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Reynolds: Larry Storch! I remember when the first book came out, you asked me to call Freddie Roman and make sure he got a book. He had heard about it, and said, "I'm in it, right? I'm an old Jewish comedian!" It was great. Can you tell me again about the call you got from Jerry Lewis about the first book, I was so thrilled when you first told me that.
Friedman: Yes, Freddie was excited to be in the first book. He became a comedian fairly late in life after working in the "Shoe Business". I had a rule for the first book that all the comics depicted had to have been born before 1930. But I broke that to allow Freddie in. He was the last comic I drew and I just HAD to draw his face! He owns the original art now. He's an incredibly sweet guy.
As for Jerry, I had spoken with him a few times in the past. He first called to thank me after the piece I did called "HEY OSCAR", about why he should get a "lifetime achievement award" from the Academy, which ran in the NY OBSERVER. He called again after he got his copy of OJC. He left a quick message on my machine: "DREW, THIS IS JERRY LEWIS, PLEASE CALL ME BACK." I thought, "Oh shit, is he pissed because he's not on the cover? Or because I made him look maybe stupid?" So I called back, "Hi Jerry, did you like the book?" Jerry's response: " DID I LIKE IT? JESUS CHRIST I LOVED IT! HOLY MOLY WHAT A BOOK!" So I breathed a sigh of relief.
Reynolds: How did Larry Gelbart come about to write the intro to Vol. 2? I thought his intro was a riot, I think he crammed more shtick into one page than would have been believed possible.
Friedman: I had heard from Mickey Freeman that Larry enjoyed the first book, so when I was thinking about who could write the foreword to the sequel, and follow up after Leonard Maltin's great foreword, I thought Larry would be perfect because, aside from being a brilliant wordsmith, he had actually WORKED with so many of the comedians depicted in both books. His foreword is a worthy successor to Leonard's, which had helped put everything into an historical context. Larry's takes off from there and celebrates the joy and pain of Jewish humor in a warm and hilarious way.
Reynolds: You have an exhibition coming up at the Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery and we haven't yet seen what's going to be in it -- can you tell me?
Friedman: Nothing from the Jewish Comedians books alas, as all the artwork has been purchased buy a private collector (aside from the "Freddie Roman"), but some pieces from my earlier books as well as the recent FUN NEVER STOPS, something from MAD, some NY OBSERVER covers, some of my TOPPS work, and I promise, not a single drawing of the "FRIENDS"!
Reynolds: Bless you.