For fifteen years the corner of Beverly and Fairfax in Los Angeles had a comedy club before the phrase existed. Billy Gray's Band Box was many things to many people; a watering hole to Billy Wilder, a nuisance to the librettists of My Fair Lady, and a source of evidence for the FBI's case against mobster Mickey Cohen. It was also where showbiz insiders went to see an unconventional gimmick: multiple stand-up comedians on one show. In the opulent era of American supperclubs - the 1930s through the 1950s - a comedian shared the bill with a singer, a dance team and an orchestra. Billy Gray's Band Box broke the rule. As many as five comedians performed on the same show at the Band Box, something that had never been done before.
Comedian Billy Gray hosted every show at the Band Box. He frequently delivered punchlines in Yiddish just to annoy those who didn't comprehend. Elderly comedian Dick Curtis says, "Billy was a funny little guy with a bald head and the star of the evening. The place was jam packed every show. Billy Gray's Band Box was this whole other world." The Band Box line-ups are mostly rosters of obscure and forgotten names: impressionists Dave Barry, Don Corey and Arnold Dover; comic novelties Billy Barty, Mickey Katz and Bert 'the Mad Russian' Gordon; future stars Dick Van Dyke, Shecky Greene and Buddy Hackett. Comedians did twenty minute sets, the headliners forty-five and the patrons were passionate comedy snobs. Variety called it “one of the country’s heppest comedy crowds.” Comedian Leo DeLyon played it. “Ah, man, you talk about a hot room! It was small, but that’s what made it. You’d just wiggle a pinkie and you’d be getting screams. Billy Gray was hysterical. He was a riot as the host and emcee - and it was a great club.”
By 1966 Billy Gray's Band Box was an empty relic of showbiz past. The entertainment industry was changing like everything else in the 1960s and old school nightclubs were dying. In its final year Billy Gray stepped down and the hosting duties were taken over by a beleaguered road comic named Sammy Shore. He took note of Gray's multiple-comedian idea and decided to implement the concept at a nightclub of his own called The Comedy Store.