Made by my friends in Hand Job Academy.
Nick Nace recorded and co-composed the theme song and score for Tell Your Friends! The Concert Film!, which Victor Varnado directed. They teamed up again for the above video, which I LOVE!
Unsolicited advice is the sweetest advice of all, because it’s the kind that feels better to the person giving it than the person receiving it. That being said, after a lifetime performing and watching improvisational comedy, I feel like I’ve gotten really good at naming improv groups. That being said, here’s some suggestions for your group you’re welcome:
Three Years Before We All Start Pursuing An MBA
Breaking Up Onstage Tonight!
Six Characters In Search of a Casting Agent
That One Guy Whose “Character” Keeps Trying To Make Out With Every Woman On Stage, And They Have To Yes-And It
Community Theater Minus A Script
Instagramming Themselves Onstage
NYU Students Whose Parents Are Paying Six Figures For Them To Be Doing This Shit
4 People With Ideas + 1 Guy Who’s In Every Scene
An Hour of Their Lives Your Friends Will Never Get Back
Two years ago, my buddy Joe Garden put together an evening of John Hughes fan-fiction at Union Hall in Brooklyn, with the theme of “What Would the Lives of John Hughes’ Characters Be Like Today?”
I wrote and read the following. I posted it on my old blog, where it received thousands of views. A few months ago, a musician used A VERY SIMILAR IDEA for his web series. I hope that you enjoy it:
A legend had built up around Laren’s, how it came to be named. It was agreed that she was a woman, some said she was the wife of a famous blues musician, some said she was the girlfriend of a former Senator. All agreed that she’d died under mysterious circumstances, stabbed to death maybe in a jealous fit, or she had jumped off the Michigan Avenue Bridge only she hadn’t really jumped so much as been pushed by hired muscle, and the winds of Chicago winters still carried her scream, still haunted that Senator who had retired from politics and opened this bar before living memory and named it after the only woman he loved. Some said Frank behind the bar was that old blues singer, mourning his lost lady.
Of course, the truth is boring, while a legend is wild and strong and lives past it. Once upon a time it had been a cop bar called McLaren’s when the precinct house was still across the street, and them mick boys needed a place to drink after an eight hour shift of beating up on little black boys on the South Side. But the Irish always move on, and Frank had bought the place and had scratched out the Mc on the name of the bar, on every sign and every surface, saying, “This ain’t no mick bar no more.”
That had been a long time ago, and for years this had been our place. Where men could go and have a few after a long day working, sit in the dark and turn on the jukebox and swap lies for lies until one by one, we went home, those of us who had a home of quality to go to. Ernestine had been around then, God bless her, and I’d grumble that if I didn’t get home to choke down her poison she’d beat the black off me, but the truth was she was a damn good cook and had the prettiest goddamn eyes and she was a pretty righteous dancer, which is how we met when I come home from… but that’s not the story I wanted to tell you.
The Northwestern University kids had discovered Laren’s. An article in a magazine called it the classic Chicago dive bar, and now on weekends it was theirs. Most of the old crowd doesn’t go, but I’m retired, and I like to flirt with the pretty little blond girls, and the Japanese kids who come play jazz on Frank’s little stage are goddamn good besides. It’s crowded, and the little white kids are so polite when they come to order a drink, saying “Sir” and “Excuse me,” and Frank smiles and fetches their beer and overcharges ‘em two dollars on the beer and they don’t seem to know.
Sometimes a kid will be trouble, rude, drunk, high. And Frank smiles and overcharges them four, five dollars on the drink and watches ‘em to make sure they use his bathroom one at a time. And it was a Saturday night, when I’d bought a little girl who danced nice a drink, right in front of her boyfriend, who didn’t seem to notice or to mind, and ain’t that a benefit of being an old man. And the blond kid came to the bar. And he was strung out alright. And Frank served him his beer and watched him drift into the crowd, watched him whisper in an ear, a nod, a furtive glance around.
Frank is a big man gone to fat in the belly, with grey on the hair remaining. But he’s fat the way a bull is fat, all muscle and angry strength underneath. and he caught my eye and he knocked his fist on the bar, 1-2. And then he headed from behind the bar to turn some blond kid’s night around, and I knew what he’d meant. 1-2. And I smiled to myself. Knock 1-2.
