The comedy world lost a key player from the early days of New York City stand-up. One of the co-founders of the infamous Comic Strip Live, Robert Wachs, died from pancreatic cancer last week at the age of 73. Wachs co-founded “the Strip,” as it is commonly called, with Richard Tienken and John McGowan in 1975 where Eddie Murphy, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock and many others got much of their early stage time.
The Strip, whose ample history is chronicled in the Jeffery Gurian book Make ‘Em Laugh, was one of the early New York comedy clubs, along with the Improv and Catch a Rising Star (and is the only of those three still in operation). In the book’s introduction, Chris Rock describes the Upper East Side venue: “The two main schools [in New York City in the 1980s] were Catch a Rising Star and The Comic Strip. Catch was Yale, and the Strip was Illinois State University, Urbana.”
Wachs, who was also a Harvard Law School alumnus, helped nurture talent like Rock’s at the club. He and Tienken became Eddie Murphy’s manager, producing Eddie Murphy Delirious, Eddie Murphy Raw, Coming to America, and other hit Murphy comedies. He also managed Arsenio Hall for a period of time.
The club was featured in a documentary this past spring, Eat, Drink, Laugh.
Wachs is survived by his wife, Tess; son Scott; daughter Ilana Davis, from a previous marriage; and four grandchildren.