Film/VOD Review: TELL YOUR FRIENDS! THE CONCERT FILM! (directed by Victor Varnado)

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by Ella Martin on January 17, 2013

in CD-DVD,Film

DOCUSTANDUP

Victor Varnado and Liam McEneaney’s comedy documentary is simple and a little grungy, in tune with the unpretentious vibe at Tell Your Friends, a weekly indie show at Lolita Bar where alternative and mainstream comedians “workshop new material and feel free to fuck around” (Liam McEneaney, founder and host).

Ella Martin's Stage and Cinema review of TELL YOUR FRIENDS! THE CONCERT FILM!After a bland opening musical number, McEneaney starts the night — and the documentary — with some self-deprecating humor.  His jokes are followed by quick, low-budget interviews with comedians endorsing the show.  We continue into segments of each comedian’s set; peppered in between are more endorsements of TYF and vague rumblings of comedy theory (“The first 500 times you perform stand-up don’t count,” says Leo Allen.)  A great roster of comedians (Leo Allen, Kurt Braunohler and Kristen Schaal, Christian Finnegan, Rob Paravonian, Reggie Watts) is assembled, and over the course of the hour-long show, audiences are treated to a comedy buffet, sampling a little work of each.

Trying out new material live at a show is necessary for comedians; comedian Marc Maron likens it to “going to the gym.”  Christian Finnegan feels the emphasis at TYF and other small clubs is on writing rather than performance.  Colin Quinn actually prefers alternative audiences to club audiences because, “you can work a little bit subtler… Alternative was more… in some ways it took comedy more seriously.”

Ella Martin's Stage and Cinema review of TELL YOUR FRIENDS! THE CONCERT FILM!Most of the comedians cite that Tell Your Friends — the show, not the film — is special because of its size and audience.  It’s small, and the audiences are as integral to the development of new material as the comedians themselves.  McEneaney’s show is useful to them, giving them a place to try things out.  That said, because this is a concert film, we don’t have an opportunity to watch work actually develop; all we see is whether or not a particular joke landed on the night it was delivered.  Tell Your Friends the show succeeds as a comedy development lab, something the film communicates through interviews with comedians who tell us this is so; unfortunately, Tell Your Friends the film fails to offer more than a glance, beyond the interviews and one-off performances, into what seems like an engaging process.

This documentary about development, much like an unfinished set, has hits and misses.  At a fun 83 minutes, though, with some fantastic material by some great comedians, you’ll enjoy it.  You can tell your friends.

Ella Martin's Stage and Cinema review of TELL YOUR FRIENDS! THE CONCERT FILM!

photos by Mindy Tucker

Tell Your Friends!  The Concert Film
Supreme Robot Pictures & Vanishing Girl
USA, 83min, No Rating
now available on VOD
to view film, visit Film Buff

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