The Friars Club celebrated in PBS “Treasures of New York”

Enjoy this Throwback Thursday with a look back across a century of laughs and comedian-on-comedian ribbing as PBS premieres a new half-hour documentary on The Friars Club as part of the “Treasures of New York” series.

The special debuts at 10 tonight on WLIW21, and 10 p.m. Friday on WNET-THIRTEEN.

It arrives just as The Friars Foundation presents the national PBS broadcast Friday night of The Lincoln Awards: A Concert for Veteran’s & Military Family.

Here’s a promo clip from Treasures of New York: Friars Club.

After its initial broadcast tonight, it’ll be available online in full Friday night.

It’s a mix of interviews with current Friars — among them, Reese Waters, Jeffrey Ross, Jerry Lewis, Larry King, Joy Behar, Lisa Lampanelli, Alan Zweibel, Susie Essman, Freddie Roman, Stewie Stone, Norm Crosby, Dominic Chianese and Mark Simone.

The interviews are intercut with footage from rare, famous and infamous Friars Club Roasts from the past. Lampanelli still speaks in awe about sharing a dais in 2006 with Jerry Lewis, Robert DeNiro and Martin Scorsese. Friars dish about the 1992 Roast of Whoopi Goldberg in which her then-boyfriend Ted Danson sported blackface as her Roastmaster.

There’s also footage dating back to Alan King roasting Johnny Carson, Chevy Chase dissing on Richard Pryor, multiple clips of Robin Williams and much more. We’re reminded that past Abbots and Friars included the likes of Frank Sinatra, Milton Berle, Ed Sullivan, Joe E. Lewis, Al Jolson, George M. Cohan, Irving Berlin, George Burns and Jack Benny.

Comedians long have wanted to join the exclusive club whose members included their idols.

Zweibel said joining The Friars Club carried with it, “the implication was you arrived.”

Ross, who joined in 1995, joked: “All my friends made fun of me because it was corny to come to the Friars Club 20 years ago, for a young comedian.” He said that’s changed a bit now. “It’s a living museum of show business,” Ross said. “It’s not really young and it’s not really old anymore, and I love that.”

The doc runs up to the present, with the renaming of the clubhouse as the Jerry Lewis Monastery, and even last month’s induction of Miss America 2015 Kira Kazantsev.

It’s a zippy half-hour that plays as much as an infomercial as it does a documentary.

Where do I sign up?

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

View all posts by Sean L. McCarthy →