11 Amazing Things We Learned From the Stand-Up Comedy Doc 'Eat Drink Laugh'
By Zach Seemayer
If a stand-up comic has ever made you laugh, there's a good chance they got their start making people laugh in the small, dark, iconic, beloved comedy club, The Comic Strip.
Eat Drink Laugh: The Story of The Comic Strip chronicles the beginnings of some of the funniest people in entertainment, and delves into the deep, emotionally charged history of one of the oldest stand-up comedy clubs in New York.
In the doc, viewers get an inside look at the triumphs and trials of some of the best in the business, and some wild behind-the-scenes stories from the club itself. To really do this doc a little justice, here are 11 awesome, weird, fascinating things we learned from Eat Drink Laugh.
1. Nearly Everyone That's Ever Made You Laugh Started Here
Did you know that Tom Hanks used to do stand-up comedy when he was starting out? Not only was he a stand-up comedian, he was really good too! And he's only one of what seems to be hundreds of huge stars who got their start at The Comic Strip.
Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Eddie Murphy, Colin Quinn, Sarah Silverman, Larry David, Paul Reiser, Larry Miller, Kevin Nealon, George Wallace, Susie Essman, and Ray Romano are just some of the comics who hail from the club.
As the assistant booker at The Comic Strip Starla Muraz said, "The vast majority of comedians to be successful over the course of the last 35 years, began their career here."
2. How Gilbert Gottfried Got Into Comedy
Known as one of the most acerbic and controversial comics ever, Gottfried is a legend. And it turns out that the reason he started comedy was simple.
"I just got into comedy because, basically, I think I was too stupid to do anything else," Gottfried explained, adding that comedy is perfect for him because, "If you didn't know how to tie your shoes, you were looked upon as an eccentric genius."
3. Ray Romano's First Paid Gig
The star of Everybody Love Raymond might be one of the most famous comics today, but his first ever paid performance was at the Comic Strip. He says he made a whopping $7.
Did you know that microphones at comedy clubs are almost always disgusting?
"All the microphones stink," recounts Arsenio Hall, who also spent many nights performing at the Comic Strip. "You ever smelled a stand-up's mic? It's the worst smell. You ever smelled ass? It ain't as bad as a comic's mic."
So, yeah, that's horrifying.
5. Jerry Seinfeld Works Insanely Hard
You don't get to the level of fame that Seinfeld enjoys without hard work, and apparently he was one of the hardest working comics in the world. He'd write constantly (often five hours a day!) and he could find inspiration anywhere.
"We went to the mall together," recalled fellow comic Paul Provenza. "I came back with a new pair of socks, and Jerry came back with 40 minutes [of material]."
6. Female Comics Were Uncommon and Treated Like "Sideshow Acts"
In the early days of the stand-up comedy boon, female comics were viewed as a bit of an oddity, often getting billed in specialty shows. And while things like profanity and vulgar sexuality were popular among male comics, it was shocking when used by female comics. So it took a lot of hard work and dedicated, talented stand-ups to level the playing field.
Apparently, Lucien Hold -- the manager, talent booker and general Lord of the Land -- held all the power when it came to who would get stage time and who wouldn't. This cultivated an aura of fear, respect, love, dedication, resentment, fascination and almost worship.
The film details Lucien's indelible mark on the club and stand-up comedy as a whole, and also the iconic figure's tragic passing in 2004. It's a fitting tribute to Lucien's legacy.
8. All Your Favorite Comics Had a Softball League!
Apparently, all the funniest people in the world -- including Larry David, Larry Miller, all these awkward, neurotic geniuses -- were part of the Broadway softball league. It's amazing to think that you could have gone and watched these games! Although it's not really surprising at all that they apparently never won.
9. Eddie Murphy's Mantra
A large portion of the documentary is dedicated to the insane, meteoric rise of Eddie Murphy, who got his start at the Comic Strip when he was in his teenage years, and became a monster success within years.
Apparently, Eddie's mantra was "I'm gonna be a star in a year." All he wanted to do was make it big, and his raw talent and manic drive made it possible. He alienated a lot of people along the way, but it was clear, even when he was only 19, that he had what it took to be a megastar. And he ended up making his first million dollars by the time he was 21.
10. The Building Itself Was Magical
Every single comedian talks about The Comic Strip with reverence. Not always kind memories, but always a massive amount of respect, appreciation, nostalgia and love. As one comic said, it wasn't a big place, but "you don't need bigness to be big."
11. Making People Laugh is Better Than Sex
Comedian Barry Weintraub might have said it best when he stresses, " There's no drug on this earth, there's no love you will get, that will feel like killing at the Comic Strip, and that is true to this day."