There weren’t many blond boys hanging out in the bar at Laren’s back then, and we’d had a long argument one night about his age, some saying he was in his 40s and looking younger, some saying he was in his 20s and had walked a hard road. He was skinny, with bone and vein fighting for space on his arms, and I’d seen that scar, but hadn’t paid it no mind. I’m sure his legs were the same way. and his hair tended to drift every which way, and his eyes were old. Ancient. If you’d told me he was a ghost I’d have believed you, and if you’d told me he was possessed those eyes wouldn’t have said otherwise.
No one could say when he’d started coming around, but I can tell you that this skinny old scarecrow was better than a TV show for providing entertainment to a bar full of drunks. It always happened the same way. Random night, he’d walk in. Never no regular habit to it. Might be a Thursday, might be a Sunday, might disappear for months on end and then be there every night for weeks in a row. He’d sit on the farthest stool, and drink and listen, and drink, and listen. If he had money which was rarely, he’d drink a whiskey, a Wild Turkey maybe, or a Jameson, and if he was broke which was always, you’d buy him a Schlitz or a Pabst, and another, and another, and wait.
Because always, when he’d reached that magical amount of alcohol inside his brain, he’d interrupt the conversation, no matter what we was talking about. And he’d say, “Hey man, did I ever tell you about the Christmas where…?” And he’d launch into the crazy lie about the two men who haunted him.
Don’t get me wrong, the boy was haunted alright, and that’s no lie. But the stories he would tell, he was clearly pulling them from somewhere. And they was always the same, maybe a different detail here and there, but mostly the same. Not that we minded, not really. After a while, it turned into a call-and-response, a comedy choir with the blond kid with the ancient eyes playing lead.
“Did I ever tell you about the Christmas I was left home alone?” he’d say, and we’d leave off arguing about the Cubs versus the Sox, say, and someone would always say, “Shit, Kevin”–that was his name, Kevin–”tell us all about it.” And we’d put down our beers and we’d listen. It always started the same. He was the youngest of 5, or 7, or 9. Country Ed would nod gravely. “Sounds like your daddy got the job done.” And we’d toast to that. And Kevin would look at him and hear, but not hear you know? And keep talking.
And this Christmas, his parents took the entire family on vacation, and forgot to take him with. I mean, hell, I grew up the youngest of four, and sometimes my parents forgot to feed us, but you can bet they knew where I was at all times. But this white boy would then spin us the damndest yarn. Big house, nice furniture. Crazy old man roaming the streets. But it wasn’t until the second time through the story that Ed the Plumber really got to the heart of what had been bothering all of us.
The white boy was going through it again. Ed the Cop hadn’t heard the story yet, and we wanted to hear what he had to say. He had taken us through the part where he’d tried aftershave for the first time, and was eating junk food and watching gangster movies, and we were at the church and hearing them two boys planning to break into his house. “Ah,” said Ed the Plumber, “and now the two brothers enter the story.”
White boy looked at him confused. “They weren’t brothers,” he said, “I don’t think. They just worked together. They wanted to call themselves the Wet Bandits – “ And the look in Ed’s eye, I think the entire bar, which was hanging on this story all got the same idea at the same time. “No,” said Ed, putting his hand on Kevin’s shoulder to physically stop him telling this story. “They was brothers, right? You know… brothers. Your African American criminal types.”
The boy looked more confused, and shrank in himself, “No, they were white.” This stopped Frank. He was wiping a beer glass clean and I will never forget until my dying day the way he stopped and looked at Kevin. Frank is, as I say, a big man, and he was a lot leaner in them days, and a sight to stop a knife fight when he was in a mood, and this boy did not know, like a kitten watching the lights of an approaching train. I seen a surgery done on his pool table in the back in ‘82 and I seen him take a pair of bolt cutters to cut the hospital band off double-D’s wrist in ‘97 so’s he could go back to drinking after crashing his car, but the look on Frank’s face at that moment said, “This is the craziest shit that’s ever walked through these doors.”
