Levity Entertainment Group announced Thursday that it has acquired The Improv, a 54-year-old comedy brand, from founder Budd Friedman and longtime business partner Mark Lonow.

The Improv franchise began as a single club started by Friedman in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York City in 1963. The second club opened in 1974 in Los Angeles on Melrose Avenue in the Fairfax District, and Lonow became a general partner in 1979 and helped expand the chain to more than 20 clubs nationwide.

The brand also includes a library of classic comedy assets, including “An Evening at The Improv,” a series originally broadcast on A&E for 14 years.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“There are few comedy brands with such an authentic and rich history,” said Levity founder Robert Hartmann. “We are excited to build on its legacy and evolve the live experience for new audiences.”

A statement issued by Levity said the company will build on the iconic Improv name while offering “a vastly improved consumer experience for comedy fans featuring upgraded seating, premium food and beverage options, and state-of-the-art technology.”

Friedman said: “When I started The Improv on 44th Street with little more than a brick wall, I couldn’t imagine it would endure for over a half century. So much of the history of comedy played out on our stages.”

Lonow said he was “so proud of what we accomplished, and I have no doubt The Improv will continue to be the premier showcase for the best comedy talent.”

–City News Service

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