The Comic Strip is an unscripted series that chronicles the behind-the-scenes mayhem and on-stage antics of an iconic Canadian comedy club following the Covid-19 pandemic. The show mixes a highly neurotic comedy club owner, reminiscent of Larry David, with the unfiltered behind-the-scenes comedy elements of The Larry Sanders Show. The setting for the series will be Edmonton's The Comic Strip, the renowned comedy club owned by industry icons Rick and Tammy Bronson. Sister clubs located in Phoenix, Minneapolis and New Jersey are also potential additional locations. With full and unrestricted access, the series provides an unfiltered glimpse behind-the-scenes of some of the leading comedy clubs in North America.
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on the comedy industry – sensitive to the serious nature of Corona virus, club-owners, promoters, and comics canceled all live shows in an effort to flatten the curve and ensure public safety. As the economy gradually re-opens, club owner Bronson is now battling various government legislation and restrictions in an effort to keep his club afloat. The already challenging efforts to book quality headliners and fill the club with enthusiastic audiences has become even more taxing. But as far as Rick Bronson is concerned, "comedy is an essential service" and "laughter reminds us that we are all in this together."
Amidst these tense conditions we’ll see the day to day operations of this bizarre business Rick runs with his madcap family. We will be a fly-on-the wall as he tries to navigate this new comedy climate while still seeking to grow his comedy empire. And of course, there are the comedians. From the famed names audiences know and love, to the talented openers trying to become the next big star, the series will be filled with comedians continually jockeying to top each other with the most creative zingers. Rick Bronson is a self-described “comedy nerd”, who started working professionally as a magician at age 12 before becoming a busy and successful stand-up comedian.
Rick has “done it all and seen it all” when it comes to comedy. Traveling the globe with his acerbic act, Rick earned a sizable cult following, one that provided a platform for developing and hosting his own offbeat travel show, The Tourist. Rick has worked on numerous films and television projects and has hosted events for the likes of Bill Clinton, ark Burnett, Martin Short, and Dr. Phil. Rick’s battle with Crohn’s disease provided colorful material for his act: “I had about 35 minutes in my routine just on my ass — which is impressive!” The disease also meant that Rick had to reduce his travel schedule and find a different way to stay in the business he loves. So he decided to start his own comedy club – The Comic Strip.
Rick's first club opened in Edmonton, with two other successful clubs following in the United States and a fourth now on the way. Bronson has booked top headliners including: Bert Kreischer, Ali Wong, Russell Peters, Iliza Shlesinger, Anthony Jeselnik, Brent Morin, Hannibal Buress, Theo Von, Michael Che, Jo Koy, Ari Shaffir, Marc Maron, Marlon Wayans, Moshe Kasher, Justin Willman, Gilbert Gottfried, Kevin Nealon, Norm MacDonald, T.J. Miller, Damon Wayans, Kevin Pollack, Marc Maron, Tom Green, Nikki Glaser, Debra Digiovanni, Caroline Rhea, and many more. Rick is now consumed with propelling The Comic Strip to the “next level” and establishing himself as a king of comedy. He’s also on a constant quest to discover the next new talent – a diamond in the rough he can polish towards stardom.
Rick Bronson: A short-fused, compulsive neurotic whose ambitions as a comic were derailed by his Crohn’s disease. He is now channeling his aspirations to make his mark on the comedy world by growing his network of comedy clubs and grooming the next break-out comic star. The comedy business is in his DNA having started as a magician at the age of twelve and beginning work as a successful professional comic in his early teens. This is the only business he has ever known. And while he is highly irritable, constantly fretting, and seemingly always putting out fires, his unbridled love of comedy, and for the zany cast of characters that surrounds him, is undeniable and infectious.
Tammy Bronson: A strong-willed, sharp and savvy former fashion-model who in addition to being Rick’s better half, is responsible for surveying the club’s big picture. Aside from keeping Rick in line and on task with sharp-tonged jabs, Tammy oversees the clubs’ budgets, financial goals, progress reports, and book-keeping. Perhaps most importantly to the lifeline of the clubs, she is responsible for booking all the talent. She deftly deals with underhanded agents and maneuvers around high-maintenance managers. Her keen eye for spotting up-and-coming talent has been integral in launching the careers of many well-known comics. While her relationship with Rick is often highly contentious and combustible, their mutual respect and love for each other, and for the craft of comedy, is the glue that keeps this dynamic duo together. Their mutual focus on growing their burgeoning comic empire is what truly bonds them as a team.
Noah Bronson: The charming millennial is Rick and Tammy’s first-born son and heir-apparent to take over the family business. Noah has been brought up in comedy and has had his hand in virtually every aspect of the operation, from busboy, to sound and lighting. Rick has made sure that his boy has been schooled in all facets of the biz. He is now a floor manager, ensuring that everything is set up properly for each show, and he is often a liaison with the talent. When it comes to schmoozing and showing the talent a good-time, Rick says “he is definitely a chip off the old block.” His prowess at winning comics over has not gone unnoticed. He is increasingly being courted by some of the larger agencies as a potential talent rep – a prospect Rick doesn’t necessarily mind so long as he eventually comes back to the fold with intel that will help propel the family business. And while Rick takes a profound sense of pride in his son’s charisma, Noah’s cavalier demeanor, nonchalant attitude, and propensity to take it to the limits with the comics, invariably causes his dad to blow his top and go irate.
Sheila Bronson: Rick’s doting Jewish mother is a cross between Barbara Streisand and Dr. Ruth. Noted for her colour-coordinated outfits, constant calls to check-in, and distinct bombastic laugh, she and Rick are continually in competition for who can be the center of attention. Ostensibly immune to Rick’s tirades and outbursts her sense of humor overrides any family friction. Sheila’s ability to ingratiate herself to all those around her make this family matriarch a harmonious force of nature. As Rick wryly states, “Tammy and the kids may be indifferent to me, but they love my mother.”
