Interview: Tom Palmer & Tom Stourton of All My Friends Hate Me

British comedy duo finds hilarity in the uncomfortable

Brainchild of London-based comedy duo Totally Tom, All My Friends Hate Me debuted at Tribeca Film Festival in 2021 and has been steadily gaining momentum ever since. I chatted with Tom Palmer and Tom Stourton about why the cringe-filled, anxiety-inducing horror-comedy is resonating with people around the world — and why you probably shouldn’t watch it on a date.

Cassie: Can you start by telling me how you two know each other? You’ve known each other for a long time, right?

Tom S.: Yeah, we’ve known each other since we were 13. We met at school, in the same boarding house. I don’t know if that means anything to you in America, but it’s like a weird British institution where children are packed off to schools. Think Hogwarts, but less fun. We hung out a lot and kind of bonded over stupid films. We were both big into Ali G at the time. We were those really annoying kids that over-quoted Borat.

Cassie: How did it come about that you started working together?

Tom P.: We always had the same sense of humor, and we spent our time trying to make each other laugh and make other people laugh. When we got to university we started putting on small little shows at pubs and stuff. Then we wrote a mockumentary and stuck it on YouTube. It was about this sad student who tries to put on a big techno night and it all fails and no one shows up. That sort of found an audience, and then we got agents and started writing more professionally.

Cassie: It sounds like awkwardness and social anxiety is kind of your forte. Is that on purpose, or did it just kind of happen?

Tom S.: Yeah, it’s true. We didn’t want to become specialists in like, deeply awkward comedy. But we also were huge fans of The Office and British shows like that, and they had that real kind of unique British awkward soul to them. I guess we, like millions of other people, were very influenced by that. It’s always felt right to take the piss out of privileged people trying to be something they’re not. That always feels like rich, fertile ground to us. And in the film that’s very much the hook of the lead character. He’s trying to hide his privilege, and he is wracked with class guilt. We are drawing a lot on our experiences and personalities to some degree, but they are heightened versions and scenarios, obviously.

Cassie: Speaking of awkward scenarios, I watched the film as a screener for a review the first time around. I watched it again a couple nights ago with a guy who almost had a physical reaction to it. He was just groaning throughout the last ten minutes of the film and had his head in his hands. I felt bad!

Tom S.: *laughs* We often feel kind of bad when people enjoy the film but they’re simultaneously like, “It made me feel awful. Thanks so much.”

Tom P.: For some reason we felt this masochistic desire to write something that was just a birthday that went as bad as you could possibly imagine. It almost felt quite cruel but quite satisfying; setting up this poor character and saying, “what’s the worst thing that could happen to him next?” And I think people just resonate with that. One fearful thought leads to another, and then you get convinced everyone is against you. It was just that fun idea of playing it out like… what if there was this one weekend where all of those thoughts were actually real?

Tom S.: Did this guy make it through to the end? Did he make it through to the end or did he just groan and leave? Did we ruin a date for you?

Cassie: He made it through, but I have a feeling if I hadn’t been there, he would have turned it off.

Tom S.: *laughs* Right, maybe it’s not a good date film.

Cassie: Can you tell me about where you filmed?

Tom P.: It was all in this one house. The cast and some crew lived there and we shot over 21 days. It was extraordinary in terms of production because we didn’t have the biggest budget, but being able to shoot everything contained like that and still have this real spectacle to the story with how stunning and grand the house is was a real game-changer. It was both efficient and also just really fun, because there was a great vibe on set. We were all going to the pub in the evenings and having dinners together. I think it made for a really good ensemble feel to the whole piece and I think that definitely comes through in the movie.

Cassie: For not having the biggest budget, the film was beautifully shot. So many interesting camera angles and things like that. It really stuck out to me as someone who reviews a lot of indie films. I was just really blown away.

Tom S.: We were very lucky, we should mention the cinematographer and director, Andrew (Gaynord) and Benny (Moulden). With a film like this you need to get lucky on a lot of things. We had worked with Andrew on other stuff and knew he was a brilliant comedy director, but he really stepped it up in terms of bringing a filmic edge and referencing horror shots and making it feel really cinematic.

Cassie: It’s not being released in the UK until June, right?

Tom P.: Yeah, it’s on release now in the U.S. in digital. It’s obviously a very British film but just by a series of coincidences we premiered in New York at Tribeca and sold the U.S. rights first. Then we screened at the London Film Festival and sold the rights here. It seems to have worked well. I think if we were worried it wasn’t going to travel to the states… we have been pleasantly surprised by that. I think these paranoid feelings are a universal thing, and not specific to this one guy in his class, background, and culture. Even though that’s how we instinctively wrote it, hopefully it appeals to a broad range of audiences.

Cassie: I think my date and I are proof that it does. Are you working on any new projects?

Tom S.: We’re trying to write as much as possible. We were thinking something eventually set at a wedding would be good, with similar themes. We like the idea of the kind of “pressure cooker” atmosphere of those events. I think we want to develop that tone, and keep stressing people out. Keep giving people panic attacks.

Cassie: You’ve definitely found your niche. You’re very good at it. Anything else you guys want to add?

Tom P.: We just hope that people are out there and downloading the movie. It’s obviously quite hard for a smaller film to cut through the Batmans and the Jurassic Worlds of the industry. So if you do watch it and enjoy it, tell a friend or get a friend ‘round and give them a very uncomfortable experience, and hope that they don’t turn it off.

All My Friends Hate Me is available to rent and stream in the U.S. now.

Written by Cassie Hager

Just your average, everyday land mermaid with a cinema addiction.

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