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The godfather of comedy Friedman looks back on a lifetime of laughs

LOS ANGELES (AP)  The godfather of comedy has a few secrets to share: First, he never intended to become the godfather of comedy, never had any idea how to accomplish the feat and, a half-century later, isn't quite sure how he did it.

When Budd Friedman opened a dingy brick-walled nightclub called The Improvisation on the edge of New York's theatre district in 1963, there were no other major comedy clubs to speak of in the U.S. Stand-up comics were generally relegated to playing small coffeehouses, telling mother-in-law jokes at summer resorts or keeping audiences entertained between strip shows.

There are comedy clubs across the country now, and in Friedman's just-published memoir, "The Improv: An Oral History of the Comedy Club That Revolutionized Stand-Up," generations of comedians from Jay Leno to Jimmy Fallon give the author the lion's share of the credit.

"Budd Friedman is one of the greatest influences in comedy ever. Bar none. He changed pop culture forever," Fallon says in the book co-authored by Friedman and veteran entertainment journalist Tripp Whetsell.

To hear Friedman tell it, changing comedy's direction was about the last thing the former ad man set out to do.

"It was a complete fluke. I wanted to be a theatrical producer," he said during a recent phone interview.

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