By Ryan Meehan
Matt Walker is a sought after stand-up comedian and talk show host. Inspired by seeing an unfunny comedian on TV in 2003, he decided, “If they can get on TV and be unfunny, than I can at least be unfunny on a stage.” That led to him trying his hand at stand-up, doing shows around Southern California 3-4 nights a week. Now he tours the country performing wherever there is a microphone and the need to laugh. Fortunately for his audiences, Matt turned out to be pretty funny. He counts as his major influences Louis C.K., Ron White, Dave Attell, David Cross, Chris Rock, Bob Newhart, and Dave Chappelle. He now tours with Mike Muratore (as seen on Operation Repo) and has played shows at every type of venue imaginable. He has a small role in the film Tears of a Clown, directed and produced by Tony Spires, and has appeared in multiple unaired pilots. Matt has also worked in radio for much of the past decade, co-creating and hosting Verbosity for National Lampoon Radio on SiriusXM. Matt got his break in radio by producing and co-hosting The Small Business Hour on 97.1 FM KLSX in Los Angeles. The show became the highest rated weekend show on the station, and was honored by the Small Business Administration in California when Matt’s co-host, Mark Deo, was named “Small Business Journalist of the year” for 2003. Matt also co-hosted the National Hair Hour, a show all about the prevention and treatment of hair loss from November 2002-December 2003 on KLSX, and he’s our guest today in 5 Questions.
FOH: Is doing standup comedy more of an art or a science? If you can’t answer that it’s a little of both, what would your answer be?
MW: Well, as a nerd I really wish it was a science. Everything would be a lot easier if I could just come up with a formula for writing a good joke, but it’s not quite that simple. So I suppose that I think it’s an art form. And unlike other art forms where there is rigid theory about structure, tone, technique, etc., there’s no equivalent in comedy. Each person has to find what works for them, and what works for me doesn’t work for other comics, just as what works for them doesn’t work for me. I just hope that what I do isn’t the comedic equivalent of Jackson Pollock.
FOH: You won this 2012 Shorty Award for the best comedian in social media – What was the best tweet or status update that you’ve ever had on one of those websites? Do you think that people will eventualy grow exhauseted of social media? Why or why not?
MW: I have a love/hate relationship with social media. It really is where the best and worst of the Internet collide. I love that it allows persons from all over the world to connect, learn new things, and share our respective cultures. I hate that what the Internet has decided to use it for is sharing Justin Bieber videos and pictures of cats with terrible grammar. Really? That’s the best we can do?
Social media will always be around in some form or another, but it changes based on fads. We used to have AIM Chat profiles and Geocities, then Friendster, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. There were also a few flops along the way with things like Orkut and Google Buzz. Sadly, I’ve had accounts on all of them. And with the permanence of the Internet, I can probably find a bunch of them. Hold on a sec… yep, I just successfully logged into Friendster. It says it’s a gaming platform now. That should get it zero new users.
But yes, social media will be a part of the Internet for as long as it continues to be a thing we all use. It seems we all like having the ability to lie to other people in a very public way. I guess our OK Cupid profiles aren’t enough of an outlet for that.
As a comedian, social media has been very useful. It’s helped me grow a fanbase (it still feels weird to know that I have actual fans), and I use Twitter as a giant writing exercise. I like to look at the trending topic list and write jokes about whatever is being discussed. This has led to me learning a lot more about Boy Bands than I ever would have expected. It’s also led to my average fan being a 16 year old girl, which should scare everyone. But Twitter, as retarded as it is, is great for helping me as a comedian practice writing things and be funny off the cuff, and is great for editing. 140 characters isn’t enough to be long winded (unlike this interview).
FOH: You’ve been doing standup comedy for ten years…Over that period, what was the craziest thing that’s happened to you either on stage or while travelling doing comedy?
