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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.[1][2]

The New York Friars Club
Friars Club Seal.svg
The Monastery
MottoPrae Omnia Fraternitas ("Before all, brotherhood")
Formation1904; 115 years ago (1904)
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



Early yearsEdit

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,[4] the year in which the Friars moved into a clubhouse at 107 West 47th Street.

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 locationEdit

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.[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, the roasts were broadcast on Comedy Central.[7]

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 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.[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,[13] 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.[4] Following the theme, their monthly newsletter is the Epistle. Officers of the Club (as distinct from the Friars Foundation[14]) are given monastic titles:[4] Larry King is the current 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.[15] 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."[16]

Michael Gyure is the executive director of the Friars Club and of its charitable arm, the Friars Foundation.[14]

List of roastsEdit

Friars Club Comedy Film FestivalEdit

In its debut year, the festival featured the US premiere of the Coen brothers’ Academy Award–nominated film A Serious Man.[21] Other festival highlights include screenings of Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture,[22] Christopher Morris’s Four Lions, and the Oscar-winning short God of Love.[23] In 2011 Jerry Lewis and Russel Simmons presented a comedy achievement award to Brett Ratner.[24] 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." [25]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "History". Retrieved 2015-05-02.
  2. ^ Robert Lipsyte (May 30, 2004). "Comedy Central". New York Times.
  3. ^ a b c The Story of the Friars Archived 2008-10-25 at the Wayback Machine from
  4. ^ 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.CS1 maint: others (link)
  5. ^ Ewen, David (1977). All the Years of American Popular Music. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.
  6. ^ Slade, Anthony (2012). The Encyclopedia of Vaudeville. University Press of Mississippi. pp. 197–198. ISBN 978-1617032493.
  7. ^ a b Fox, Jesse David (28 August 2013). "The 20 Best Comedy Central Roast Sets Ever". Retrieved 1 October 2016.
  8. ^ The History of The Clubhouse - - Retrieved November 8, 2008 Archived October 21, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "Let Me In: I Hear Laughter: A Tribute to the Friars Club". New York Times.
  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'". Retrieved 1 October 2016.
  12. ^ "Heritage". The Friars Club. Retrieved 11 December 2016.
  13. ^ Bierly, Mandi (25 October 2008). "On the Scene: Tom Cruise Helps Roast Matt Lauer!". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
  14. ^ a b 2008 Friars Foundation Officers & Directors from the Friars Club website
  15. ^ Boston, Nicholas (19 June 2006). "Jerry Lewis Roasted Again; An Abbot Amongst Friars!". Retrieved 1 October 2016.
  16. ^ Wilson, Earl (1964). Earl Wilson’s New York. New York: Simon & Schuster. pp. 49–50.
  17. ^ DiGiacomo, Frank (October 12, 2003). "Jack Carter, Smothers Brothers at Rip-Roaring Friars Roast". New York Observer. Retrieved 2007-08-15.
  18. ^ "The Roast of Betty White". November 3, 2012. Archived from the original on July 11, 2013. Retrieved 2013-06-30. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  19. ^ "New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie Roasts Boomer Esiason at the Annual Friars Club Roast". Retrieved 2015-05-02.
  20. ^ Strauss, Chris. "Terry Bradshaw was mercilessly roasted by friends and comedians at the Super Bowl". USA Today. Retrieved January 9, 2017.
  21. ^ Love, Matthew (June 14, 2010). "The Friars Club's New, Relevant Comedy Contest". Time Out New York. Retrieved 2013-06-30.
  22. ^ Edwards, Ashley (March 8, 2012). "Lena Dunham Is the New Woody Allen". New York Post. Retrieved 2013-06-30.
  23. ^ "Friars Club Comedy Film Festival Announces 2010 Lineup - The Business Journals". September 13, 2010. Retrieved 2013-06-30.
  24. ^ McNary, Dave (October 3, 2011). "Brett Ratner to be honored at Friars fest". Variety. Retrieved 2013-06-30.
  25. ^ "Serving Up Cinema Laughs from the Friar". Wall Street Journal. October 23, 2012. Retrieved 2013-06-30.

External linksEdit