The Comic Strip is an unscripted series that mixes a character reminiscent of Larry David with the comedy club elements of Seinfeld and the behind-the-scenes fun of The Larry Sanders Show. The setting for the series will be the comedy clubs owned by industry icon Rick Bronson in Edmonton, Phoenix, Minneapolis and New Jersey. With full and unrestricted access, the series provides an unfiltered glimpse behind-the-scenes of some of the leading comedy clubs in North America. We’ll see the day to day operations of this crazy business Rick runs with his madcap family, as well as the challenges and victories they face as Rick tries to add more clubs and become a comedy mogul. 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. Travelling the globe with his acerbic act, Rick earned a sizeable 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, Mark Burnett, Martin Short, and Dr. Phil.
Rick’s battle with Crohn’s disease provided colourful 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. The first opened in Edmonton, with two other successful clubs following in the United States and a fourth on the way. Bronson has booked top headliners including: Bert Kreisher, Ali Wong, Russel Peters, Iliza Shlesinger, Anthony Jeselnik, Brent Morin, Hannibal Buress, Justin Willman, Theo Von, Michael Che, Jo Koy, Ari Shaffir, Marlon Wayans, Moshe Kasher, 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.
While Bronson’s fuse might be short and his unceasing ambition is always conspicuous, his love of comedy is undeniably infectious. His ability to dissect the craft with big-name Hollywood headliners and fresh up-and-comers working at his clubs is second to none. In revealing the backstage banter, green-room shenanigans, and normally unseen inner-workings of a comedy club, this series will highlight the diverse comedic personalities and talents that adopt this sometimes solitary calling. The efforts of upstart comics like Brett Forte, a home-grown comedian who won the club’s “funniest person with a day job” contest, will be juxtaposed with Rick’s courting of top-headliners on golf outings, his podcast, and in casual drinking and dining settings.
This program will also spotlight a wide-range of onstage performances; we will howl with laughter alongside stand-ups who have their audiences in hysterics while engaging in colourful crowd exchanges. And on occasion we’ll also quietly cringe at comics that hear crickets while bombing or being heckled.
And while Rick can regale anyone with monumental tales of gut-busting on-stage moments, he says, "Sometimes, the best performances are when we shift the spotlight behind the curtain." Long days, late nights, and a demented cast of characters with more than their share of vices means his clubs are not only iconic for the big laughs that happen on-stage.
Handling headliners with Hollywood egos, dealing with desperate open mic'ers clamoring for stage time, and managing the eccentric and idiosyncratic veteran comics, who all walk through the club’s doors with their varied baggage, sordid tales, and quirky demands is more than a full time job, but he has help. Working directly alongside Rick is his strong-willed wife, Tammy, a former model who now books the clubs' talent. Rick’s also trying to groom his disinterested son Noah to one day take over the family empire, but Noah invites more one-liners than applause from his dad.
Audiences will enjoy seeing comedians offstage, prepping for shows, greenroom interactions, and a variety of additional behind-the-scenes antics reflecting comedians’ daily rituals and interpersonal interactions. Hilarious banter among comedians in their down time, travel to and from airports, looking for meals, hanging out at the hotel bar, visiting local spots, running errands, talking shop, trading tales, ribbing each other and complaining, the mundaneness of the road, dealing with local media obligations, and crafting their set, will all be showcased.
“We comedians are generally an insufferable, self-absorbed lot, filled with a mix of self-loathing, neurosis, insecurities, ego, narcissism, jealously, moodiness, irritability, anxiety, laziness, bitterness, and insecurity … who can’t get with that? Getting to see what makes us tick, following our diverse journeys, and examining why we are compelled to make people laugh will be a combination of hilarity and horror.” - Rick Bronson
For these humorists, the comedy club is a sanctuary, a place where they can hone their craft, ply their trade, commiserate, work out material, and test whether their observations and insights ring true. Most importantly, the club is a refuge where comedians can garner laughter and audience appreciation. The Comic Strip will reveal this compelling nocturnal world centering on the comedy club and illuminate the captivating comedic characters, journeys, and stories that colour this setting.
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 copasetic 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
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’s sense of fulfillment and efforts to cement his craved comedy legacy (particularly as he embarks on his 50th birthday). Cultivating a nurturing and beloved space for comics is a large part of that identity. 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 build up the status of the contests and painstakingly sift through the coal to find that coveted diamond in the ruff. 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. Similarly, there is 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 a prevalent part of the season.
Finally, the plethora of quirky comics will provide each episode of season 1, with plenty of enthralling b-stories. These performers all 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.