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Comedian Liam McEneaney on How a Joke Is “Borned”


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IFC recently launched Comedy Drop, a web series where comedians perform in unexpected places for unaware–and usually baffled–audiences. To get an insight into the mind of a comic, we asked each performer a series of 7 questions. First up: Liam McEneaney, a hilarious stand up who recently released his debut comedy album Liam McEneaney: Comedian.

Aside from Comedy Drop, where was the strangest—or most interesting—place you’ve done stand up?
Marco Francesco’s Backhanded Carnival. Lulu the Dog-Faced Girl was the MC, and I performed while a team of go-go dancers reinterpreted the hora behind me, wearing body stockings and OJ masks. We drank so much we thought we’d die that night, but instead we ended up in a New Jersey cornfield the next morning, blinking and wondering whose Maserati was parked head-first in the ditch. Creamed corn never tasted so sweet.

Where was the first place you ever performed?
The question I’d like an answer to is, where is the last place I will ever perform?

Performing in front of crowds—especially ones not expecting comedy—has to be tough. Do you have any rituals to shake pre-show jitters?
I sit and I pray for a bomb threat to clear the room and end the show in a way that will still allow me to get paid. When that doesn’t work, I call a local Catholic orphanage and ask them to inform the children that there is no God. It’s pretty much the same ritual I follow before dates and and interviews.

How do you approach joke writing? Do you hunker down and write, or does inspiration need to find you first?
In exactly the same way I approach getting answers to interviews with; I put a set amount of cash in a paper bag and leave it under a certain tree on the first night the moon is gibbous waning. The next morning, the bag is filled with jokes stolen from Louis CK’s notebook.

Is a joke ever fully “ready,” or is it always “in progress”?
It makes me “laugh” to hear civilians talk comedy. The technical term we use are “fertile,” “pregnant,” and “borned.” Once a joke is borned, you send it out into the world and never look for it again. Just like in Eskimo culture.

Also, I put the word “laugh” in quotation marks, because the official comedian term is, “explode with rage.”

What is the best piece of stand up advice you’ve ever heard?

I was in the crawlspace above the office of the owner of a certain comedy club in New York City, and I remember he was talking to a comedian whom he liked enough to actually talk to. At the time, I was in the crawlspace because I wanted to break into show business, and was very into doing things in the most literal way possible.

I didn’t catch what the owner said, but his tone of voice was so soothing that I fell asleep and dreamed that it was, “Whenever you’re conducting an interview about comedy, be as serious and truthful as possible.” Which is advice I’ve carried with me to this day, in this paper bag otherwise filled with jokes stolen from Louis CK’s notebook.

What’s a joke that makes you laugh, or smile, every time?
The entirety of my album, Liam McEneaney: Comedian, which is out on October 1st, 2013 on ASpecialThing Records.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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