“Laughter on the 23rd Floor” Sep 14 – Sep 29, 2007

Laughter poster final (367 x 600)Set in 1953, this semi-autobiographical play by Neil Simon propels us back to an America when television was in its infancy, as the author recreates the mayhem among a bunch of brilliant and wacky comedy writers struggling to concoct routines for the reigning king of funny men, Max Prince. This piece is Simon’s nostalgic and uproarious salute to his comedic roots as a writer in the nineteen-fifties for Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows”, ninety minutes of rapid-fire gags and orchestrated looniness. Imagine what it was like to work with Carl Reiner, Woody Allen, Larry Gelbart, and Mel Brooks, as Laughter on the 23rd Floor unfurls a mix of fast-paced one-liners, competitive one-upsmanship, an erratically-behaving boss, and the agony of trying to create sketch comedy week after week. All of this occurs against a backdrop of the stifling and intimidating McCarthy blacklisting, the pressures of network politics, and shaky ratings; not to mention the trials and tribulations of the writers’ personal lives: divorce, illness, insolvency, psychoanalysis. Max Prince is the frenzied star battling network brass and sponsors who think that the average American isn’t sophisticated enough for the humor in his show. Loyally serving him and striving to deliver the comedy he demands are the writers, each with their own neurotic baggage. Max deals with the dual stress of doing the show and fending off network executives with a fistful of pills and a little too much booze. Thus do angst, hypochondria, manic-depression, and job-insecurity commingle to deliver a rollicking play that is also a tribute to some of the finest television comedy ever produced. Fans of the 1982 movie My Favorite Year or the original Dick Van Dyke show, both inspired by the same group of real-life characters, will revel in this collection/recollection of comedic geniuses at the top of their game. The New York production of Laughter on the 23rd Floor, featuring Nathan Lane in the role of Max Prince, opened on Broadway in November of 1993 and ran for 320 performances. The play has been performed innumerable times in repertory and regional theaters throughout the past decade. It is at once a thrilling snapshot of a bygone era and, in the words of one critic, fond homage to “old-style comedy: fast and furious.”