New York Friars Club

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from New York Friars' Club)
Jump to: navigation, search
The New York Friars Club
The "Monastery"
Motto Prae Omnia Fraternitas ("Before all, brotherhood")
Formation 1904 (1904)
Headquarters 57 East 55th Street
Coordinates 40°45′39″N 73°58′21″W / 40.760886°N 73.972551°W / 40.760886; -73.972551Coordinates: 40°45′39″N 73°58′21″W / 40.760886°N 73.972551°W / 40.760886; -73.972551

The Friars Club is a private club in New York City, founded in 1904 and famous for its risqué celebrity roasts. The club's membership is composed mostly of comedians and other celebrities. It is located at 57 East 55th Street between Park and Madison Avenues in a building referred to as "the Monastery."[1]


Early years[edit]

The organization traces its roots to 1904 when representatives of the Broadway theatres working with New York publicists organized the Press Agents' Association to exchange lists of people who were fraudulently receiving complimentary passes to shows, and regularly met at Browne's Chop House.[2] Shortly thereafter it began its tribute dinners to theatrical celebrities with the first being Clyde Fitch;[2] impresario Oscar Hammerstein was toasted in 1908,[3] the year the Friars moved into a club house at 107 West 47th Street.

The first Friars Frolics were held in 1911, with Abbott George M. Cohan working with Will Rogers, Irving Berlin (who wrote "Alexander's Ragtime Band" for the event), and Victor Herbert; the money generated by the Frolics enabled them to purchase 106-108-110 West 48th Street.[3] Under Abbott Cohan it laid a cornerstone on the building in 1915.[2] In 1924 Walter Donaldson wrote the music for "My Blue Heaven" one afternoon while waiting in the club for his turn at the billiard table.[4] In 1950 Sam Levenson and fellow comedian Joe E. Lewis were the first members of the New York Friars Club to be roasted. The club has roasted a member every year since the inaugural roasting.[5]

Current location[edit]

The Friars Club moved into its current headquarters in 1957, an English Renaissance mansion built for Speyer & Company investment banker Martin Erdman by architects Alfredo S. G. Taylor and Levi in 1908.[6] Friars Club Roasts were first televised in the late 1960s, first as part of the Kraft Music Hall series, and later The Dean Martin Show. From 1998 to 2002, the roasts were broadcast on Comedy Central.[citation needed]

The William B. Williams Room, on the third floor of the Friars Club

In 1999 filmmaker Dean Ward's documentary Let Me In, I Hear Laughter: A Salute To The Friars Club appeared on Cinemax. It featured never-before-seen roast footage and interviews with Friars such as Milton Berle, Buddy Hackett, Sid Caesar, Steve Allen, Henny Youngman, Jeffrey Ross, Larry King, Ed McMahon, and Phyllis Diller.[7][8]

In 2001 Hugh Hefner's roast at The Club was the scene of Gilbert Gottfried's public telling of the Aristocrats joke,[citation needed] made famous by the documentary of the same name. In 2004 the City of New York named the southeast corner of 55th street where the clubhouse stands "Friars Way".[9]

In 2008,[citation needed] the Friars Club began a stand-up comedy competition entitled, "So You Think You Can Roast!?" On October 24 of that year, the winner performed at the Friars Club Roast of Matt Lauer. The inaugural Friar's Club Comedy Film Festival was held in September 2009, opening with the American premiere of the Coen Brothers' A Serious Man.


Frederick F. Schrader is credited with suggesting "Friars" as the organization's name.[3] Following the theme, their monthly newsletter is known as the Epistle. Officers of the Club (as distinct from the Friars Foundation[10]) are given monastic titles:[3] Freddie Roman is the current Dean. Jerry Lewis is the Abbot, named in 2006 during a roast in New York City. Previous Abbots have included Alan King, Frank Sinatra, Ed Sullivan and George M. Cohan.[citation needed]

In the 1960s, The Friars Club, The Lambs Club, and The Players Club were often confused. Columnist Earl Wilson put it this way in 1964: "Long ago a New Yorker asked the difference between the Lambs, Friars, and Players, since the membership was, at the time, predominantly from Broadway." It was left to "a wit believed to have been George S. Kaufman" to draw the distinction: "The Players are gentlemen trying to be actors, the Lambs are actors trying to be gentlemen, and the Friars are neither trying to be both."[11]

Michael Gyure is the Executive Director of the Friars Club and of its charitable arm the Friars Foundation.[10]


Between 1998 and 2002, the roasts were aired on Comedy Central.[citation needed]

Friars Club Comedy Film Festival[edit]

In its debut year, the festival featured the US premiere of the Coen brothers’ Academy Award-nominated film, A Serious Man.[15] Other festival highlights include screenings of Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture,[16] Christopher MorrisFour Lions, and the Oscar-winning short God of Love.[17] In 2011 Jerry Lewis and Russel Simmons presented a comedy achievement award to Brett Ratner.[18] Then, in 2012 the festival hosted America Ferrera and David Cross, stars of the opening film It's a Disaster. According to the Wall Street Journal, "The festival has quietly become one of the city's most sharply curated cinema gatherings. It takes the funny business seriously." [19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "History". Retrieved 2015-05-02. 
  2. ^ a b c The Story of The Friars from
  3. ^ a b c d The Friars Club Encyclopedia of Jokes. H. Aaron Cohl (compiler). Black Dog Publishing. 1997. p. 9. ISBN 1-884822-63-0. 
  4. ^ Ewen, David (1977). All the Years of American Popular Music. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall. 
  5. ^ Slade, Anthony (2012). The Encyclopedia of Vaudeville. University Press of Mississippi. pp. 197–198. ISBN 978-1617032493. 
  6. ^ The History of The Clubhouse - - Retrieved November 8, 2008 Archived October 21, 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "Let Me In - I Hear Laughter: A Tribute to the Friars Club". New York Times. 
  8. ^ "Let Me In, I Hear Laughter - A Salute to the Friars Club". Amazon. 
  9. ^[dead link]
  10. ^ a b 2008 Friars Foundation Officers & Directors from the Friars Club website
  11. ^ Wilson, Earl (1964). Earl Wilson’s New York. New York: Simon & Schuster. pp. 49–50. 
  12. ^ DiGiacomo, Frank (October 12, 2003). "Jack Carter, Smothers Brothers at Rip-Roaring Friars Roast". New York Observer. Retrieved 2007-08-15. 
  13. ^ "The Roast of Betty White". November 3, 2012. Retrieved 2013-06-30. 
  14. ^ "New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie Roasts Boomer Esiason at the annual Friars Club Roast". Retrieved 2015-05-02. 
  15. ^ Love, Matthew (June 14, 2010). "The Friars Club's new, relevant comedy contest". Time Out New York. Retrieved 2013-06-30. 
  16. ^ Edwards, Ashley (March 8, 2012). "Lena Dunham is the new Woody Allen". New York Post. Retrieved 2013-06-30. 
  17. ^ "Friars Club Comedy Film Festival Announces 2010 Lineup - The Business Journals". September 13, 2010. Retrieved 2013-06-30. 
  18. ^ McNary, Dave (October 3, 2011). "Brett Ratner to be honored at Friars fest". Variety. Retrieved 2013-06-30. 
  19. ^ "Serving Up Cinema Laughs From the Friar". Wall Street Journal. October 23, 2012. Retrieved 2013-06-30. 

External links[edit]