Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

PUNCHING THE CLOWN Opens At NY's Quad Cinema 10/22

The QUAD Cinema, one of New York City's leading art houses, presents the award-winning comedy satire, PUNCHING THE CLOWN (91 minutes) starring Henry Phillips (Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature, Slamdance Film Festival; Jury Award for Best Feature, Chicago International Movies & Music Festival; Best Music Award, Gen Art Film Festival; Best Indie Film, Actor, Indie Director, Edge Atlantic Film Festival - Paris, France).

A collaboration between the songwriter/comedian Henry Phillips and producer/director Gregori Viens, (ISLAND OF ROSES, THE JEWS OF RHODES IN LOS ANGELES) this droll send-up of the Hollywood music industry nails essential ironies of show biz image making--the inflated egos of talentless imitators and the schadenfreude of winning points by spreading vicious gossip.
PUNCHING THE CLOWN is the fourth collaboration between Philips and Viens (including IFC's comedy shorts, THE LONER) and was first produced as a documentary in their 1997 film (same title) about the open-mic music scene in Los Angeles

"Henry Phillips and I first met in 1992," Viens recalls. "We were Political Science students at UCLA. After graduating, we remained good friends but went our separate ways. I began directing documentaries, making some very thoughtful films....Henry on the other hand was telling dick jokes to drunken people in bars. It was only a matter of time before we worked together."

When Viens and Phillips decided to pitch a fictional version of their documentary, they entered development with a prospective producer but soon discovered that the studio was spending more money flying them around the world for meetings than it would cost to make the movie. So, they dug into their savings, maxed out their credit cards, and produced the film.

Now in control of the project, they could fine tune it as if it were a stage play. "At festivals, I've often projected the film directly form my laptop using editing software," Viens recalls. "I would later spend the night in my hotel room making editorial changes before the next day's screening." Viens honed the film to the deadpan, deceptively sweet breeziness which fits Phillips comic style like a glove.

When we first meet Henry Phillips, a modern day American troubadour, he is grinding his way through the heartland, living out of his car and singing his melodic but blue and twisted satirical songs to anyone who will listen. After a booking mishap involving a fundraiser for Christian miniature-golfers, he decides it's time for a change. Hoping for something better, he moves to L.A. to crash with his under-employed actor Brother (Matt Walker) and his luck changes overnight. He meets Ellen Pinsky (Ellen Ratner) whose instinct for talent has not left her, although her only viable clients have been picked off by sharks. As befits an agent short on current credits, she pitches him as 'James Taylor on smack', books him in a local open-mic club and tries to sneak in his performance at a hip industry party.

After a few good shows (but mainly a fortuitous case of mistaken identity) Phillips suddenly finds himself with all he could ask for: a record deal, radio airplay, an article in the paper and even attention from the female barista he's admired from afar.

But, like a fist in the face, he learns the whimsical rules of the record industry. He becomes the victim of a vicious rumor spread from a pointless question he asks about where a record exec bought a bagel. An elaborate industry 'telephone game' ensues and Henry faces the loss of the only thing that ever mattered to him: his music.

Despite this threatened turn for the worse, the story proves that although X Company Records can steal the rights to Phillips' music, the talent is his and therefore he alone owns the future.

The cast includes Ellen Ratner (SEINFELD, EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND, THE NANNY as Fran's sister, and FRASIER), Matt Walker (Award winning Founder and Artistic Director of the L.A. Troubadour Theater Company since 1995), and several Second City Alumni, including Paul Willson, Wade Kelley, Steve Sheridan and Sean Masterson.
The film combines scripted material with live performances shot in LA night clubs including Molly Malone's and the late Highland Grounds, where incidentally, Henry performed his first "open mic night" back in 1993. That night, Director Viens was in the audience and the idea for the film was born.

For a taste of the indescribable lyrics and music please visit YOUTUBE:

Official site:


Featured on Stage Door

Shoutouts, Classes, and More from Your Favorite Broadway Stars

Related Articles View More TV Stories

More Hot Stories For You