He looked this Kevin in the eye and he said, “You’re telling me your neighbors was white.” “Yessir,” this kevin said. “And your neighborhood crazy was white.” “Yessir.” “And the two gentlemen who attempted to break and enter into your home with attempt to commit grand larceny were both white?” Kevin nodded, then stopped himself. “I believe one was Italian.”
Well, you had to laugh. “That must be the most expensive neighborhood in all of Chicago,” Frank whooped and he rang the bell over the bar which meant the next round was on him. When blondy stumbled out that night, we took to dissecting this story, and Ed the Cop said, “I don’t remember hearing about Wet Bandits, but there’s something about this story.” And Ed the Plumber said, “I don’t remember hearing about anyone big enough asshole to break into someone’s home to clog their toilets, but if you meet them, give me a call. Might be I can work them on commission.”
Well, as I said, the boy didn’t come in regular, but when he did, the story got crazier and Richard Pryor himself could not have asked for a better audience. In his story, he tortured them wet bandits, who got the names Harry and Marv. Marv was a tall, whiny, Jewish boy and Harry was a short, angry, Italian, and the kid would tell us about dropping shit on their heads, irons and paint cans, about setting them on fire, about shooting them in the nuts. One cold night he came in, dirty, skinny, smelling like he’d slept in the same clothes a few days, and missing a tooth in the back. That night, in his storytelling, he’d knocked out one of the Wet Bandits’ teeth, and I didn’t say nothing but I noticed, see.
And of course, there was the night when the boy said, “And of course, when they followed me to New York,” and we all stopped what we were doing and said, “What?” and he got this innocent look in his cracked blue eyes and said, “Well I told you about the Christmas my family forgot me and I ended up lost in New York City,” and of course we made him tell the story, and of course, it ain’t none of it made more sense than anything he’d said before. Tall Paul the Bus Driver caught it this time. It was around the time Kevin, I told you his name was Kevin, started talking about the Pigeon Lady, and Country Ed said, “You mean she was half-pigeon?” And the boy Kevin says, “No, she was homeless and she was always surrounded by pigeons,” and Country Ed said, “Well shit, I wish my wife was the chicken lady so I’d stop spending so much money on groceries.”
And Tall Paul looked at the boy Kevin and said, “And you’re going to tell me she was white, too.” And kevin nodded at him and said, “Yes! Why?” And Tall Paul put down his beer and looked at kevin and said, “You’re going to tell me you went to New York City and you stayed in a hotel and all of the staff was white, and you went to different stores and all the staff was white, and not once in New York City did you meet a single black person?” And Kevin nodded.
“I got a brother and four nephews in the Bronx and I know they live there because I got to buy Christmas presents and birthday presents for ‘em.” And that boy Kevin just stared. Tall Paul looked at me and said, “Well, shit, maybe I’m crazy. Am I white?” And we laughed and Frank rang the bell and somewhere in there, the New York story became the Chicago story and Kevin put them Wet Bandits through hell and back.
After a while, he stopped coming around, and it was around this time that Ed the cop retired and Tall Paul got religion and Ed the plumber had a heart attack and didn’t drink no more, and life has a habit of slowing and changing, and suddenly you’re standing in the same spot but facing in the other direction, and the boy Kevin was forgotten except among the old-timers as a “Do you remember,” kind of story to pass the time. I did see him one more time.
It was Christmas, and it was raining, and Chicago in December is no joke. Most everybody was home, but Ernestine had passed and our daughter was in London, and I was sitting in Laren’s with nowhere else to be, keeping Frank company. Some bars do big business on the holidays, and I guess Laren’s does now, with the college kids who can’t leave town, but back then it was me and Frank and a couple other people who were minding their own business and I was minding mine. The door opened and before I saw the blue eyes or the blond hair I knew who it was. Five foot seven, skinnier than he’d been in a while. If he’d once looked old for a young man, he now looked young for an immortal. His eyes were no longer haunted, they were ‘most empty now. He took the stool next to me, and normally in an empty bar I take that as an intrusion, but I could tell the boy needed to be near breathing human company, so I let it slide.
