Mark Lonow is an actor, producer and talent manager, but he’s perhaps best known for something else he did offstage — going into business with Budd Friedman to save the Hollywood Improv and help oversee its expansion as the first major comedy club chain. But there’s a lot more to Lonow’s story, from his job as a teenager at the legendary Pip’s in Brooklyn, to the improv/sketch trio he performed in with his wife and Henry Winkler which led him to Budd in the first place. From his own starring turn on TV in the 1970s, to organizing the strike against the Comedy Store in the late 1970s, to his extended family with Claudia Lonow and Michael Rappaport, to executive producing multiple specials and projects for Lewis Black, to seeing comedy through the 1980s boom, the bust of the 1990s and now the rebirth and boom of the 21st century. As we prepare to look back at 1970s Los Angeles comedy through Showtime’s adaptation of the book, I’m Dying Up Here… who better than someone who lived through it to tell us what’s next for comedy today. And why he still wants to be part of that.
So let’s get to it!