Dino Difilippo: Rick’s acerbic right-hand man and operations manager for all the clubs. Looking like a wise-guy straight out of central casting for the Sopranos, Rick trusts “the big man” with hiring staff, payroll, overseeing the kitchen and the bar, as well as fixing any issues that arise with comics or patrons. A groomsman when Rick married Tammy, the club-owner values Dino’s loyalty and ability to “shoot straight”. Rick entrusts him with making sure everything is copacetic with the highly unpredictable comics. When describing his sarcastic confidant, Rick attests, “I have been in this business over 3 decades and nobody can fire a biting zinger like the big man.” And while Rick celebrates his sidekick’s sardonic wit, he also notes, “don’t let his back-handed barbs fool you, his heart is as big as he is.”
David Facey: Rick’s flamboyant V.P. of Operations is the highly excitable, detailed-oriented executive that makes sure all the clubs’ shows run smoothly. Facey meticulously attends to all the minutiae of the day-to-day operations and fastidiously oversees the quality control of the show productions. Bathrooms must be clean, sound-checks must be performed, lighting must be modified, and every item effecting the clubs’ presentations must be scrutinized so audiences can get swept up in the show’s laughter. Facey’s often gleeful attitude stands in stark contrast to the caustic cutting tones of his co-workers.
The Comics: The clubs have featured many well-known comedians such as Norm Macdonald, Bert Kreisher, Ali Wong, Russel Peters, Iliza Shlesinger, Anthony Jeselnik, Brent Morin, Hannibal Buress, Theo Von, Michael Che, Jo Koy, Ari Shaffir, Marlon Wayans, Moshe Kasher, Justin Wilman, Gilbert Gottfried, Marc Maron, Tom Green, Caroline Rhea, Nikki Glasser, Kevin Nealon, Kevin Pollack, Damon Wayans and many more. All of these comics come to the clubs with their varied histories and sagas and will provide each episode with a mix of theatrics, commotion, amusement, insight, and of course humor.
Season 1 Story Arcs
The Comic Strip will have many compelling story arcs in it’s premiere season. The landscape of the comedy industry remains uncertain. Will audiences congregate to watch live comedy shows once gathering restrictions are lifted and will there be the same number of opportunities for comics to flourish? Will The Comic Strip still be the hub for top North American talent or will travel restrictions and health fears from top-tier headlining talent inhibit the club's ability to procure top talent? Other new headaches include legislation cutting the clubs capacity in half, regulations that increase seating distancing, and limitations of comic "meet and greets" for the fans.
For Rick and Tammy as well as the rest of The Comic Strip family, these are certainly trying times. Any momentum the club had prior to the Covid-19 quarantine has come to a screeching halt. The Bronson's were in the midst of leveraging his group of comedy clubs into more cities across North America.
Despite suffering financial blows from the Covid fallout, Rick is determined to forge ahead with the opening of a new club in New Jersey. The re-development of the mall, where the club will be located, has faced many delays, creating added grief for everyone. Furthermore, dealing with a unionized workplace has proved no easy task – the added stress has led to even more of Rick’s infamous rants and outbursts. But in his eyes, all the suffering and obstacles are worth navigating because of the potential big payoff.
Not only will the new club provide him a chance to plant his comedy flag on the fertile east coast of the United States, but he’ll have the opportunity to do it at a locale that will draw a lot of fanfare. “American Dream” is slated to be the world’s biggest mall with the world’s biggest Ferris wheel and an indoor ski hill. The model has proven to be a key element in the success of his clubs in Edmonton and Minnesota, which are both located in malls that purport to be “the world’s biggest,” and attract a lot of tourists. Bronson has also received some initial interest from venture capitalists who could help him transition from having a handful of clubs to becoming a truly national brand with dozens of marquees, featuring his name, across the continent – an auspicious opening of his new club in New Jersey is a vital step in this process.
Over the first season we will also follow Rick’s unrelenting quest to discover and groom the next breakout comic star and attract the hottest headliners to his clubs. Respect from his peers and his reputation as a comedy purist are vital to Rick and now it’s time to cement his craved comedy legacy. As Rick notes, he will “schlep his tochus from hell (his club in Phoenix) to hell frozen-over (his clubs in Minneapolis and Edmonton)” as many times as needed to ensure the success of the clubs that all bare his name.
Cultivating a nurturing new talent is also Rick’s passion. All of his clubs have a “funniest person with a day job” contest and we will see Rick, Tammy, Dino and the crew, all work tirelessly to painstakingly sift through the coal to find that coveted diamond in the rough. But at the same time, there’s a never-ending effort to attract the hottest talents to headline his clubs and put butts in the seats. The on-going burden of bringing in the latest big stars, the tension and strife it generates with family members and staff, and risks it creates for Rick’s precarious heath status, will all be part of season one.
Finally, the plethora of quirky comics will provide each episode of season one, with plenty of enthralling B stories. These performers walk through the clubs’ doors with various backgrounds, stages of fame, baggage, and career trajectories. Comics are often noted from coming from places of pain and angst and in today’s political and social climate, are often lightning rods for scrutiny and publicity firestorms. Their trials and tribulations will be juxtaposed and paralleled with the Bronson family’s efforts to successfully run all their clubs, foster emerging talent, propel their brand to new heights, and navigate through turbulent family dynamics. The first season of The Comic Strip will provide viewers with plenty of intriguing stories and characters filled with laughter and drama.