Let's do The Curly Shuffle and see what's funny in Mid-Town Manhattan...
200 East 42nd St. "The Horn and Hardart Automat" was here, and it was used in a number of comedy films: Jean Arthur's "Easy Living" (1937) and Doris Day's "Touch of Mink" (1962). It also figured into Woody Allen's "Radio Days" (1986) and was the subject of the classic revue song "Autumn at the Automat."
59 West 44nd St. "The Algonquin Hotel" is still here. It was home to Dorothy Parker and her vicious circle of satirical friends. They'd prepare witty one-liners and ad-libs, and then drop them into casual conversation around "the round table." The writers included George S. Kaufman, Robert Benchley and Alexander Woolcott.
Rockefeller Center (48th St. and 5th Ave). NBC is at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, and it was here that Johnny Carson taped "The Tonight Show" for so many years. Ttourists flock to get tickets for the various shows filmed there. You can go on a tour, watch "The Today Show" or "Saturday Night Live," and get expensive souvenir hats, tapes and knick-knacks at the lobby store.
Waldorf-Astoria 301 Park Avenue. The classy hotel has been viewed in many a comedy film from Woody Allen efforts "Hannah and Her Sisters" (1986) to "Broadway Danny Rose." (1983). It's been in "My Favorite Year" (1982) and "The Out of Towners" (1970). The Grand Hotel is, of course, New York home to many celebrities. Phyllis Diller always stays there. And when Mary Tyler Moore underwent a bit of plastic surgery, she tried to hide out there. Swathed in bandages, wearing a floppy hat, and carrying a bunch of packages in front of her face, she slipped through the lobby to her room...while someone called out "It's Mary Tyler Moore!"
586 Lexington Avenue at 52nd St: One of the most famous comedies was filmed around here: "The 7 Year Itch." The old "Trans-Lux" movie theater was here, and it was in front of it that Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell stood after seeing "Creature from the Black Lagoon." She's standing over a Lexington Avenue Subway grate and...ok, it wasn't that funny a scene, but it remains extremely, extremely memorable...I think Joe DiMaggio remembered it when, about a month after filming, he and Marilyn filed for divorce.
1 East 53rd Street: The Museum of Television and Radio. This is an amazing place. The most amazing part of it, to me, is that with thousands of rare and vintage TV shows to look at, most of the idiot tourists who come in ask for re-runs of "Seinfeld" and "I Love Lucy." Meanwhile the older ones grin, waggle a finger and say, "I bet you don't have any of the old Ed Sullivan shows. Boy, we'd love to see those again." If you can stand being in a room where people are guffawing and shouting to their headphoned friends, "Didja see THAT? Haw haw haw..." this is the place to view those comedy rarities that, as yet, haven't been bootlegged and circulated so that people can view them someplace a lot more pleasant than The Museum of Television and Radio.
2 East 55th Street: The St. Regis Hotel (informerly called "The Saint Reege." Well, maybe by Kathie Lee Gifford). It was here that Woody Allen filmed both "Hannah and her Sisters" (1986) and "Radio Days" (1987). Probably the most famous star to stay here was Marilyn Monroe...it was within walking distance of the "Trans-Lux" Theater where she filmed scenes for "The 7 Year Itch."
57 East 55th Street: The Friars Club. The club is famous for the annual "Roast" that features fun and filth. In the old days, it was quite common to wander through the place and spy a few well known comedians joke-sparring with each other. These days it seems to be filled with plumbing contractors from Long Island just proud to pretend their part of show biz.
1697 Broadway: The Ed Sullivan Theater. This is where David Letterman tapes his show Monday-Thursday (two shows on Thursday). Get there in the afternoon and you'll probably catch a glimpse of Dave, or see a few regulars stroll past the folks waiting on line and into "The Hello Deli." I was in Rupert's deli when Tony "Big Ink" Mendez came in grousing about how un-funny Dave's monologues were. No, I forgot to ask for his autograph and pull out a giant cue-card.
150 West 57th Street: The Russian Tea Room was very famous as a place to see stars, most notably Woody Allen. Woody shot a bit of "Manhattan" (1980) on the premises. The most famous comedy bit filmed there was a scene in "Tootsie" (1980) with Dustin Hoffman and Sidney Pollack. I had lunch here once, and can attest to the fact that like most tourist attraction/restaurants, it was the ambience that was more interesting than the food.
57th Street and Seventh Avenue: Carnegie Hall, home of one of the most famous old jokes: "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" "Practice!" It seems that mostly concert pianists have played this fancy joint, but that includes Peter Sellers in "The World of Henry Orient" (1964). One in a while the great venue is host to a comedy legend. I remember the great night that Red Skelton played here...and that finally, after so many years of being considered nothing but a "low" slapstick comic, he won over the hearts of New York's critics.
