May 30th, 2011 09:28 EST
Jamie Masada, Founder of The Laugh Factory chats with Judyth Piazza
The Los Angeles Magazine has written Many clubs claim to be world famous, but Laugh Factory actually earned the title. " USA Today has called the Laugh Factory the #1 comedy club in the country; " while Business Week exclaimed: Jamie Masada;s Laugh Factory, changed the comedy industry. " Who is this pioneer who has earned such plaudits?
For Jamie Masada and comedy, it was love at first sight. Jamie`s passion for comedy started from age 6 when his father a cantor / accordion player rewarded him for being good by taking him to see his first moving picture in Iran. The two stood outside the window of a local TV repair shop mesmerized as they watched the Three Stooges. Although the TV wasn`t getting the best reception and the two couldn`t hear the movie through the glass, Jamie`s father invented his own clever story to the delight of his young son. Jamie stood with wide-eyed amusement transfixed to the screen and laughed until he cried.
In addition to his wisdom and insight, Masada also inherited his father`s comedic chops. At a wedding, almost a decade later in Israel, a Hollywood producer spotted Jamie doing The Stooges imitation and encouraged his father to send the young talent to America. Confident in his son`s abilities, Masada`s father pawned his beloved accordion to help raise the funds necessary to send his son to The United States.
Just 14 years old, Masada arrived in America with little more than the shirt on his back and his sense of humor as he slept in a garage and struggled through countless jobs to make money to send back to his family. However, none of these obstacles deterred him from his passion for comedy. He always recalled something his father told him, making people laugh is the greatest Mitzvah of all. "
Though barely able to speak English, he mixed it with Hebrew and Farsi, and soon was working with professional comedians on the stage. Comedic geniuses, Richard Pryor, David Letterman, Jay Leno, and Redd Foxx, took Masada under their wings.
A dispute over comedy club owners in Los Angeles refusing to pay comedians drove Masada to create the Laugh Factory in Groucho Marx`s old building at the age of 16. With help from writer Neal Israel, he was able to turn his dream into reality, while simultaneously helping comedians. Recognizing Jamie`s passion, Richard Pryor was the first comedian to serenade the Laugh Factory stage in 1979. Masada offered to pay Richard, instead Pryor handed him a hundred dollar bill and wrote on it, You need this for your rent, boy. "
A stroke of marketing genius brought the Laugh Factory national exposure on CNN. Masada organized a march down Pennsylvania Ave in Washington D.C. asking the President to send a comedian into space. Joined by Bob Hope, Phyllis Diller, Redd Foxx among many others he drew so much attention that President Reagan asked Hope to arrange a meeting with him. Masada`s marketing savvy has always merged good causes with national publicity. As the country was gripped with the fear of the AIDS epidemic, the Laugh Factory was the first business in America to provide condoms to its customers. His innovations when inaugurating a Latino Night, Asian Night, and Women Night have brought extensive national media coverage.
In 1983 he launched Laugh Factory Magazine. After two years of self-publishing, Warner Publishing began distributing the magazine nationally. He continued an association with Warner Brothers encouraging them to create a successful comedy channel and comedy awards show.
Recognizing the branding opportunities that radio and television offered, Masada launched Laugh Factory Joke of the Day in 1987. Syndicated on Premiere Radio stations, it reached over 29 million listeners a day during an 18 year run. Masada brought live comedy to network television with Comic Strip Live. Airing from 1989-1994 Comic Strip Live became the building block for the fledgling Fox Television Network. Masada has created and produced Laugh Factory "Very Funny for TBS, produced Full Frontal Comedy for Showtime, the late-night show Vibe with Quincy Jones and is currently the creator and producer of Supreme Court of Comedy for DirecTV.
FOX`s In Living Color, was immeasurably enriched by Masada`s perseverance. His championing of Jim Carrey and Jamie Foxx to be part of the cast had a huge impact on the show`s success. He remains a huge mentor to countless superstars and industry professionals.
Masada produced the hit Disney film, Rocket Man, and the forthcoming film, Behind the Smile at The Laugh Factory with Damon Wayans. He is currently producing the feature film, Born Again with Paul Rodriguez. His knowledge and expertise has made him the leading authority on all things comedy and his advice is very highly regarded amongst the entertainment industry`s top power brokers.
Jamie Masada`s passion for comedy is closely matched by his charitable contributions. He opens his club every Christmas and Thanksgiving, dishing out free dinners to the homeless and struggling artists and offers free services during the High Holidays. In 1985 he created The Laugh Factory Comedy Camp for Underprivileged Kids and was awarded the NAACP Freedom Award. For his humanitarian efforts he was given The Ellis Island Medal of Honor and the ACLU Freedom of Speech Award, for his support of the first amendment, among many other prestigious honors. Jamie Masada`s vision to spread laughter throughout the world will continue in 2008 with the opening of the Laugh Factory in several other locations.
Laugh Factory website: www.laughfactory.com