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Stand Up and Laugh

Over the past six weeks I’ve been watching a show called “Last Comic Standing.” This is a departure for me as I’ve never watched it before, but in watching the contestants do their stand-up routines I found myself laughing out loud.
As with another reality show I watch, “American Idol,” the winner is picked by viewer-voters who call in their favorites. Unlike “American Idol,” the judges can’t “save” a contestant and the comic with the least votes gets eliminated.

This reminded me of when I used to work in a bar called “Catch a Rising Star” in New York City where there were often stand-up comics doing their routines as I cocktail-waitressed my way through the crowd.

I saw a lot of hopefuls but don’t recall any of them who made the big time while I was there. Apparently, quite a few well-known comedians did get their start there.

According to Wikipedia, Catch a Rising Star is actually a chain of comedy clubs. It was founded in New York City in December 1972 and owned by Rick Newman. It has since spread to other areas, such as Las Vegas and New Jersey.

I worked there in the 1980s. Although Wikipedia says the original location was on 1st Avenue between 77th and 78th streets, I think when I worked there it was at the later location of West 28th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues.

According to Wiki:

The original club in New York City was notable for its role in starting the careers of many famous singers and comedians, many of whom enjoyed later success in television, theater and film. Among these are Billy Crystal, Robin Williams, Jon Stewart, Bill Maher, Jerry Seinfeld, Rosie O'Donnell, Ellen DeGeneres, Robert Klein, Gabe Kaplan, Freddie Prinze, Shelley Ackerman, David Brenner, Andy Kaufman, Chris Rush, Ray Romano, Richard Belzer, Jim Carrey, John Kerwin, Steven Wright, Elayne Boosler, Eddie Murphy, Rodney Dangerfield, Dave Chappelle, Jo Koy, Richard Lewis, Kevin James, Chris Rock, Garry Shandling, Kathy Griffin, Denis Leary, Larry David, Tim Allen, Pat Benatar, Whoopi Goldberg, Colin Quinn, Stephen Lynch, Michael Royce, David Juskow, Dingle Rainey, Dennis Miller, and many more.

The original club has since gone out of business. Its former location, on 1st Avenue between East 78th Street and East 77th Street, is now occupied by Prince Properties, a real estate agency. In the late 1990s, the club was located on West 28th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues. The chain is currently negotiating to build a new club in the New York area.

I remember the owner, Rick Newman as a nice Jewish guy who had an eye for talent.  The cocktail waitresses consisted mainly of actress- hopefuls and in the audience there were many agents scouting for new talent.  All the wait-staff, including me, were hoping to make contact with these talent agents and we tried to make a lasting inpression so they might be curious about us.

About Kathryn Spira

Kathryn Spira, a native of Cleveland, OH who pursued an acting career in NYC and Los Angeles, now pursues freelance writing from Caroga Lake in Fulton County, New York. Previous columns may be accessed at her web site