rick reynolds

By 1990, Rollins-Joffe-Morra & Brezner, the company that had given me my first break nine years earlier, had divided in two. Jack Rollins and Charles Joffe, the original partners, had separated from Morra and Brezner. Jack and Charlie would continue to produce Woody Allen’s films as they always had, and Rollins remained the Executive Producer of David Letterman’s NBC late-night show. Their former partners would retain the other management clients, including Robin Williams, Billy Crystal and Martin Short. Aside from Woody and Letterman, Rollins & Joffe were ostensibly through with talent management and would focus on production.

Although I retained a friendship with all of the partners on both sides of the split, I hadn’t been in their steady employ since 1984. However, in 1990, Charlie Joffe had forged a TV development deal with Lorimar television (which later would be folded into Warner Bros. television). Charlie would be developing TV series for Lorimar and asked me if I’d like to come back to work for him as his Vice President of Development. How could I refuse? It felt like going back home (but in a good way).

Again, our focus was on production -- we were not looking to take on any comedians looking for management. But one day a producer/club owner in San Francisco named Bob Fisher insisted that we fly up to the Bay area to take a look at a comedian who was doing something very unique at the San Francisco Improv. His name was Rick Reynolds and he had recently opened to rave reviews in a one-man show called Only The Truth Is Funny. This was in the days before every comedian and his dog decided that they would perform a “one-man show” in lieu of doing their regular “act.” In fact, Reynolds’ show would ultimately play a large role in igniting the subsequent one-man-show boom.

Charlie and I flew up to San Francisco to see Reynolds at the Improv. As jaded as we both were about stand-up comedy at the time (I had practically lived in comedy clubs for a number of years and had burned myself out on the whole genre), we were absolutely knocked out by Reynolds. His voice and his style were uniquely his own. He wasn’t just presenting his standup routine in a theatrical setting; his performance was as much drama as comedy and actually integrated a biographical story arc that pulled you in, kept you interested and paid off in a satisfying conclusion at show’s end. It was hard not to find yourself emotionally carried away by the performance -- eyes welling up one moment and laughing the next.

Rick’s material was culled from his biography. He grew up in a textbook dysfunctional family. His real father died in a drowning accident when Rick was only a baby. His mother became clinically depressed and married an abusive alcoholic. After years of agony for the whoile family, that marriage finally ended and his mother married once again. This time, Rick’s new stepfather seemed perfect and the family was finally at peace, until it was discovered Rick’s new dad was robbing banks. Rick became a morose, sometimes suicidal character during his college years, which of course qualified him to become a stand-up comic. He chased after fame, but it proved elusive. Still fighting depression and numerous inner demons, Rick married a woman named Lisa and decided to leave the show business game in L.A. and move to the idyllic small town of Petaluma, California. It was there that he started to review his life and assemble his confessional, which ironically brought him the success he had already given up on. The show ended with Rick’s anticipation of the birth of their first child. (Later, when son Cooper was born, the show was reshaped to include a hilarious telling of the birth process.) The responsibilities that Rick had been avoiding all his life became the grounding that he needed to find real happiness.

Reynolds’ show, as we first saw it, was a diamond in the rough. There was work to be done, but Rick had the chops and the willingness to continue honing the show.

We asked Jack Rollins to come out and verify our feeling that Reynolds was worth putting our collective toes back in the management business. Jack saw Rick perform and concurred. Rick Reynolds would be the first new client signed by Rollins & Joffe in nearly a decade, which by itself was enough to launch a publicity boon. Rollins was still based in New York and although he and Charlie would be using their clout to make deals for Rick and build his career, I became Rick’s de-facto hands-on manager. That meant spending a good deal of time in San Francisco, taking notes at the show every night and going over the material with Rick as he continually polished and honed the show.

Eventually, Rick left the Improv and opened in the legit Theater on the Square. He played to sold out crowds and standing ovations every night. People came to see the show repeatedly. It absolutely became the thing to do in the Bay area.

We later brought the show to New York and opened off-Broadway at the West Side Theater. New York remained a struggle and the show never really hit its stride. It closed after a couple of months. However, when the show was brought to the Canon Theater in Beverly Hills, it just exploded. Rick was selling out night after night and garnered great industry attention. Only The Truth eventually played a couple more runs in San Francisco where it remained a phenomenon and was eventually taped as a Showtime special which I produced. The show would also launch a CD and a book, and even became the basis for a network pilot for NBC called My Family in which Rick starred. (It was never picked up for a series.)

Rick would eventually leave the Rollins-Joffe fold, though we remain friends to this day and I even worked with him during the formation of his follow-up show, All Grown Up and No Place to Go (which would again lead to a CD and this time, a short-lived CBS series called Life... and Stuff.) I myself would leave Rollins & Joffe again in 1994, after our development deal at Lorimar and a subsequent one at Showtime came to an end.

Sadly, the marriage of Rick and Lisa which provided the happy ending for Truth has subsequently ended in divorce. Rick still dotes on his boys Cooper and Jack. He's living a single life again and regrouping for his next incarnation. I have a sneaking suspicion we'll all hear about it before too long in another brilliant one-man show.

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