Brad Axelrod & Treehouse Comedy Brought Laughter to Thousands For Nearly Forty Years
Brad Axelrod's Treehouse Comedy Productions has been a Connecticut/New England institution for nearly forty years. Recently, Brad sold his company to John Tobin Presents. Brad's impact on the business of comedy is far reaching and well respected. As he moves into the next chapter of his life, his legacy is secure, it is one of laughter.
Comedy promoters and comedy club owners, very rarely stay in the business long. It's a business that shifts dramatically with the times. In the 1980's when stand up comedy was on fire, everyone and their uncle started a comedy promotion business or opened a club, few of those businesses are still around. In contrast, Treehouse Comedy Productions has three shows, in three different Connecticut towns this weekend.
You may not know his name because he took a backseat to the comedians but they all know his name. Brad booked and played every household name you can think of. He's played Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David, Rodney Dangerfield, Chris Rock, Andrew Dice Clay and Rosie O'Donnell. I could keep listing all the names but those will suffice.
I had my first introduction to Brad back in 2007 when I got my dream job, co-hosting the morning show on I-95. When I was brought on, Ethan Carey, Tim Sheehan and I discussed what the vision for the show was. What was this show going to be about, what was the general theme? We all agreed to keep it simple, we wanted to be the funniest show in CT.
To that end, my first order of business was to book top level comedians on this show. I tried on my own and failed, that is when Ethan told me that he used to book comedians through Brad. The introduction between Brad and I was arranged and that meeting ended up having a huge impact on both my career and personal life.
We started booking guests that were well recognized and insanely funny. In the thirteen years the Ethan and Lou Show has been on the air those relationships have developed into something special and we developed real chemistry with some of these guests. We have guys, who are regulars because we have a running, never ending dialogue. In that way, it stays fresh, the story doesn't end, it just gets funnier.
The Ethan and Lou listeners know who those regulars are, the guys that come on three or four times and year and always bring something new and funny. It's Gilbert Gottfried, Rich Vos, Robert Kelly, Jim Florentine, Jackie "The Jokeman" Martling, Nick Dipaolo, Mitch Fatel, "The Reverend" Bob Levy and before his passing Patrice O'Neal. Then we have the "super-regulars," the guys who are on the show six to ten times a year like RC Smith and John Romanoff. All these relationships were Brad Axelrod's doing.
Brad and my relationship got even more tangled in 2009 when I approached him about trying stand-up comedy. He simply said yes and I was booked for my first gig at "The New/Old Sorrento" restaurant in Danbury. Everyone from Danbury remembers the shows that Brad would do there. It was a unique room, in fact if you sat in the right seat you could only see the comedian from the neck down but you were never more than fifteen feet from guys you'd seen on the Tonight Show.
My first show was a disaster, so was the second, third and fourth. Brad kept booking me. In the time I did stand up comedy I only did about five shows for anyone but Brad. I eventually stopped doing stand up but got a lifetime of memories from it. In the time I did it, Brad didn't just book me and pay me, he mentored me and introduced me to almost all of my comedy heroes.
Brad, RC Smith and I started a side business together about three years ago, launching a podcast. On a small budget we started the Smith and Milano Podcast presented by Treehouse Comedy Productions. Every Saturday for over a year, I'd drive to Waterbury and meet Brad in the McDonald's parking lot to pick up his laptop, the only laptop that any of us had, that could sustain recording and editing the podcast. I'd drive back to Danbury, RC Smith would drive from Brooklyn to meet me there and we would record the podcast in my garage. That podcast was one of the funniest things you never heard.
On paper, for outsiders, it's plain as day, the time Brad spent as a comedy mentor and business partner to me, was a waste. I quit comedy because I was either not good enough, didn't put in the proper effort or both. We stopped the podcast because it became too time consuming and had few listeners. I can understand why someone would think we wasted countless hours together. I don't see it that way and I am pretty sure he doesn't either.
I got to play Mohegan Sun, I did have shows where I killed, with headlining comedians watching. I got Beetlejuice drunk because Bob Levy told me not to get him drunk. I did a joke about getting my ass kicked by a guy in a wheelchair in front of a guy in a wheelchair and made him pee his pants. I've made hecklers regret they were ever born.
I once got a phone call on a Sunday morning from Jim Florentine who had watched me bomb the night before, he called to tell me, "it happens to everyone and keep going." I opened for Bobby Slayton, Mitch Fatel, Patrice O'Neal, Rich Vos, Bob Levy and Joey Kola. I can also say I am part of a fraternity of people who bombed hard on stage, sweating under hot lights and stuck it out until the end.
None of this was a waste of time because I lived out so many dreams, made lifelong memories and got to joke and laugh with comedians and with Brad. Comedy, in all it's forms, is both the best kind of art and the hardest to do well. The business of laughter has been my business since I was 19 years old and without Brad Axelrod, it would not have been half of what it is today. Brad is responsible for so many of my laughs and in that way, I'm no different than the thousands of people in CT who attended his shows over the last thirty some odd years.
He may have been behind the scenes but he was the guy who brought you the show each week. He provided, a much needed distraction from the grind of daily life, every weekend. He brought it to Danbury, Bethel, New Milford, Stratford, Uncasville, Derby, Westport, Windsor Locks, Newtown and so many others.
Brad Axelrod is one of a kind, a great business man, a kind human being and one of the great family men you will ever meet. I always called Brad, Bradley and when he'd pick up the phone, the first thing he'd say is "Lou Lou, what up, my brother, my brother?" He's been a great friend for years, I love his wife Kathy who has always been sweet to me and I just want to thank him for the laughter, so much laughter.
This morning (9/26/19) we had Brad on the Ethan and Lou show to thank him and share more stories.
This is one of a hundred other photos like it that hang in Brad's office.
(Left to Right: Dom Fig, Myself, Mark Hintz and Brad Axelrod. Mohegan Sun's "Cabaret Theater" back in 2014.) Sadly, I only have about six photos where Brad and I are together and believe it or not, this is the best quality photo.
RC Smith and I, in my garage, recording the Smith and Milano Podcast brought to you by Treehouse Comedy Productions.
The Smith and Milano logo. I hated the design then, I hate it now, Brad and I argued about it, he won, he often wins arguments.
He'd never forgive me if I did not tell you that Treehouse Comedy Productions Presents Gilbert Gottfried this Saturday night (9/28/19) in Seymour, CT