“Let me buy you a drink,” I said, and he just shook his head, “I got money,” and then he looked at Frank and said, “Wild turkey neat, double,” and then he sat, blankly, in communion with his reflection in the barroom mirror. Well, a few more of those and an hour later, I was finishing my beer, about to settle my tab, when the boy Kevin looked at me, and he said, “I told you about the time my family left me home alone on Christmas.”
I suppose I could have said No and gotten a full show. But something about the boy’s eyes that night, I knew that he knew what he was saying. So I nodded and said yes. Then he ordered another. I suppose I wanted to leave then, and I suppose I could say I was scared, because the boy had the energy that night of a man who could do anything at any time. But instead I ordered another beer, too, and halfway through his double, when he’d worked it back down to a single, the boy Kevin looked at me and said, “I got a job. I haven’t come around here lately because I got a job.” I nodded, and allowed as how that was nice.
“It was nice. It was a favor. A favor job. My social worker has a friend at the Lakeshore Nursing Home, janitor job. Nothing wrong with an honest job mopping floors.” I allowed as how that was nice, and he spit on the floor. Frank, he didn’t say nothing, he just watched that boy spit on the floor, but the look in Kevin’s eyes, I knew that Frank knew that he was letting that slide.
“It is nice,” he said. “Thought it would be old people but it’s not that kind of nursing home. Quiet. Lot of crazy people there. Not crazy. Damaged. Like a halfway home for the mentally incapacitated. Rich people send their damaged kids…” and he trailed off and he looked at his glass and whatever it said to him must have made him sad because he drained it in one swallow and a sigh. Frank refilled it without being asked.
“When they came for me,” he said, “When they broke into my home, on Christmas Eve, I brained ‘em. I brained ‘em good. In the cartoons I watched.” He drank. “In them Looney tunes, you knock a man out dropping an iron on his head, he gets up with cartoon birds chirping and he gets back to work. But the one guy, I knocked him on the head with the iron, 1-2… 1-2, and he was down and the other one, he saw what I done, and he got out a big nasty buck knife, and he looks at me with murder in his eyes. Murder. I don’t remember getting up, I just remember running, up the stairs. Locking myself in the bathroom. He screamed… I can’t believe none of the neighbors didn’t hear the screams. Or the knocking down the door. He cut me…” and here he rolled back the sleeve of his shirt and showed us a scar ran along the length of his arm, from wrist to elbow. “And he cut me.” And the boy lifted his shirt, showed us a snow-white belly with a scar, it ran all the way down under his belt.
“And the third cut I grabbed the knife. He was a grown man but I was scared, like scared strong, you know? I grabbed it, and I… and I tried to flush the knife after. The cops came and said I’d done nothing wrong, it was self-defense. The other one, he lived, if you call that living. His parents had money, I guess. Enough to hire a lawyer and they sued my parents and they got the house. Everything changed,” he said.
Just then, there was a burst of laughter from the group in the back, and it was a jolt back into the world, and it felt profane, like swearing in a church on Sunday. But the boy Kevin, he didn’t hear. He was buried a thousand miles deep in the dirt.
“I was in the nursing home today, and I was sent to bring a bedpan to a room on the long-term care floor. Most of my work was short-term, because that’s where you get guys pissing the bed, the floor, themselves. But I brought this bedpan into this room. Brain damage, I could see that. Permanent brain damage. Struck on the head with a blunt object and left incapacitated, unable to fend for himself, without the wits to ties his shoes. Drooling in bed, an idiot grin on his face, and the worst part was, when he looked at f c, for a split second I swear he knew who I was. And it ‘most knocked me down, 1-2. 1-2.”
And he drained his glass, and he put on his coat, and he walked out into the night. And Frank waited a second, and in the quiet of that moment he said, “Shit, he didn’t pay his tab.” And I said, “Well, might be I can cover him. How much did he owe?” And Frank said, “Forty-seven dollars,” and I said, “Forty-seven dollars? You better go catch him then.” And Frank laughed and he rang the bell and he said, “The last ten rounds were on me.”
You can read it here.
