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February 22, 2011

Tell Your Friends! Movie Trailer and Interview with Liam McEneaney
by WomenInComedy - 0

By WICF Staff

Tell Your Friends! The Concert Film! is a paean to the indie comedy scene of New York City. The boilerplate describes it as, "the story of not just a show, but a scene — a generation of comedians who honed their craft in the bars, rock clubs, and little black box theatres outside the mainstream comedy club circuit."

Liam McEneaney created the show "Tell Your Friends!" as well as the film, and WICF spoke with him about both, along with the state of the alt. comedy scene today.

WICF: How did you get involved with “Tell Your Friends!”?

Liam: I started Tell Your Friends! as a "workout room" — essentially, as a way for me and my friends to have a room where we could experiment and feel free to try new material without the pressure of a comedy club; if an audience is paying a two drink minimum on top of a $35 cover, they don't want to see you dicking around with a fifteen-minute bit about Moses and the Exodus. But once someone gets into a show for five bucks or free, they understand that the trade-off is that they're not going to see a full-on professional show. The result is something between a real comedy club and a group therapy session. And as a result, some of the best shows I've ever seen have been at “TYF!”

WICF: How long have you been hosting?

Liam: I've been producing this show for 5 1/2 years, which is about five years longer than is good for my mental health.

WICF: How did you get involved with The Onion?

Liam: I'd seen some of The Onion's editors — Todd Hanson, Joe Garden — perform at other shows, and I decided that they should also perform at my show. So I basically bothered Todd over and over for months, sending him cold-call e-mails even before I'd met him, asking him to do my show until he finally relented. By the way, that's generally a terrible strategy, but luckily I'm too nuts to know any better. Once Joe and Todd started doing my show, other members of The Onion writing staff started performing, and I got to know them. It's kind of fun to get to hang out in the offices of a publication that I'd been a fan of for years and years.

Tell Your Friends! The Concert Film! features performances by some of the best comedians the NYC comedy scene has produced: Reggie Watts, Kurt Braunohler & Kristen Schaal, Christian Finnegan, Leo Allen, Rob Paravonian, Liam McEneaney, and folk-rock duo A Brief View of the Hudson.

WICF: How about The Humor Network?

Liam: The Humor Network was a series of joke-of-the-day sites that my friend Prescott Tolk, who is a funny comedian in Chicago, got me involved with. A very involved pun I wrote for them ended up on Rod McKuen's site as the worst joke he'd ever heard. You can find it if you google "friar werks fort of jewel eye."

WICF: When did you realize you really had something going here — something outside the mainstream, but still awesomely successful — and ready to be filmed?
A few years back, Nick DiPaolo did my show. It was a lot of work to talk him into it, and it was totally worth it. Even though my show is in a bar basement and he's more of a comedy club guy, he's so smart and funny he gelled with my audience perfectly. And after his set, he was telling me that that's kind of room he could see himself filming a DVD in. Then I did a benefit for Save Darfur a couple of years ago at The Bell House, that John Oliver headlined. As he was performing, I stood in the back of the room and it was just such a great vibe. I just kind of took in the whole scene — the audience, the stage, the room, the whole peaceful friendly feeling in the audience, and felt it was a shame that there were no cameras to capture it. In fact, The Bell House was my first choice for filming this movie, and luckily they were happy to have us.

Also, the alt. comedy scene is a lot more female-friendly than the comedy club scene. Alt. comedy fans are generally the most supportive of female comedians.

WICF: Can you tell us about the process of getting this film made?

Liam: 10 Easy Steps to Making a Concert Film:

  1. Convince an amazing director — in this case, Victor Varnado, who'd just made his own concert film — to work with you. Explain your vision, and watch him both get it and immediately make suggestions on how it could realistically work.
  2. Convince one of the best editors in the business who is also luckily your friend — the great Steve Rosenthal — to work on your movie. Promise and swear on your mother's grave that all the cool things you want to do will work even though no one's done them in a comedy special or movie before.
  3. Talk to some of the best comedians you know and ask them to be in it. They will say yes because they don't want to hurt your feelings, and because realistically the odds of getting something like this funded are astronomically high.
  4. Spend a year finding someone willing to invest in your dream.
  5. Seriously, nothing will happen if you quit halfway through step 4. You're going to hear the word "No" a lot in varying degrees of rudeness. Luckily, I chose to do this during the worst economic downturn in US history in the past 30 years.
  6. Get the money from a guy who actually gets your vision, and then let your cast know that this movie is actually happening. If anyone's on the fence, lay an incredible guilt trip on them. Do whatever it takes to keep them from bailing.
  7. Realize that scheduling-wise, the only way you can get your entire cast in one place is to do it a month-and-a-half later. Which means you have to officially hire dozens of people, and commit to paying everybody thousands of dollars, before you even get the money.
  8. By the way, putting together a movie in a month-and-a-half's time is impossible.
  9. Shoot your movie anyway. Be amazed that despite everything that's going wrong, a whole hell of a lot more is going right.
  10. Realize that now that you've got a movie, you have to sell it, and that your work is just beginning.

