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jokesmith

Laughter on the 23rd Floor

Laughter on the 23rd Floor is a play by Neil Simon.

Inspired by Simon's early career experience as a junior jokesmith (along with his brother Danny, Larry Gelbart, Mel Brooks, and Carl Reiner) for Your Show of Shows, the play focuses on Sid Caesar/Jackie Gleason-like Max Prince, the star of a weekly comedy-variety show circa 1953, and his staff, including Simon's alter-ego Lucas Brickman, who maintains a running commentary on the writing, fighting, and wacky antics which take place in the writers' room. At the plot's core is Max's ongoing battles with NBC executives who fear his humor is too sophisticated for Middle America.

After twenty-four previews, the Broadway production, directed by Jerry Zaks, opened on November 22, 1993 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, where it ran for 320 performances. The opening night cast included Nathan Lane, Randy Graff, Mark Linn-Baker, Bitty Schram, J. K. Simmons, and Lewis J. Stadlen.

A West End production headed by Gene Wilder opened on October 3, 1996 at the Queen's Theatre, where it ran for five months.

Lane repeated his role for the 2001 television movie written by Simon and directed by Richard Benjamin. The cast included several faces familiar to TV audiences, among them Victor Garber, Peri Gilpin, and Dan Castellaneta.

Why the 23rd Floor?

According to Simon, Sid Caesar's writers on the original Your Show of Shows (including Neil Simon and his older brother Danny Simon) held their script sessions at various times on the eleventh and the twelfth floors of an NBC-TV office building; Simon added those numbers together to put his fictional cast on the 23rd floor.

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