If there’s one thing that both TBS and truTV are super great at, it’s bringin’ the funny. And from Nov. 5 – 11, they are bringing all that funny straight to The New York Comedy Festival. The festival takes place at more than 20 venues throughout the five boroughs of New York City and features more than 200 of the world’s best comedians.
This year, Team Coco will be turning the stages at Sony Hall in Manhattan into the Team Coco House, and on Nov. 8, Conan O’Brien will be doing a sit-down conversation/press event hosted by Jake Tapper, as well as an exclusive stand-up show at the Beacon Theater. And truTV is hitting the festival hard for the first time with Laff Mobb’s Laff Tracks, with host Cipha Sounds as well as other comedians from the show, live at the Village Underground on Nov. 5.
In our quest to bring you the people behind the funniest festival this side of the Great Texas Mosquito Festival, we repeatedly bothered Michael Engleman, CMO – TBS/TNT, who brokered the deal with the New York Comedy Festival and is the main reason for the partnership, until he finally relented and agreed to an interview. Enjoy.
For more info on the New York Comedy Festival, click here.
TURNER (T): Hi Michael, and thanks for speaking to us. First, for those who don’t know, tell us what you do at Turner?
MICHAEL ENGLEMAN (ME): I work across both TNT and TBS, and I spend most of my time thinking about how we build relationships with consumers and viewers, how to grow our brands, how to popularize our shows, how to create better experiences on our linear and digital platforms, and how to make all that add up to growing our business. That's my job.
T: Rumor has it you’re the guy behind TBS’s partnership with the New York Comedy Festival. How did that come about?
ME: This is our second year being involved with the New York Comedy Festival. That partnership was a natural outgrowth of TBS refocusing its brand positioning around a premium populace version of original comedies. The New York Comedy Festival has a massive on-the-ground presence in New York and a great roster of stand-up comedians, so it was a natural relationship to build.
We thought about how fans like to think about entertainment and certainly comedy as well, and we wanted to make sure that we built front doors into our brand that weren't just about watching linear television, that those front doors were digital doors, experiential doors, and that we built immersive experiences anywhere we could that allowed fans of comedy, fans of TBS, to connect with the brands in new and interesting ways.
T: What is it about the New York Comedy Festival that fits so seamlessly with TBS’s brand?
ME: There's obviously the natural connection around comedy, but one of the great things that the New York Comedy Festival does is, while they are fans of stand-up at their core, they have increasingly pushed the boundaries of how they program the festival and have really given a platform to all sorts of different kinds of comedy – that, and a diverse array of voices that is also really an important principle of how TBS develops original programming.
T: It sounds like the Team Coco approach is new and different from last year. How has it changed?
ME: Last year we approached our activation by showcasing the entire songbook of TBS and all the artists, actors, and programs under the TBS brand. This year, we're approaching the festival with more focus around one of our biggest priorities for the moment and certainly for 2019, which is helping launch the latest chapter around Conan O'Brien and Team Coco. The brand will really come to life in a lot of different ways – television and much more. It's also a way to showcase that a big, big tenant of this new chapter for Conan O'Brien is stand-up comedy and finding ways to showcase stand-up comedy through touring, club acts and specials.
T: Were you able to take in some of last year’s festival? And if so, what were some personal highlights?
ME: A job hazard I have is being over-scheduled, so I really just took in our activation, which I thought was spectacular. We called it the TBS Hub at the New York Comedy Festival. We had a lot of great programming in our venue; but unfortunately, I didn't get to see any acts outside of ours, which is one of the risks of being a media executive in 2018, I suppose.
"We worked closely with Conan O’Brien, and he lives, breathes and eats stand-up comedy."
T: What can we expect at this year’s festival?
ME: We worked closely with Conan O'Brien, and he lives, breathes, and eats stand-up comedy. He spearheaded the booking for Team Coco House – everybody from Gabe Liedman, Max Silvestri, and Jenny Slate. I'm A New Yorker, and there are such great Brooklyn comedy acts who are playing Team Coco House. All the people who are orbiting Conan right now I think are terrific.
T: Who is your favorite stand-up comedian?
ME: When I get asked that question, the answer with all earnestness is my wife. She is a comedy writer and a recovering stand-up. She's still my favorite.
“On the eve of sponsoring a comedy festival, you know who no one wants to hear jokes from? It's the executive who did the deal."
T: How’s your stand-up game? And how about a joke for our readers?
ME: I'm gonna offer aloud my self-advice here, which is to know when to stay in your lane. On the eve of sponsoring a comedy festival, you know who no one wants to hear jokes from? It's the executive who did the deal. Let's leave it at that.