On June 1, 1976, Richie Tienken and Bob Wachs opened the legendary comedy club called The Comic Strip. Of course no one knew it would be legendary at the time. And 16 days later when a young Jerry Seinfeld came in to audition, no one knew he would become legendary either. His original sign-up sheet from that night is still up on the wall. He was graded ” Good”, and it said, “Definitely put on Mon. 6/21.”
Along with Jerry Seinfeld came other names that were to change the face of show biz forever, like Paul Reiser, Larry Miller, George Wallace, Lewis Black, Susie Essman, Colin Quinn, Gilbert Gottfried, Ray Romano, Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock.
The first time Eddie Murphy came in to audition, Bob Wachs threw him out for being a wiseguy. He came back in to audition for Richie Tienken who agreed to see him, after Eddie apologized profusely for his behavior. Richie thought he was so good, he intervened with his partner Bob and the two of them wound up managing Eddie into being the biggest star in the world. From SNL to Beverly Hills Cop 2, they guided Eddie’s career.
Pretty good for Richie who had been a bar owner from The Bronx, and in terms of managing, had managed the largest Bingo hall in the country, but never saw himself managing the biggest star in the world. It all happened when Eddie realizing he needed a manager, asked his Mom what he should do. His Mom said ” Who do you trust most in the world?” And Eddie said “Richie Tienken”, so his Mom encouraged him to ask Richie.
Richie turned him down for about 10 days, because he couldn’t picture himself being responsible for somebody else’s career. He had no experience with that. But after about 10 days he gave in, and jumped in with both feet. Immediately he was playing with the big boys because Eddie’s career took off very fast. And in 1986, Eddie discovered a 19 year old Chris Rock on stage at The Strip when he asked if there were any Black comics he could see, and Chris was the only one around.
He had made a deal with Lucien Hold, the manager of the club for 25 years, that he could get stage time in exchange for setting up the chairs and cleaning up the club at the end of the night. That night he was glad he was there because Eddie was his idol, and he went from performing in front of 6 drunks at 2 in the morning, to performing for a packed house in front of his idol, Eddie Murphy.
That night changed the course of Chris’ career and gave the club two superstars who would appear on it’s stage.
It’s all in the book that Richie and I are writing about the 35 year history of The Strip, and to celebrate we had a big party in the club on June 5th.