What do they say about New York City: There are eight million stories, and sometimes it seems as though eight million of the people telling them think they’re comedians? No, that’s not it. It is a fact, though, that America’s biggest city is also its biggest comedy mecca. Hollywood may be Hollywood, but New York City is where comedians are born funny, become funny or arrive to thrust their funny upon us. I think we should meet some of these people. This is a recurring feature, a mini-profile of newcomers, up-and-comers and overcomers of New York’s vibrant comedy scene. It’s called Meet Me In New York.
Liam McEneaney and I go back a long way. I don’t remember the first place I met Liam, but I do know where I saw him most often in the beginning of our friendship — in the basement of a bar in the Lower East Side, seeing some of the best stand-up comedians in the country try out new jokes in a space about the size of a closet. A walk-in closet. But a closet all the same. That was “Tell Your Friends!” his weekly show below Lolita Bar — before he turned it into a documentary film about the underground New York City comedy scene. “Tell Your Friends” is now a podcast. And McEneaney has moved on and up.
McEneaney had a Premium Blend credit and was writing for the late Greg Giraldo’s late-night stand-up block on Comedy Central before I met him. Since then, he has toured throughout Europe, and last fall, released his first full stand-up CD, “Comedian.” On it, McEneaney’s engaging storytelling revisits the wreckage of his past as a school drop-out and a drunk, emerging into his 30s, single and ready to mingle. Not afraid to be awkward. A Queens boy through-and-through, he’s neither embarrassed to talk about his upbringing in front of his parents — who were in the audience at his album taping — nor by some of his friends who attended and didn’t know how to behave at said album taping. Oh, the joys of living as a comedian in NYC. Or anywhere, really. But so much more brutal, brutally honest and funny in the Big Apple. Let’s hear it for and from Liam himself!
Name: Liam McEneaney
Arrival date: N/A
When and where did you start performing comedy? “I started performing at Surf Reality in the downtown open mic scene of the 1990s. A lot of terrible performance artists went through those doors, and a lot of terrible comedians who kept working hard and got good and became the thing you enjoy today.”
What was your first credit? “Head writer, jokeoftheday.com. We’d send out a joke every day, with ads on the e-mails. The idea was that you’d send the joke to the subscribers and the joke would be so good they’d forward it to ten friends. It was the first time I’d heard of viral marketing.”
How did growing up in NYC shape your desire to be in show business? “I think that if you want to tread the boards, enter this wonderful madcap business we call “show,” you’re gonna want to do it. But in New York City, because you have less of the “business” than in LA, you have that Woody Allen ideal, where you’re less interested in creating commercial product and more interested in making an artistic statement. Or at least, it was like that; I think a lot of that is gone away, due to this city being so expensive now. It’s hard to have pretensions when you’re being priced out of a ghetto like Bushwick (!).”
Did growing up in NYC make it any easier to launch your comedy career here? “Yeah, having a cheap apartment in the boroughs makes it easier to figure stuff out.”
Have you ever considered moving to L.A. or elsewhere to further your career? “I am absolutely looking to sell out. LA is an amazingly beautiful city to live in when you have a good paying job.”
What tip would you give to any comedian who moves here? “Wait five to eight years. I know you’re 22 and want to take the world by storm, but the best gift you can give yourself is to develop away from the industry and let them discover you when you have your first solid half hour. As the ad used to say, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.
Where do you see yourself five years from now? “Interviewing you for my blog, TheComicsComicsComicsComicsComic”
Here’s the trailer from his “Tell Your Friends! The Concert Film” from 2011:
In 2014, McEneaney presents a monthly showcase of comedians and musicians presenting new material, “Comedy Notebook,” at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in Soho.
Sample two tracks of Liam McEneaney’s “Comedian”:
Which NYC comedian would you like to see me style and profile next for Meet Me In New York? Send your nominations to: thecomicscomic AT gmail DOT com