Comic Strip, NYC's Famed Comedy Club, Is "Insolvent," Claims Co-Founder's Widow

Tess Wachs accuses the other co-founder of mismanagement and/or fraud.
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The Comic Strip

The widow of Robert Wachs — Eddie Murphy's former manager and the co-founder of the Comic Strip — is troubled over the state of finances at the legendary New York nightclub.

On Friday, Tess Wachs brought a petition in New York Supreme Court aimed at enforcing her right to inspect the books and records of the venue that helped launch Murphy's career and was a proving ground for such comedians as Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Adam Sandler, Billy Crystal and Sam Kinison.

Her husband died in 2013 of pancreatic cancer at the age of 73.

Now, according to Wachs' petition, the Comic Strip is "insolvent," with $13,584 worth of assets as of Dec. 31, 2015, against liabilities of $478,077. The court papers also say that accounts payable have "swelled above $300,000 (fully one-third of the Company's annual expenses), most of which is comprised of the equivalent of eighteen months' past-due rent."

The Comic Strip was opened on the Upper East Side of Manhattan by Wachs, then an entertainment lawyer, along with Richard Tienken and John McGowan.

Tienken tells THR that the club is doing just fine, and that before he died, Wachs rarely showed up at the club. "He was a disaster," he says.

Wachs' widow, who claims to hold a 50% stake, states in the petition that "during the time that the Company was insolvent and incurring additional indebtedness, a preferential transfer was made by Richard Tienken to himself reducing the amount purportedly owed him by the Company from $62,879.95 as of December 2014 to $32,064.20 as of December 31, 2015."

She's also suggesting that "mismanagement and/or fraud" plays a part in the comedy club's financial troubles.

The petition states that federal income tax returns, reviewed by Wachs' accountant, report declining revenue, increased purchases and the three highest-paid employees earning an average of only $15,935 in 2014. The petition adds, "Richard Tienken did not report any earnings even though, upon information and belief, he funds his lifestyle through payments and distribution from the Comic Strip."

Tienken has allegedly refused to allow a fuller inspection of the company's books, and Wachs has gone to a court in order to preserve records.

In response to the petition, Tienken says that Wachs holds no stake any longer, that she was bought out at the time of her husband's death.

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