New York Friars Club
|Motto||Prae Omnia Fraternitas ("Before all, brotherhood")|
|Headquarters||57 East 55th Street|
The Friars Club is a private club in New York City, founded in 1904 that hosts 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 Avenue and Madison Avenue, in a building known as the Monastery.
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. The group regularly met at Browne's Chop House. Shortly thereafter it began its tribute dinners to theatrical celebrities, the first being Clyde Fitch. The impresario Oscar Hammerstein was toasted in 1908, the year in which the Friars moved into a clubhouse 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. Under Abbott Cohan it laid a cornerstone on the building in 1915. 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. 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.
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. 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.
In 1999 filmmaker Dean Ward's documentary Let Me In, I Hear Laughter: A Salute to the Friars Club was shown on Cinemax. It featured previously unseen footage of roasts 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.
In 2001 Hugh Hefner's roast at the Friars Club was the scene of Gilbert Gottfried's public telling of the Aristocrats joke, 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.
In 2008, the Friars Club began a stand-up comedy competition, "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. Following the theme, their monthly newsletter is the Epistle. Officers of the Club (as distinct from the Friars Foundation) are given monastic titles: Larry King is the current Dean, Freddie Roman is the Dean Emeritus. 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. In the 1960s, the Friars Club, the Lambs Club, and the Players Club were often confused. The 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."
Michael Gyure is the executive director of the Friars Club and of its charitable arm, the Friars Foundation.
Friars Club Comedy Film Festival
In its debut year, the festival featured the US premiere of the Coen brothers’ Academy Award–nominated film A Serious Man. Other festival highlights include screenings of Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture, Christopher Morris’s Four Lions, and the Oscar-winning short God of Love. In 2011 Jerry Lewis and Russel Simmons presented a comedy achievement award to Brett Ratner. In 2012 the festival hosted America Ferrera and David Cross, the 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." 
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- New York Friars Club (official website)
- So You Think You Can Roast?, presented by the Friars Club
- Friars Club Comedy Film Festival
- 100 Years Of Laughs: Comedians Yuk It Up For Friars Club Centennial, a June 2004 CBS News story