Chris Trew and The New Movement are positioning comedy to grow in New Orleans.
PostedAugust 16, 2012
“I’m an expert at the sport of air sex,” Chris Trew announced by way of introduction when he appeared earlier this summer on America’s Got Talent. Then, while a slow jam played, the heavily bearded Trew licked and caressed a woman’s body, only there was no body there. First Sharon Osborne vetoed him and hid her face as he simulated oral sex, then surprisingly, Howard Stern hit the buzzer, saying with a half-straight face, “I’m the judge who was offended by this sort of thing. It was very highly offensive.” Trew danced off the stage, and the night the show aired, he posted a video declaring himself “screwed.”
“I am just as surprised as you, America,” he said. “I think I know what talent is and I think I’ve got it.” Then, he spent the rest of the night fighting on Twitter with everybody who hated his performance.
Trew is one of the co-founders of The New Movement, the improv-oriented comedy troupe that set up shop in the Marigny Triangle. The New Movement started in Austin, Texas, but he and Tami Nelson are from New Orleans, and they brought it to the Crescent City. Hurricane Katrina caused them to flee to Austin was the storm, but they moved back to New Orleans last July and at first rented space for shows until they settled into their home at 1919 Burgundy St.
“The only reason why we didn’t come back was because we had unsuspecting success in Austin doing the same thing,” Trew says. “This is the same old story that everyone says, just insert me in there, but it’s such wonderful ground for new projects, new stuff. I feel like anyone who has a good idea that is willing to work hard, you’ll be successful here.”
Trew has made air sex competitions one of his calling cards, having hosted them at a number of venues around town. He also does stand-up and occasionally hosts stand-up shows at The New Movement, but improv is the group's thing, both teaching it and doing it. Saturday nights, they do their signature event, The Megaphone Show, when a guest tells stories that the cast uses as starting points for a series of improvised scenes. This Saturday night at 10:30, I’ll be the guest storyteller. Trew will be out of town, but I won't take it personally.
Recently Harry Shearer told the stories, and I was pleasantly surprised at how funny it was, partly because of Shearer but largely because of a genuinely witty, smart cast that understood the discipline and commitment involved in being funny. Trew contends that I shouldn’t have been so surprised, but I had come to expect so little from local comedy.
“If people see a bad comedy show, and they say something like what you just said: ‘Oh, I feel bad for them; maybe comedy’s not for me,’” he says. “People don’t see a bad band and think, ‘Oh, maybe music’s not for me.’ They think, ‘No, this particular band or perhaps a genre isn’t for me. I will go on to the next band.’ For some reason, people are like, ‘I saw a bad comedy show. Comedy here is not any good.’”
Trew’s bullish on local comedy, and he is working to create an infrastructure to support it. Because The New Movement also has homes in Houston and Austin, the framework for regional comedy touring is in place. Recently The New Movement organized a six-city tour for a number of local comedians, looping in Dallas, Shreveport and Ruston, and a version of the improv troupe did a recent two-week tour.
“We’ve been planning the seeds of this for a while,” he says. “Pretty much everyone in the Southwest, Gulf south area. If you’re a funny person, and if you live in Memphis or Nashville or Orlando, we want you to move here instead of the other places. Move here and help make this scene a big, giant, awesome scene. Come get in on the ground floor. We’re going to be on the ground floor for another year or two, really, then it’s going to start being like, ‘Ahhh, remember the good old days when there was less than a hundred performers? Now there’s 500 and it’s hard to get onstage.’ That’s going to happen one day soon.”
I'll appear as part of The Megaphone Show Saturday night at 10:30 p.m. at The New Movement Theater. Tickets are $5. There's no bar, so you might want to bring something with you to make me funnier. I doubt the rest of them will need the help.