171 West 57th Street: Anita Loos lived here. She wrote "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes." Anita Loos also died here, at the age of 93 in 1980.
Fifth Avenue and 59th Street: The Plaza Hotel. One of the most famous hotels in the city, the posh Plaza was of course the scene of Neil Simon's "Plaza Suite" (1971 film and earlier Broadway play). So go ahead and try to book Suite 719. The Plaza can be seen in many films including "Funny Girl" (1968), "The Front" (1976), "Network" (1976), "Love at First Bite" (1978), Arthur (1981), "Annie" (1983) an "Brewster's Millions" (1985). For a while the Plaza generated comedy. Julius Monk brought his famous revue here (from "Upstairs at the Downstairs") and for years, swanky sophisticates watched sketches and listened to archly satiric songs. Monk had a great eye for talent and his finds included Ronny Graham, Nancy Dussault and Mary Louise Wilson. The revue had replaced "The Persian Room" where Hildegarde and other singers used to emote. The Plaza's greatness seemed to fade after the famous "Black and White Ball" on November 28, 1966 hosted by Truman Capote. Capote is dead, and the Plaza isn't that lively anymore either. It is now owned by Donald Trump.
222 Central Park South: The "Gainsborough" (yes, there's a bust of the painter on the premises) is the home of various celebs, including sitcom-star Candice Bergen.
13 West 54th Street: In this town house, ex-Governor and Vice-President Nelson Rockefeller died while in the company of his "assistant" Megan Marshak. The comedy history in this? It led to the last funny joke David Frye ever told. As Rockefeller: "A guy of 70 doing 69 with a 25 year-old? It could've been worse. I could've died at 25 doing 69 with a 75 year old!"
65 West 54th Street: The Warwick Hotel. When The Beatles appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show" they stayed here. Like most New York City hotels, it can boast a long list of stars who've stayed on the premises. The only reason I've included it, is because it's hosted two of my favorite performers. I visited Julie Newmar and Mort Sahl here. But I can't say that I really paid much attention to the Warwick when I did.
211 East 55th Sreet: Michael's Pub. Woody Allen used to play clarinet here on Monday nights. He doesn't anymore. Evidently this place stays in business from people thinking that he does...and not remembering which night.
465 Park Avenue: The Ritz Towers. A ritzy address for famous generators of comedy: producer Norman Lear and writer Neil Simon.
77 West 55th Street: This was home to Henny Youngman, who didn't mind if everyone knew it. He was actually listed in the phone book. The last time I saw him, he was wheelchair-bound, sunning himself in front of the nearby Harley-Davidson tourist-trap/restaurant. He had a happy smile on his face and enjoyed being recognized by passersby.
140 West 57th Street: Planet Hollywood. This is where tourists think famous stars are sitting around eating bad food. A few were at the opening of the joint, including Michael J. Fox, but I think most celebs wouldn't even want their memorabilia to be on display here.
205 West 57th Street: Home of crabby wit Fran Lebowitz, famous for making a living off of one humor book published about 30 years ago. And if she'd tell me how the hell she did that, maybe I'd be living in this swanky place, too.
854 Seventh Avenue: Carnegie Deli. I once ate here with Jackie Mason, and all I can tell you is that at least it's better than the Stage Deli. Deli food used to be extolled by people like Jack E. Leonard...real healthy, long-lived individuals. Tourists come here expecting to see Jack E. Leonard, I guess. Who knows, maybe he'll turn up one day in the brisket.
160 Central Park South: The Essex. This grand old hotel used to be New York home to George Burns. In the first floor "Les Celebrites" restaurant you can see paintings by actual celebrities including Sally Struthers and Phyllis Diller.
60 West 57th Street: an apartment here was home to the author of the satiric novel "Being There." But being there wasn't such a thrill: Jerzy Kosinski killed himself in his bathtub in 1991. I'll bet the landlord raised the rent by a thousand bucks just for the sheer history of the place.
Central Park: Our tour of mid-town comedy spots ends here, on 59th Street, at the entrance to Central Park. So come visit, and your tour, and life, might end here, too.
No, no...the park is very safe. There's almost always a vibrant, noisy crowd of idiots rollerblading, morons beating on drums or walking around with boomboxes, children screeching, and young couples whispering words of love and endearment to each other, like "Yo, Bitch!" You might wander up to the Children's Zoo, which used to have cute, funny, cartoonish animal-shaped buildings and an admission price of 10 cents. Now it's full of curt, unfunny, buffoonish Yuppies and is priced accordingly.