TNM founders Chris Trew and Tami Nelson met in 2004 while taking improv classes in New Orleans. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina pushed Chris and Tami over to Austin. Four years later, with thousands of hours of improv performance experience under their belts, Chris and Tami crafted a unique comedy syllabus - one that teaches anybody how to perform faster, funnier, and smarter (both on- and off-stage).
In February 2009, they started teaching improv classes in a 700-sq. foot building in East Austin. They called their tiny spot The New Movement, and even though it wasn’t much of a theater space - one room and a bathroom – people immediately took notice, and a creative community sprang up in just a few weeks. TNM brought something new to the Austin improv scene – a specific approach to the craft that couldn’t be found in a book or anywhere else in the country. The difference paid off as TNM started attracting both eager rookies and veteran performers.
Chris and Tami soon partnered with their friend Brock LaBorde to help them deal with the growth. Brock had been writing and producing comedy with Chris from the minute they met in college at LSU. There, they had created their own multi-faceted comedy company, Studio 8, and began producing a variety of projects - five comedy albums, two seasons of an on-campus sketch comedy TV show called Lost in the Woods, an actual printed satire newspaper called The Campus Dirt, a popular satire website (Studio8.net), a movie (Everything is Everything), various merchandise, and much more.
Having also been displaced by Hurricane Katrina, Brock was living in Los Angeles and working in the film/TV industry. There, he turned Studio 8 into a production company that spun out a few viral videos and commercials, along with dozens of sketches, web series, ad campaigns, and comedy tours. Partnering with Chris and Tami on TNM was a no-brainer for Brock - now they could train and harness the power of a massive creative community, all while continuing to grow a true comedy business.
By January 2010, there was enough talent to bring audiences to 1819 Rosewood for the first time. The Megaphone Show was the first official weekly performance and was soon joined by the hit absurdist open mic event Block Party. Comedy hungry Austinites packed the small Eastside theater early and often, paying nothing or $5 to see shows. Early TNM alumni held down the fort in Austin while founders Chris and Tami hit the road on several national tours, teaching and performing all across the United States.
While TNM built its schedule of shows, established traditions like The Megaphone Marathons, and sold out class after class, Comedy Central decided to give Brock's company Studio 8 a shot at producing an actual TV pilot, The House That Drips Blood on Alex. Based on an intentionally awful script that Brock wrote, and starring cult film icon Tommy Wiseau and former host of TV's Cheaters Joey Greco, the pilot garnered a ton of press and debuted to a beyond sold-out crowd at Comic-Con. Soon after that, Tommy Wiseau inspired Brock to create the web series The Tommy Wi-Show, and Machinima agreed to distribute the entire first season of it on their popular Youtube network.
Elsewhere, while performing in their hometown of New Orleans, Chris and Tami met Stupid Time Machine, a sketch and improv troupe hoping to establish a TNM-style community to New Orleans. Soon the plans for TNM Nola were hatched with the talented performers in STM helming the ship. Meanwhile, TNM Austin spread its wings and started appearing all over Austin, at notable festivals and venues. In 2011, a large curated comedy mega-event, Hell Yes Fest, was established. Improv Wins, an ambitious book project and annual conference, was launched as well. During the time leading up to Chris and Tami's return to New Orleans, the members of Stupid Time Machine (Grace Blakeman, Derek Dupuy, CJ Hunt, and Mike Spara) taught TNM classes, performed weekly shows at venues around town, and built up the foundation for a thriving improv community.
Early 2012 saw a big move for TNM ATX, going from a small space in East Austin to a much larger venue (616 Lavaca St) in the sub-basement of the Masonic temple in the heart of downtown Austin. That space now features a 90-seat theater, six classrooms, two offices, merch/ticketing counters, a lobby with free arcade machines, and tons of storage and production space to accommodate the ever-growing TNM community.
Also in 2012, TNM Nola expanded its operations to a 50-seat theater in the historic Marigny neighborhood, and a new community of TNMers sprang up. Chris and Tami moved back home to New Orleans, installing a team of brave staff members to run TNM ATX in their absence.
In mid-2014, TNM Nola found an amazing 2-story building on St. Claude Ave and renovated that into a comedy-creating campus that serves as its current home - complete with an 80-seat theater, multiple classrooms, a video production studio, and more space for expansion.
In 2015, Brock thought he was temporarily moving back to New Orleans to help open a bar in the back of TNM Nola, but then he forgot to ever go back to LA. Later that year, TNM Nola opened a small full-service bar, Rosewood (named after the street of the very first TNM theater in Austin), that serves patrons inside and outside the theater. TNM Nola has since garnered the Gambit Weekly's Best Place to See Comedy in 2015 and 2016.
Also in 2015, TNM produced the feature-length documentary Air Sex: The Movie, which followed Chris Trew on a tour across America hosting The Air Sex Championships. TNM had been producing that respectfully raunchy, sex-positive comedy tour since 2008 with their buddy Tim League, owner and CEO of the Alamo Drafthouse. In 2016, that movie wound up in the hands of a production company in NY that sold an entire first season of an Air Sex television show to MTV (release TBD).
Also in 2016, TNM ATX doubled its square footage and acquired new classrooms and meeting spaces, and also installed an audio recording booth and live streaming cameras in the theater.
Today, TNM has joined an elite group of comedy collectives who maintain a strong presence in multiple cities, with shows and classes running in Austin and New Orleans. TNM also continues to pursue film/TV/web projects through its production company, while maintaining a national presence with their frequent tours, festival appearances, and their new online portal Comedy Underground. What does the future hold for TNM and all of its students, faculty, staff, and fans? Stay tuned!