Warren Holstein

Jun
10

8:30 PM
Marvin Bell, Quentin Heggs, Steven Scott, Warren Holstein

Jun
10

10:30 PM
Akaash Singh, Dean Obeidallah, Geno Bisconte, Sam Morril

Dec
28

7:00 PM
Dante Nero, Jon Laster, Modi, Ryan Reiss, Yamaneika Saunders

Dec
31

8:30 PM