Buy tickets here: http://tinyurl.com/seeliam
Hosted by Rob Paravonian
Opening acts: COLIN JOST and DAVE HILL
LIAM McENEANEY records his second album for Comedy Dynamics
LIAM McENEANEY has been performing as a professional standup comedian since the age of 19, when he left school with a college comedy game show tour. Since then, he’s appeared on TV, toured extensively through Europe and across the United States, and produced and starred in a critically-acclaimed standup movie, “Tell Your Friends! The Concert Film!”, which had its world premiere at the 2011 SXSW Film Festival. His first album, “Comedian,” was critically-acclaimed and debuted atop the iTunes and Amazon charts. It has been played everywhere from Sirius/XM’s various comedy channels to the Dr. Demento Radio Show.
WITH SUPPORT ACTS:
COLIN JOST is the co-anchor on SNL’s “Weekend Update.” His standup credits include HBO, TBS, and “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” and wrote and appeared in the comedy “Staten Island Summer.”
DAVE HILL is a regular contributor to NPR’s “This American Life,” and is the host of “The Goddamn Dave Hill Show” on WFMU. As a comedian, he has toured internationally, and has appeared on HBO and Cinemax. He also wrote the theme for “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.”
ROB PARAVONIAN has appeared on Comedy Central and Vh1 and in the film “Tell Your Friends! The Concert Film!”, and his YouTube video, “Pachelbel Rant,” achieved international fame with over 12 million hits and counting.
(NOTE: Lineup subject to change)
I’m recording my next album on January 10th, a Sunday in the year of our Lord 2016, at a live show at The Bell House in Brooklyn. As I am a lucky ol’ fella, my buds Colin Jost, Dave Hill, and Rob Paravonian will be opening for me. It will be recorded for release by Comedy Dynamics, a wonderful record label.
My first album, Comedian, which was released two years ago by ASpecialThing Records, was not only a professional milestone, but a personal one as well. I know that as a young comic in the 2010s, I’m supposed to be all about the TV or Netflix special, but when I was a kid I would go to sleep almost every night listening to the Richard Pryor, or the George Carlin, or even Cosby albums. (I know, I know. I never thought I’d describe the late ‘90s as a “more innocent time,” but there you go.) To me, the comedy album was the real Big Time.
And especially to release an album on AST, the same label as releases the albums by some of my favorite comics, including Paul F. Tompkins, Jen Kirkman, and on and on, was–and still is–a huge thrill.
That being said, putting together a full hour of material is not as easy as just “saying funny stuff into a microphone.” I had a whole philosophy about the material I wanted to present, and it’s a process that a few people have actually asked me about. I always warn folks, “Comedy is way more boring than you’d think.” And then they insist and then I proceed to prove my point because, what the hell, talking about myself is one of my favorite activities after all.
So for your elucidation, and to save myself breath the next time I’m at a party and someone asks, “Oh, what do you do?”, here is a track-by-track breakdown of how I put an hour’s worth of material together for my first album. (You can listen to it for free on Spotify right here.)
- POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS
This recording was the first time I’d performed the bit live in probably three or more likely five years. When I actually made the deal with AST Records, I decided I didn’t want this to just be a “Greatest Hits of Liam’s Standup.” I had a specific vision for Comedian, something a little jazzier, a little more mid-early Nighthawks/Blue Valentine/Heartattack + Vine Tom Waits.So I went through my archives and while doing some digging, I remembered my positive affirmations, which I had originally specifically written for an appearance at Eating It at the Ludlow Street rock club Luna Lounge. When I started standup, “alternative comedy” was the hot term for “anything that isn’t recognizable “didja ever notice?” comedy club comedy. The big show in New York City that all the press and industry and in-the-know fans went to was Eating It at Luna Lounge. If you were a newer comedian, the pressure was always on to kill there, and showcase your “range” by not just doing polished comedy material (even though the TV bookers and agents there totally wanted to see nothing but your polished comedy material). So I came up with the affirmations, which was originally three times as long. I workshopped it at an open mic around the corner, called “Faceboyz Open Mic.” It went really well, but there weren’t too many other shows I could really feel comfortable busting it out.