WICF: When you tour, do you stick to alternative venues? Is it a conscious choice?

Liam: When I perform in Europe, I can make a decent amount of money doing shows you'd consider "alt" — bars, restaurants, back rooms, etc. They just don't have as many purpose-built comedy clubs. But one of the things I'd like to do is tour the U.S. doing the whole Eugene Mirman/David Cross thing: rock clubs, small theaters. Hopefully, this movie will be seen by enough of those kinds of fans that I can actually get people to come see me at these venues, rather than performing at comedy clubs where people come to see whomever is doing standup that night.

WICF: What do you think our readers should know about the alt comedy scene? About the NY scene?

Liam: You know, I came up in NYC at the end of the '90s, and I started with a lot of people who now are either famous already, or are gaining national recognition, or have gone on to be award-winning writers and producers. And it's actually a fairly tight-knit group. Even when people don't like each other, they're still friends because they have such a common frame of reference. I feel like every art and place produces a "golden age," and I genuinely believe that the people that fans now know, who are working and gaining followings, started in that era in late '90s Lower East Side New York.

Photo credit: Mindy Tucker.
Also, the alt. comedy scene is a lot more female-friendly than the comedy club scene. It's partly because the performers come from sketch and improv as well, which are just traditionally more democratic art forms. But alt. comedy fans are generally the most supportive of female comedians, and as a result you'll see not only famous women like Janeane Garofalo and Sarah Silverman at these shows, but up-and-comers like [WICF 2011 Headliner] Jen Kirkman and Chelsea Peretti, as well as many more your readers may not have heard of but will in the years to come. My regular show, “TYF!”, had a woman booking it for three years — my coproducer Jessica Flores. In fact, most of the film's day-to-day production staff was female.

WICF: What's the range of “TYF!” — you've recently had comics artists up, who else can we expect if we come to a show?

Liam: I liken it to a “Muppet Show”-type environment in that the variety is both broad and constantly on the brink of spinning out of control. You might see a world-famous comedian trying out new material, you might see a rock star trying out a song so new he hasn't written the bridge for it yet. You might see a puppeteer, you might see a TV star working out his issues and forgetting there's an audience listening. A month ago I had a Cookie Puss-eating contest with Joe Garden of The Onion and I convinced Carvel somehow to sponsor it — that's more typical, [and not what] you'd expect from a traditional comedy show.

WICF: Kurt Braunohler and Kristen Schaal are two of our headliners for this year's WICF — want to tell us anything about working with them?

Liam: Kurt and Kristen are two of the sweetest, nicest, funniest, and craziest people I've ever met. I'm not just saying this because they're in my movie; hell, I've got their contracts, they can't back out now. I have been a fan of theirs, both separately and as a duo, for years. I feel like people know how great Kristen is, but I'm telling you that the world is about to discover that Kurt Braunohler is one of the best, most natural comedians I've ever seen. It is a real joy to watch them work, and I would happily pay to listen them just sit and talk about their day for an hour. In fact, my advice is to find Kurt and Kristen after a show and buy them a drink and just hang out.

WICF: Here's where you totally pimp your film:

Liam: Tell Your Friends! The Concert Film! is a comedy concert film in the mold of rock movies like Woodstock and The Last Waltz in that it doesn't just capture performances, but also really gives you a snapshot of a time and a place in a cultural movement: In this case, the indie comedy scene of New York City in the year 2011. It features performances by some of the best comedians the NYC comedy scene has produced: Reggie Watts, Kurt Braunohler & Kristen Schaal, Christian Finnegan, Leo Allen, Rob Paravonian, Liam McEneaney, and folk-rock duo A Brief View of the Hudson.

It also features interviews with established comedians who cut their teeth in the scene and continue to perform at “TYF!,” including Janeane Garofalo, Jim Gaffigan, Paul F. Tompkins, Marc Maron, Colin Quinn, and plenty more. Look for it to come out some time at the end of 2011, early 2012.

Liam McEneaney is a standup comedian based in New York City. He has appeared on Comedy Central's "Premium Blend," and on VH1's "Best Week Ever." He served as a head writer for The Humor Network. He also wrote for “Standup Nation w/ Greg Giraldo” on Comedy Central. His website is

Tell Your Friends!, Tuesdays at Lolita Bar
Lolita Bar
266 Broome St., NYC

Tell Your Friends! The Concert Film!

Reggie Watts
Kurt Braunohler & Kristen Schaal
Christian Finnegan
Leo Allen
Rob Paravonian
Liam McEneaney

SOUNDTRACK BY: A Brief View of the Hudson

Janeane Garofalo
Jim Gaffigan
Colin Quinn
Marc Maron
Paul F. Tompkins
Eddie Brill
Wyatt Cenac
Hannibal Buress
Kumail Nanjiani


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