New York Friars Club

Coordinates: 40°45′39″N 73°58′21″W / 40.760886°N 73.972551°W / 40.760886; -73.972551
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The Friars Club
Formation1904; 120 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; -73.972551

The Friars Club is a private club in New York City. Famous for its risqué roasts, the club's membership is composed mostly of people who work in show business. 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.[2][3]


Early years: 1904–1950[edit]

The organization traces its roots to 1904, when representatives of the Broadway theaters 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.[4] Shortly thereafter it began its tribute dinners to theatrical celebrities, the first being Clyde Fitch.[4] The impresario Oscar Hammerstein was toasted in 1908, the year in which the Friars moved into a clubhouse at 107 West 47th Street.[5]

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.[5] Under Abbot Cohan, they laid a cornerstone on the building in 1915.[4] 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.[6]

Roasting: 1950–present[edit]

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.[7] Friars Club roasts were first televised in the late 1960s, first as part of the Kraft Music Hall series. From 1998 to 2002, Comedy Central broadcast the roasts.[8] Comedy Central then began organizing its own annual roasts.[8]

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.[9] In 2013, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission proposed designating the Martin Erdmann House as a New York City landmark.[10] The clubhouse was designated as a landmark in November 2016.[11]

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

Female members[edit]

On June 30, 1988, the club approved Liza Minnelli, after applying for regular membership, and after the club’s board of governors changed its constitution to allow female members.[12] The club’s board of governors also elected Barbara Sinatra, Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, Eydie Gorme, Barbra Streisand, Elizabeth Taylor, Dinah Shore, Phyllis Diller and Martha Raye, to honorary membership.[12]

Financial issues[edit]

In May 2023, it was reported that the club was facing foreclosure on the Martin Erdmann House due to a building flood, the COVID-19 pandemic and financial irregularities.[13][14]


Frederick F. Schrader is credited with suggesting "Friars" as the organization's name.[5] Following the theme, their monthly newsletter is the Epistle. Officers of the Club, as distinct from the Friars Foundation,[15] are given monastic titles:[5] In 2006, Larry King was the dean, Freddie Roman was the Dean Emeritus. Jerry Lewis was the Abbot, named during a roast in New York City. Previous abbots have included Alan King, Frank Sinatra, Ed Sullivan and George M. Cohan.[16]

Friars, Lambs, Players[edit]

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."[17]

List of roasts[edit]


In 1999, Cinemax aired Let Me In, I Hear Laughter: A Salute to the Friars Club[34][35] directed by Dean Ward.[36] 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.[37][38] It revealed that after comic Parkyakarkus (Harry Einstein) collapsed and died at a 1958 roast for Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, singer Tony Martin decided to sing "There's No Tomorrow" while Einstein was being carried off stage.

Stand-up comedy competition[edit]

In 2008, the Friars Club began a stand-up comedy competition, "So You Think You Can Roast!?".[39] 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.

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.[40] Other festival highlights include screenings of Christopher Morris’s Four Lions, and the Oscar-winning short God of Love.[41] In 2011, Jerry Lewis and Russel Simmons presented a comedy achievement award to Brett Ratner.[42]

