“The average age of a New York Friar is deceased.”
While a long-standing joke, attributed to Abbot Emeritus Milton Berle; it’s a stigma the social club is trying to dispel.
Recently, the New York Friars Club has made strides in pumping new blood into its 97-year-old fraternal order, proving to Gen-X industryites that the club hasn’t gone the way of the Catskills.
Not only is the Friars a showbiz institution, it’s increasingly becoming an in spot for young Turks and thesps to network, not to mention the best place for “a great turkey sandwich and a soak in the steam room,” according to ubermanager Bernie Brillstein.
It’s all relative
“Young” in Friar lingo is defined as anyone under 40. The club’s efforts to lower its average age has resulted in a 13% increase of thirty- and twentysomethings over an eight-year period. Today the youth core represents 20% of the club’s 1,500 members.
Aside from its signature dinners and roasts, the N.Y. Friars organizes several events geared toward frosh members. Talkshow host Sally Jesse Raphael leads a telepic production workshop on how to finance and cast TV movies, while Freddie Roman assembles a young Friars comedy showcase.
In order to entice future members, the club is telecasting its main annual Friars Roast on Comedy Central. This year, perpetual playboy Hugh Hefner will sit in the hot seat Saturday.
But the biggest incentive for Friar wannabes might be the bottom line. The club offers discounted monthly membership rates to newbies — close to 50% off the regular monthly rate of $275. The application process is another story, for in typical showbiz fashion, it’s who you know.
Roasting with relish
In the same fashion that Berle personified the Friars during the Rat Pack era, thirtysometing comedian Jeffrey Ross is considered the dean among the new crowd.
Aside from boosting the club with a slew of baby faces — notably Adam Ferrara (ABC’s “The Job”) and 19-year-old Samm Levine (“Freaks & Geeks”) — Ross is revered for perfecting the most daunting activity of all for frosh Friars: roasting a dais of heavyweight Borscht Belters.
“It’s an art form that challenges a performer to produce new material for the first time, unrehearsed, for a night’s performance,” says comedy handler Barry Katz. “A young comedian really needs to be mentored in roasting.”