But clearly it was, as Willie Nelson says, always on my mind. I thought it might be good to have Heidi Vanderlee play something meditation-y behind me on the cello. She picked a Bach piece. “Love is beautiful but porn is easy” is always one of my favorite, not jokes, but laughs I get on a joke. When this bit was played on the Dr. Demento Show, it was, to me, like receiving a Nerd Grammy.
- LIVING SINGLE
This is just a collection of one-liners I like that I was opening my set with at the time. If you can open with a handful of killer one-liners, you can lead an audience down any road you like. While I was definitely ready to retire them by the time I recorded Comedian, I thought it would be nice to get them all in one place. They’re interspersed around Tell Your Friends! The Concert Film! , but I’m proud of having written these jokes. For instance, writing the “Sex/Olympic Athlete” was SO. MUCH. WORK. I have a notebook where I have three pages of bad comedy writing trying to write a very strained and hacky bit about the Olympics and gay dudes, and I plucked this one line that was almost funny, reversed it, made it about me, and it was like a bright light descended from on high while a holy chorus sang and hit the paper.Also, yes, I named this track after the ’90s sitcom.
- THE DOUG DATE
The problem with this bit has nothing to do with the bit. But it sets up a callback that works very well in a bit I have about karate. When I had my set list that I would work out around town, I decided to do this material in the Doug Date bit early in the set, and then call back to it in the Karate bit towards the end. But the karate bit never ended up on Comedian, which I didn’t even realize until I went over the set list for this blog entry. I’m not sure if I did the bit in the live show, and just didn’t end up cutting it for time (unlikely) or just plain forgot to do the bit both nights we recorded (far more likely). In any case, I’ll put it in the set list for my second album, which means I can use it to close all these shows I’m doing to warm up for this album recording show, but man, I’m flummoxed I didn’t put that there.
- EVERYTHING I KNOW ABOUT WOMEN
I thought it would be funny to have a track titled “Everything I Know About Women” and make it as brief as possible. My original thought was to make it a blank 30 seconds, but I quickly came to my senses and instead I put the title on a track under four minutes. It’s tough to do material about relationships, because it’s a meal picked over by many comedians before you, so whenever you get a new take, or a new way of delivering an observation, it’s very exciting. Framing the way women talk about men as a witch’s coven isn’t the most flattering way, but it was fairly original and people seemed to dig it. I’m actually pretty proud of the way it came out.
- THE BALLAD OF JOHN AND RACHEL
Rachel is the name of my ex, and John is her new boyfriend of many years, who is a very very cool guy, and they are not the couple in this bit. Seriously. I just liked the way their names flowed together. I like to write bits with crazy structure; beginning, middle, end, callback. I consider it to be like architecting a building. Some dudes are Brutalists, and just want to do the job no matter how ugly. Some dudes are Functionalists, and they want their jokes to do the job with nothing fancy. I like to try for a Frank Lloyd Wright; even if not every part of it is functional, it’s still interesting to look at.The bit (and the whole set of dating jokes in general) ends at almost exactly a third of the way through the album. I like to start a set with relationship material because it’s something that literally everybody on earth can relate to, and once the audience is with you, knows who you are, and trusts that you can make them laugh, it’s a lot easier to do the esoteric, weird, and fun stuff that I enjoy doing. I’m not putting my dating bits down when I say this. JOHN & RACHEL is one of my favorite bits on this album, and the fact that I made it work in time to record it made it feel like I had just pulled off a magic trick that involves spinning plates while balancing cups and saucers on my chin while yanking a tablecloth out from under a place setting.
It’s just that I’m a bit of a risk-taker, and it interests me more to figure out how to make, say, my love of Irish folk music relatable to a wider audience. But the dating stuff is my price of admission into the audience’s good graces.
