Review: ‘The Comedy Store’

By EDDY FRIEDFELD
Posted 10/2/20

A new five-part Showtime docu-series, “The Comedy Store,” is a terrific, hysterically funny, star-studded history of the legendary Los Angeles Club that mentored and showcased some of the …

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Review: ‘The Comedy Store’

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A new five-part Showtime docu-series, “The Comedy Store,” is a terrific, hysterically funny, star-studded history of the legendary Los Angeles Club that mentored and showcased some of the greatest comedians in history. Some of those include Richard Pryor, Sam Kinison, Freddie Prinze, David Letterman, Jay Leno, Chris Rock, Andrew Dice Clay, Joe Rogan, Jimmie Walker, Michael Keaton, Jim Carrey, and Whoopi Goldberg.

Former stand-up comedian Mike Binder opens the film recalling how 40 years ago he spent every night of his life on that stage. He left Detroit when he was 18 and told his parents he was going to college in Los Angeles. He wasn’t exactly lying. The Comedy Store became his college.

He started out as doorman, fought for stage time, and used the success to become an actor, writer and director. “Like hundreds before me and after me, these rooms were a gateway to show business to anyone with a comic bent,” he said.

It was on another alumnus, Marc Maron’s podcast, that Binder and Maron began reminiscing about the history of the club that inspired the documentary. Sammy Shore opened the club in 1972. Sammy was a top Las Vegas comedian who opened the club with his friend, comedian and writer, Rudy DeLuca.

Sammy would perform in Vegas and Mitzi Shore would run the club. She took it over after a bad divorce. A single mother with three kids at home, Mitzi Shore became a night club owner. She had an affinity for comedians and created an incubator for young performers and changed the way comedy was developed and presented. She would study comedians and assiduously look for charisma over material.

Mitzi Shore was the first to prove that one comedian could follow another in a show, without a singer or other type of performer in between, which changed comedy in America and in the world.

When a middle-aged and restless Johnny Carson wanted to sit on the beach and go to parties, he moved “The Tonight Show” in 1972 from New York to Burbank in Los Angeles, The Store became a feeder for the brass ring for every comedian.

“Every comedian remembers their birthday and their first time on ‘The Tonight Show’,” Byron Allen said.

With interviews, with Letterman (“The Store was like Triple A Baseball,”), Leno, Rock, Carrey, Kevin Nealon, David Spade, Richard Lewis, Howie Mandel, John Witherspoon, Louie Anderson, and Whitney Cummings, Binder spotlights one of pop culture’s great laboratories that forever changed comedy and, for many, provided a launching pad to stardom in film and television.

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