A great long read for your #tbt needs today via David Peisner for Buzzfeed, talking to the surviving comedians who have lived in Cresthill, the so-named home that sits above The Comedy Store in West Hollywood, overlooking the Sunset Strip.
Here’s the primer nutgraf action for you:
In 1976, when Mitzi Shore, the Comedy Store’s owner and enigmatic doyen (and mother of Pauly), bought the club, Cresthill, as it came to be known, was rolled into the deal. From the front, the house looks kind of small, almost humble. The two largest bedrooms are on the street level, and it isn’t until you descend the staircase and walk toward the back of the house that the three-story, nearly 5,000-square-foot abode begins to reveal itself. The space widens and draws you toward its oddly placed alcoves, its nooks and crannies, toward those sweeping balconies, toward its secrets. Built in the 1920s, the place has a shadowy history dating to the days when the mob and the Rat Pack prowled the Strip. At the time when Mitzi bought it, the house — which sits on a cul-de-sac of pretty, older homes elbowing each other for space — was vacant, and at first, Mitzi did little with it. Then, around the time of Lubetkin’s suicide, she essentially gave the place over to the comedians who worked at the Store.
For about a decade, comics inhabited Cresthill. Inhabit is the best way to put it, really: Some had their own rooms, some of those actually paid some token rent, but many, many more were just kind of there — to hang out, to drink, to do drugs, to talk shit, to crash on a couch, or a floor, wherever. There were three bedrooms, maybe four, depending on what you’d call a bedroom, but that had little relation to how many people might be sleeping there at any given moment. No one can remember ever signing a lease.
The catalog of names is impressive: Dice, Kinison, Carrey, Maron, Robin Williams, Richard Pryor, Yakov Smirnoff, and Bill Hicks all either lived there or hung out there between 1979 and 1989. Some — like Dice and Kinison — were around for more of those years than they weren’t. Allan Stephan, a comic who was part of Kinison’s “Outlaws of Comedy” crew and later the showrunner forRoseanne, never lived in Cresthill but spent countless hours there in the late ’70s and early ’80s. “Comics were all of a sudden getting respect, so we could get away with murder,” Stephan says. “And we did.” Mitzi saw the Store as a place for comics to work out and improve, essentially comedy college. “Cresthill,” Stephan says, “was the frat house.”
The place is more than an interesting footnote in comedy history: Cresthill’s glory years coincided with a massive stand-up boom across the country. In the mid-’70s, you could count the number of comedy clubs nationwide on one hand; by the late ’80s, there were hundreds. This group of comics, haunting Cresthill, working the Store, helped to create the stand-up business as we know it. In that house, these comics forged a style and, more important, a bold, anarchic attitude that still pervades comedy today. But this came at a cost: Maron, who showed up around 1987 and lasted eight months living in a small room Dice had recently vacated, described his time there to me as a “big, dark baptism.”