- THE McENEANEY FAMILY HOSTAGE SITUATION
I got the title from a joke I thought of immediately after the second show was over and was mad at myself for not making in the moment. I couldn’t even tell you what it is anymore. In any case, this was strictly there because I liked the bit, and it represented what was a turning point in my comedy for me, and I thought it might be nice to make it the turning point into the rest of the album. I wrote it when I worked at a market research firm, making minimum wage making survey calls to strangers. It was a truly miserable time in my life, and it was, after reading a biography of Woody Allen, when I realized that if I wanted to actually be the comedian I always believed myself to be in my heart, and not just a guy who’d done Premium Blend once and disappeared, I was going to have to make an honest to God job of work out of this thing.I was reading a great piece about greeting cards in the New Yorker at work, and realized a bit about Hallmark Cards would be relatively unique. My friend Veronica Mosey heard me do it at the Irish Arts Center and fixed it for me afterwards (by suggesting I put my cuh-razy greeting cards in contrast by giving an example of a regular card first). This was the point in my life, and my career, when I went from being a guy who could do well through sheer tyranny of will into a comedian who was able to write actual bits from my point of view without any reliance on shock value. So while it’s not a groundbreaking piece of standup, per se, it was a turning point for me as a comedian. And also for this album in a bit more literal sense.
- MY HACK PAGES
Another concrete pillar bit that I knew would hold up a section of my set; it was part of my standard set whenever I was getting paid for performing. It’s definitely one of the oldest bits on this album, and it is a young man’s joke. But I’m glad I could stick it in there, and it helps bridge into some more autobiographical material.
- MEOW MEOW MEOW
Ah, everybody’s favorite bit, and another one I was writing all the way down to the wire. It started with a couple of different things; I had a half a joke about my parents’ cats and I fighting for space in their will. It was an amusing idea with a line I liked, but had no real weight to it. I was also hanging with my dope-as-fuck friend Dr. Leona Godin a lot, and whenever our conversation would hit a lull, I’d go “meow meow meow” like Henrietta Pussycat from Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. It really is, no joke, the funnest thing you can randomly say out loud. Try it some time!But it wasn’t fully complete as a joke, and I was doing it onstage at these weird little shows in New York, and I just improvised the idea of throwing it into uncomfortable situations, like a Jesus guy approaching you on the street, but I couldn’t quite get into it. Then I hung out with parents the week before recording, and, as you hear on the track, my mom said something she didn’t realize was hilarious and weird, and I decided it would be a good way to get into the joke. I recorded the show over two nights at Union Hall, in Brooklyn, and the joke worked great except for the bit about sassing a religious guy. It just was a little too on-the-nose. While walking around Park Slope the second morning, I started thinking about a shitty encounter I’d had with one of those “Do you have a moment for the environment” guys. It occurred to me that was the perfect time to have actually said “Meow meow meow,” and I realized I’d just finished the joke. So what you hear on the album is the first time I ever performed the whole joke correctly, which isn’t bad considering that that morning I’d decided it wasn’t worth trying to salvage.
One final note: It’s funny to me to realize that the newest bit on the album was sandwiched by the oldest.
- DROP OUT!
This is also material from when I was young. I always liked these bits, and that’s pretty much it, except, the only reason it’s its own separate track is because Tom Waits has a ton of songs that have their own little funny musical intros on Nighthawks at the Diner and I wanted to do that, too. I promise I’m not as pretentious in person as I am when I discover my thought processes.
- THE TRUE STORY OF FAST EDDIE (THE BANK ROBBER)
I wrote this entire seven minute set, beginning to end, literally over the course of my entire career. The beginning bit, about Hector the ice cream truck driver, was a true story that I tried for the first time my second or third time onstage. The rest of it was written and perfected within nine months of recording. People always ask if these stories are true, and they aren’t always, but this one is, more or less. I changed a lot of stuff around, I asked permission of one guy to joke about him, and I condensed a lot of stuff to remove the parts that were sad or unfunny or just plain not believable as biography.By the way, the use of parentheses in the title is strictly because shitty pretentious bands did that a lot on their albums when I was a kid, as a way of showing that they were serious artists, and I never stopped finding it funny.
