Given my proclivity for staying close to home, I usually have to be pretty motivated to head downtown. Don’t get me wrong, I love going for an afternoon stroll through Jackson Square, or an evening romp down Frenchman Street. But having worked in the French Quarter off and on for several years, I prefer to eschew the headache that is downtown parking and stick to activities that are closer to home.
Regardless of my sheer laziness, catching a comedy show at The New Movement is always worth crossing Canal Street. The comedy scene in New Orleans has come a long way since last year, when co-founders Chris Trew and Tami Nelson first started building their presence here after enjoying much success in Austin. Having seen a glimpse of The New Movement’s inner workings, it’s not hard to guess why their formula works. While I haven’t taken one of their improv classes (yet), I’ve had the privilege of being a guest monologist for a Megaphone improv show and a judge for Air Sex (think air guitar, but naughtier and way funnier). I can say this is a tight-knit clan, and it’s refreshing to see a true community being built versus individual performers competing for an audience.
I had a chance to catch up with Trew recently, to see how the scene has changed since he’s made 1919 Burgundy Street The New Movement’s permanent stage.
From the time you moved back to now, what changes have you noticed in the comedy scene here?
It’s really building up some very positive momentum. Leon Blanda has been busting his ass making House of Blues a legit comedy spot on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Younger comedians like Cyrus Cooper are working really hard (he’s got a weekly show now, Comedy Beast, at the Howlin’ Wolf Den every Tuesday) while Scotland Green and Cassidy Hennahan have always kept the Wednesday open mic at Carrollton Station real strong.
The amount of improv groups in New Orleans have literally quadrupled. Our classes are filled up right now so ask me again in 6 months and they’ll probably be over 25 improv groups in The New Movement. That’s never happened before in this city.
What’s been the best thing about having the TNM theater vs. hosting comedy shows in various venues?
TNM is really a homebase, a creative nerve center for a lot of people. It’s fun to do shows in other places but it’s someone else’s stage – which is cool, but it’s not the same home field advantage. It’s tremendously important to us, however, that we get our people experience playing in a variety of venues and that we expose our style to as many people as possible. That’s why we’ll always pursue shows in different parts of the city.
You guys really stress building a comedy community, and I always love how supportive the comedians seem of one another. How has this sense of family been critical to The New Movement’s success?
It’s the most important thing we do. We’ve been parts of too many other comedy communities where backstabbing and shit talking all contributed to a weird vibe that spoiled the entire experience. After learning from all of those experiences we put an emphasis back on having and community. It’s worked well for us.
What are the differences and similarities to the comedy scenes in Austin and Houston vs. New Orleans?
Austin is a pretty developed comedy city. The New Movement hosts shows 7 days a week and is actively involved in other institutions like SXSW, Fun Fun Fun Fest, Austin Film Festival and Moontower. Houston has a very strong foundation of incredibly talented performers and as soon as we find the right venue for TNM it’s going to really take off. I think New Orleans is somewhere in the middle of those two. Within two years I think we’ll have played an important role in all three of those cities being big fat destinations on the comedy map.
Any upcoming projects you’d like to share?
This summer is a pretty big one for us as far as our national perception. Collectively The New Movement will have performed in over 50 cities through a variety of touring projects. We’re also ramping up production for Hell Yes Fest, taking place in New Orleans this November 7th-11th. We’re excited. You should get excited too!
Christy Lorio, a native New Orleanian, writes on fashion at slowsouthernstyle.com and is also a freelance writer whose work has been featured online and in print magazines both locally and nationally.