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."[43]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
    • "PRAE OMNIA FRATERNITAS FRIARS CLUB Trademark - Registration Number 1578351 - Serial Number 73800332". Trademarks. Justia. Retrieved September 18, 2023. THE ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF THE WORDS 'PRAE OMNIA FRATERNITAS' IN THE MARK IS 'BROTHERHOOD ABOVE ALL'
    • Friars National Association, Inc. "PRAE OMNIA FRATERNITAS FRIARS CLUB". Trademark Registration. Retrieved September 18, 2023.
  2. ^ "History". Friars Club. Archived from the original on April 18, 2015. Retrieved May 2, 2015.
  3. ^ Lipsyte, Robert (May 30, 2004). "Comedy Central". The New York Times.
  4. ^ a b c The Story of the Friars Archived October 25, 2008, at the Wayback Machine Friars Club.
  5. ^ a b c d H. Aaron Cohl, ed. (1997). The Friars Club Encyclopedia of Jokes. Black Dog & Leventhal. p. 9. ISBN 978-1884822636.
  6. ^ Ewen, David (1977). All the Years of American Popular Music. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall. p. 226. ISBN 978-0130224422.
  7. ^ Slade, Anthony (2012). The Encyclopedia of Vaudeville. University Press of Mississippi. pp. 197–198. ISBN 978-1617032493.
  8. ^ a b Fox, Jesse David (July 27, 2018). "The 20 Best Comedy Central Roast Sets Ever". New York. Retrieved September 23, 2019.
  9. ^ The History of The Clubhouse Friars Club, Retrieved November 8, 2008 Archived October 21, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Gray, Christopher (September 12, 2013). "Friars Club Proposed for Landmark Status". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 12, 2021.
  11. ^ "Martin Erdmann House" (PDF). New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. November 22, 2016. p. 1. Retrieved April 12, 2021.
  12. ^ a b "N.Y. Friars Admits First Women". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. June 30, 1988. Retrieved September 18, 2023.
  13. ^ Staff, T. R. D. (May 20, 2023). "Friars Club Faces Foreclosure". The Real Deal. Retrieved October 7, 2023.
  14. ^ Jacobs, Julia (May 15, 2023). "After Decades of Drinks and Laughs, Is It Last Call at the Friars Club?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 7, 2023.
  15. ^ 2008 Friars Foundation Officers & Directors Friars Club.
  16. ^ Boston, Nicholas (June 19, 2006). "Jerry Lewis Roasted Again; An Abbot Amongst Friars!". Observer. Retrieved October 1, 2016.
  17. ^ Wilson, Earl (1964). Earl Wilson's New York. New York: Simon & Schuster. pp. 49–50.
  18. ^ Snader, Marc (1955). "Humphrey Bogart Roast". youtube. Retrieved September 18, 2023.
  19. ^ "Parkyakarkus Dies at Banquet After Giving Comedy Monologue". The New York Times. United Press International. November 25, 1958. ("BEVERLY HILLS, Calif., Nov. 24 (UPI)— Harry Einstein... died back stage early today of a heart attack."
  20. ^ The "Happy Deaths" of Dick Shawn and Parkyakarkus
  21. ^ "The Final Performance of Harry Einstein - Parkyakarkas".
  22. ^ "Parky Einstein Succumbs After Pocketknife Surgery". The Victoria Advocate. November 25, 1958. Retrieved January 23, 2011.
  23. ^ "CNN Transcript - Larry King Live: Art Linkletter Discusses His Career in Television - June 30, 2000".
  24. ^ "COMIC PARKYAKARKUS DIES AT FRIARS DINNER— Doctors Fight to Save Him". Los Angeles Times. November 24, 1958. Retrieved September 25, 2022. ("...Parkyakarkus was stricken at a Friars Club banquet here last night, the victim of a heart attack. He died early this morning.")
  25. ^ FilmRise. "The Friars Roast Johnny Carson". YouTube. Retrieved September 18, 2023.
  26. ^ FilmRise. "The Friars "Roast" Milton Berle". YouTube. Retrieved September 18, 2023.
  27. ^ FilmRise. "The Friars Roast Don Rickles". YouTube. Retrieved September 18, 2023.
  28. ^ FilmRise. "The Friars "Roast" Jack Benny". YouTube. Retrieved September 18, 2023.
  29. ^ FilmRise. "The Friars Roast Jerry Lewis". YouTube. Retrieved September 18, 2023.
  30. ^ DiGiacomo, Frank (October 12, 2003). "Jack Carter, Smothers Brothers at Rip-Roaring Friars Roast". Observer. Retrieved August 15, 2007.
  31. ^ "The Roast of Betty White". Friars Club. November 3, 2012. Archived from the original on July 11, 2013. Retrieved June 30, 2013.
  32. ^ 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 September 23, 2019.
  33. ^ Strauss, Chris (January 30, 2015). "Terry Bradshaw was mercilessly roasted by friends and comedians at the Super Bowl". USA Today. Retrieved January 9, 2017.
  34. ^ "Let Me In, I Hear Laughter: A Salute to the Friars". tcmdb. Retrieved September 18, 2023.
  35. ^ "Let Me In, I Hear Laughter". February 8, 2000. Retrieved September 18, 2023.
  36. ^ "Why Documenting the Friars Club on Videotape Proved to Be No Joke". International Documentary Association. March 1, 2000. Retrieved September 18, 2023.
  37. ^ 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 September 23, 2019.
  38. ^ "Let Me In, I Hear Laughter: A Salute to the Friars Club". Amazon.
  39. ^ Bierly, Mandi (October 25, 2008). "On the Scene: Tom Cruise Helps Roast Matt Lauer!". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved November 22, 2016.
  40. ^ Love, Matthew (June 14, 2010). "The Friars Club's New, Relevant Comedy Contest". Time Out New York. Retrieved June 30, 2013.
  41. ^ "Friars Club Comedy Film Festival Announces 2010 Lineup" (Press release). Friars Club. September 13, 2010. Retrieved September 23, 2019 – via PR Newswire.
  42. ^ McNary, Dave (October 3, 2011). "Brett Ratner to be honored at Friars fest". Variety. Retrieved June 30, 2013.
  43. ^ Dollar, Steve (October 23, 2012). "Serving Up Cinema Laughs from the Friar". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved June 30, 2013.

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