- LIAM vs. THE AUDIENCE 1: “MY FIRST TIME”
Christine is a very nice woman I’d met in the East Village art open mic scene. She is a lovely young lady who really had never been to a standup show before. As soon as she spoke up, I got really excited because I knew that whatever was about to happen was going to go onto the album. My original plan had been to record an hour of material and cut it down to the best forty-five minutes.All my favorite comedy albums when I was young had been, on average, no more than forty minutes, and I really believe that there’s a reason they’re considered unimpeachable classics. But of course, the best-laid plans, so the album includes 15 minutes of audience participation. The label wanted to edit a point halfway through where I declare my intention to be mean, which was entirely meant to stop me from sounding like an utter dick, but I thought that would be completely unfair.
- NEW YORK STORIES
My goal for this album was to do longer bits. I really tried to stretch these out to ten minutes, but the most important part of writing is editing, and it’s better to just cut four minutes than make an artistic point. I’d originally conceived the middle third of this album as almost a “suite” of longer bits that thematically flowed from one to the next. Of course, that went out the window with the previous track, which is fine. By the way, this is named after the Coppola/Scorcese/Woody Allen film about life in NYC. I genuinely put that much thought into each and every detail on this album.
- NEW YORK I LOVE YOU BUT YOU’RE BRINGING ME DOWN
Just like Track 8, this was a bit I was bombing with all over town, trying to write it into decent shape. It just never shaped up the way I’d hoped, and my plan was to leave it out and rewrite it into a better bit. But Ryan at the label liked it a lot, and he convinced me to let him edit it. I don’t think it ruins the album by any stretch, and he was so passionately behind this track I genuinely didn’t have the heart to cut it.
- AN EVENING WASTED WITH LIAM McENEANEY
First of all, this was my original title for this album. It’s a total rip of Tom Lehrer’s An Evening Wasted With… album, and when I decided to go with a complete throwback jazz theme to Comedian, I realized the title didn’t fit anymore. I did keep it for the bit, though, as a tribute to one of my favorite comedians.This is the bit that people always ask me if it’s true. Yes and no. The basic facts of the story are true. But structurally, the joke is a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster. I originally had a joke about taking my first AIDS test, with the idea that the wait for your results is way more frightening than any scary movie you could watch. A funny idea, but it would require more and I didn’t want to be the guy with a killer five about AIDS. So I put it in the vault and forgot a out it and about five years later, I was watching a comedian on TV talk about asking a woman if she was pregnant. That’s happened to a lot of people, and it’s a super hacky used premise. But it had, as I say, actually happened, and so the challenge for myself was to figure out a way to take a hacky premise and make it fresh and personal. As I was trying to find my way into the subject, I remembered the AIDS test joke, and reappropriated it for this bit. It was one of those bits, just the first time I ever tried it at my Tell Your Friends! show, I knew I’d made the right move.
- LIAM vs. THE AUDIENCE 2: “SHANNON’S BETTER”
I went back and forth on this one. On the one hand, I didn’t want this to be a crowd work album, and I definitely didn’t want to encourage people to talk to me during a future show. On the other hand, this woman automatically arguing that a lesser-known Irish airport was “better” was about the most Park Slope thing I could imagine.
- DUBLIN AIRPORT AND IRISH RAIL
I’d talked about my dad’s family being Irish Catholic earlier in the show. There was actually a lot more stuff about religion, but it was material that, when I started performing it, got very strong laughs, and then kind of just started getting less and less as the years went by. I’d hoped that a friendly album taping crowd would mean I could get it on tape one time. But as Ryan at AST Records pointed out, we had a LOT of material and we had the luxury of cutting anything that came off as weak, so at least you know that every laugh you hear on this is earned. Other than that, these are both true stories, and the people who’ve liked them the best have been Irish people from Ireland.
- HOW TO WRITE A TRADITIONAL IRISH FOLK TUNE
My next album isn’t going to be as custom built; it’s going to involve less storytelling, and is going to have a very different structure. But as you may have noticed, there are a lot of musical references in the track titles, and I wanted to bookend the show with a second musical number to provide a big finish and bring the whole thing full circle. I wrote this as a silly blog entry 15 years ago, and my mom bugged me and bugged me to perform it as a live bit. She was right.
That’s it. I kind of can’t believe you made it all the way through, but thanks for doing so. And if you’re intrigued, please feel free to let people know and buy a copy why not, I’ll autograph it for you at the next show.