Event TV: Behind-the-scenes at Comedy Central's FriendsFest

Event spoke to actor James Michael Tyler and Comedy Central's communications director about recreating the spirit of Friends in east London - and the possibility of touring FriendsFest in the UK and beyond.

When Comedy Central announced it would be recreating Monica’s apartment in London as part of Friends’ 21st birthday celebrations, 268,000 fans of the show tried to buy the 5,000 tickets within 23 minutes.

Patricia Lodge, communications director at Comedy Central, told Event that despite knowing the popularity of the sitcom, she could not have anticipated the hysteria that ensued when the announcement was made. "I was fairly confident we would sell out, as Friends is so incredibly popular, plus the price of tickets was only £5," she said. "That said, I was shocked by the speed we sold out and the massive demand."

The idea of spending half an hour taking profile picture-worthy selfies on the iconic orange sofa may have led many consumers to purchase tickets, however Lodge points out that the popularity of experiential may also have had a role to play. "We also wanted to give something back to loyal fans of the show, some just beginning to watch it for the first time and others having watched it for years," she said.

"Highly immersive, interactive experiences are really hot right now - just think how popular Secret Cinema is. So FriendsFest seemed the perfect way to meet our two goals."

The One Where They Build The Activation

The decision to celebrate the brand came from the top – Comedy Central’s managing director Jill Offman – requested something high impact that would ultimately drive tune-in to the channel. "So one afternoon, my comms team here at the channel sat down with the PR team from our agency Premier and brainstormed," explained Lodge. "I was open to all ideas - my only key criteria being that every element had to be sharable.

"I wanted the fans, media and celebs who came to FriendsFest to be walking around it and constantly posting to their social feeds."

Once the idea was sold to those holding the purse strings, Comedy Central’s creative and digital departments, as well as Premier’s events division, were brought on board to make it happen. "The time period from inception to delivery was about eight weeks," said Lodge. "We work fast!"

Part of that delivery involved getting Friends’ brand owner, Warner Bros, involved too. "We needed to convince the team there that FriendsFest was a good idea," recalled Lodge. "Fortunately, we have a really great relationship with their marketing team and they like the work we do. This was paramount because as brand owner they could have vetoed our activity."

This sign off from the studio added real authenticity to the overall activation. Warner Bros sent across the specifications of the original set and shipped over props and memorabilia, such as Ross’ Science Boy comic and Pat the china Dog, all the way from its LA studios.

The Next One

The question of ‘What's next?’ for FriendsFest is an easy one to ask – Comedy Central clearly has something good on its hands. "We're not yet done with FriendsFest," confirms Lodge. "We are now thinking about touring it both in the UK and overseas. 

"In addition, we have loads of other cool brands on Comedy Central and so I would love us to do something similar with some of these. South Park would be a prime candidate."

Cartoon Colorado comes to Clapton? Sounds like another sell-out experience.

Patricia Lodge is communications director at Comedy Central

More: In pictures - Gunther opens FriendsFest experience to the public

Comedy Central announces release of additional FriendsFest tickets

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