New York Friars Club

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The Friars Club
Friars Club Seal.svg
Friars Club building
The Monastery
Formation1904; 118 years ago (1904)
TypePrivate social club
PurposeFraternal organization
Headquarters57 East 55th Street
Coordinates40°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. Famous for its risqué roasts, the club's membership is composed mostly of comedians and other celebrities. Founded in 1904, it is located at 57 East 55th Street, between Park Avenue and Madison Avenue, in the historic Martin Erdmann House (now known as the Monastery).[1][2]


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. The group regularly met at Browne's Chop House.[3] Shortly thereafter it began its tribute dinners to theatrical celebrities, the first being Clyde Fitch.[3] The impresario Oscar Hammerstein was toasted in 1908, the year in which the Friars moved into a clubhouse at 107 West 47th Street.[4]

The first Friars Frolics were held in 1911, with Abbot 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.[4] Under Abbot Cohan it laid a cornerstone on the building in 1915.[3] 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.[5]


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.[6]

Between 1998 and 2002, the club's roasts were aired on Comedy Central, which then began organizing its own annual roasts.[7]

Current location[edit]

The Friars Club moved into its current headquarters in 1957, an English Renaissance mansion built for Speyer & Company investment banker Martin Erdmann by architects Alfredo S. G. Taylor and Levi in 1908.[8] 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, Comedy Central broadcast the roasts.[7]

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

In 1999, Cinemax aired Let Me In, I Hear Laughter: A Salute to the Friars Club directed by Dean Ward. 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.[9][10]

In 2001, Hugh Hefner's roast at the Friars Club was the scene of Gilbert Gottfried's public telling of the Aristocrats joke,[11] 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.[12]

In 2008, the Friars Club began a stand-up comedy competition, "So You Think You Can Roast!?"[13] On October 24 of that year, the winner performed at the Friars Club roast of Matt Lauer. The inaugural Friars Club Comedy Film Festival was held in September 2009, opening with the American premiere of the Coen Brothers' A Serious Man. In 2013, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission proposed designating the Martin Erdmann House as a New York City landmark.[14] The clubhouse was designated as a landmark on November 22, 2016.[15]


Frederick F. Schrader is credited with suggesting "Friars" as the organization's name.[4] Following the theme, their monthly newsletter is the Epistle. Officers of the Club (as distinct from the Friars Foundation[16]) are given monastic titles:[4] Larry King was the dean, Freddie Roman is the Dean Emeritus. Jerry Lewis was 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.[17]

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."[18]

List of roasts[edit]

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.[23] Other festival highlights include screenings of Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture,[24] Christopher Morris’s Four Lions, and the Oscar-winning short God of Love.[25] In 2011, Jerry Lewis and Russel Simmons presented a comedy achievement award to Brett Ratner.[26] 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."[27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "History". Friars Club. Archived from the original on 2015-04-18. Retrieved 2015-05-02.
  2. ^ Lipsyte, Robert (May 30, 2004). "Comedy Central". The New York Times.
  3. ^ a b c The Story of the Friars Archived 2008-10-25 at the Wayback Machine Friars Club.
  4. ^ a b c d The Friars Club Encyclopedia of Jokes. H. Aaron Cohl (compiler). Black Dog & Leventhal. 1997. p. 9. ISBN 978-1884822636.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  5. ^ Ewen, David (1977). All the Years of American Popular Music. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall. p. 226. ISBN 978-0130224422.
  6. ^ Slade, Anthony (2012). The Encyclopedia of Vaudeville. University Press of Mississippi. pp. 197–198. ISBN 978-1617032493.
  7. ^ a b Fox, Jesse David (July 27, 2018). "The 20 Best Comedy Central Roast Sets Ever". New York. Retrieved 23 September 2019.
  8. ^ The History of The Clubhouse Friars Club, Retrieved November 8, 2008 Archived October 21, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Dale, Don (January 1, 1980). "Cinemax's salute to the Friars Club offers a glimpse of what it was like to be there when the great entertainers entertained themselves". Style Weekly. Retrieved 23 September 2019.
  10. ^ "Let Me In, I Hear Laughter: A Salute to the Friars Club". Amazon.
  11. ^ Gottfried, Gilbert (2 February 2016). "Gilbert Gottfried on His Infamous 9/11 Joke and 'Too Soon'". New York. Retrieved 1 October 2016.
  12. ^ "Heritage". Friars Club. Retrieved 11 December 2016.
  13. ^ Bierly, Mandi (October 25, 2008). "On the Scene: Tom Cruise Helps Roast Matt Lauer!". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
  14. ^ Gray, Christopher (2013-09-12). "Friars Club Proposed for Landmark Status". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-04-12.
  15. ^ "Martin Erdmann House" (PDF). New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. November 22, 2016. p. 1. Retrieved 2021-04-12.
  16. ^ 2008 Friars Foundation Officers & Directors Friars Club.
  17. ^ Boston, Nicholas (19 June 2006). "Jerry Lewis Roasted Again; An Abbot Amongst Friars!". Observer. Retrieved 1 October 2016.
  18. ^ Wilson, Earl (1964). Earl Wilson's New York. New York: Simon & Schuster. pp. 49–50.
  19. ^ DiGiacomo, Frank (October 12, 2003). "Jack Carter, Smothers Brothers at Rip-Roaring Friars Roast". Observer. Retrieved 2007-08-15.
  20. ^ "The Roast of Betty White". Friars Club. November 3, 2012. Archived from the original on July 11, 2013. Retrieved 2013-06-30.
  21. ^ McCarthy, Sean L. (January 31, 2014). "New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie Roasts Boomer Esiason at the Annual Friars Club Roast". The Comic's Comic. Retrieved 23 September 2019.
  22. ^ Strauss, Chris (January 30, 2015). "Terry Bradshaw was mercilessly roasted by friends and comedians at the Super Bowl". USA Today. Retrieved January 9, 2017.
  23. ^ Love, Matthew (June 14, 2010). "The Friars Club's New, Relevant Comedy Contest". Time Out New York. Retrieved 2013-06-30.
  24. ^ Edwards, Ashley (March 8, 2012). "Lena Dunham Is the New Woody Allen". New York Post. Retrieved 2013-06-30.
  25. ^ "Friars Club Comedy Film Festival Announces 2010 Lineup" (Press release). Friars Club. September 13, 2010. Retrieved 23 September 2019 – via PR Newswire.
  26. ^ McNary, Dave (October 3, 2011). "Brett Ratner to be honored at Friars fest". Variety. Retrieved 2013-06-30.
  27. ^ "Serving Up Cinema Laughs from the Friar". The Wall Street Journal. October 23, 2012. Retrieved 2013-06-30.

External links[edit]