MW: Well, I now have a philosophy on performing- “It’s not a bad gig unless someone pulls a knife.” And that’s based on a situation I got into at a dumpy bar in Sylmar, CA about 5 years ago. It was a bar where you could ride a horse up to it and use a hitching post. So apparently there are a lot of drunk cowboys in Sylmar. I was on stage doing my thing, and someone in the crowd was upset by one of my jokes. He decided it would be a good idea to pull a knife out and say he was going to cut me in two. The bartender was a woman that was about 4’10”- she walked up behind him, smacked him upside the head, grabbed the knife, and told him he could have it back after I left. I don’t think he would have actually done anything, but it’s never a good feeling to have to wonder if someone really wants to cut you.
Of course, I also just did a show with a guy about two weeks ago that came out on stage in a trash bag being carted in a wheelbarrow. He then proceeded to burst out of the bag and wear it as a garment, and demonstrate how he likes to pee in his own mouth. I was brought up following him- I really didn’t know what to say, so I just said, “Wow, I don’t know what to do- that guy just did all the jokes I was planning on telling.”
And the worst show I ever had was at a convention for the National Indian Gaming Association. I was opening for another comic, and it was at a cocktail reception to close out their convention. I think I’d been doing comedy about two years at this point, so I basically had maybe 10 minutes of usable material, and that’s if things were going well. Well, they stop the cocktail reception to do a tribute to all of the famous Native Americans who had died in the past year. They have a slideshow playing, and a woman comes out in traditional native dress and sings Amazing Grace. People are crying- either that or they saw that I missed when I tried to throw something in the trash. (Do I need to explain that reference? Just Google “crying Indian litter commercial”.) But they are literally sobbing, and the main guy running the event comes out and says, “Now, we have comedians.” That was it. That was my intro. As I’m sure you can guess, it did not go well. If I’m ever asked what the worst introduction I’ve had was, that was it.
FOH: Which comedians that you have performed with have been the best to work with? What is it that you can take from your experience with them that you have applied to your own career?
MW: My favorites to work with are Mike Muratore (www.mikemuratore.com) and Stephen Glickman. They also happen to be two of my best friends, so that helps. Mike was a veteran comedian that sort of took me under his wing when I was still pretty new to the business. He had taken some time off from comedy and was just starting out again after a few years when I was getting started. He’s given me advice when I needed it, allowed me to feature for him since before I was probably ready, and is now pushing me into headlining gigs, so he’s definitely been good to work with. His style is very rapid fire, and is most similar to Don Rickles. He says things on stage that are CRAZY, but he’s able to get away with it. Look for his new DVD and CD.
I met Stephen Glickman when he first came to LA- he had no intention of being a comedian, but I used to emcee a show at a bowling alley that was attached to a motel. He was traveling with a musical he was in and they were staying at the motel. The cast came to see a few of the shows, and after a few weeks he wanted to try his hand at it. I’d only been doing comedy for about a year, but we became friends pretty quickly and we’ve worked together a lot ever since. He’s really a great storyteller on stage, and I’ve learned about how you can keep an audience’s attention while telling a story from watching him.
FOH: I see that you have performed at the IceHouse in Pasadena, a lot of comedians seem to list that on their top tens of places to perform. Is it in your top ten? What is the atmosphere of that place like?
MW: The Ice House is probably the best club a comedian can perform in when it’s packed. The crowds there are notorious for being great, and I think of performing there as a reward for all the crap gigs I’ve done (and continue to do) at bars, bowling alleys, laundry mats, video stores, and other assorted places where comedy doesn’t belong. I’ll just say it’s always a lot better than the time I opened for a Michael Jackson impersonator at a shopping mall at 10 AM on a Sunday morning. As a club, the Ice House is set up to make it easy for a comedian to succeed- I’m not sure what it is they do that’s different from other clubs in LA, but it works.
FOH: What part of the writing process is the most fun for you? The most difficult?
MW: I enjoy working a bit- starting with a funny idea, going on stage and just spewing it out, seeing what people react to, fine tuning it, and after doing that a bunch, it can become an actual bit. I’m not someone that sits down with a notepad and writes things out word for word, and each time I tell a joke it can be a little different. I like to try to relate what I do on stage to whatever is going on in the world or things the audience has seen earlier. But I think the greatest joy in this art form is to go on stage, have something unexpected occur, say something that is really funny about it, and then have that become a bit you can do.
FOH: What’s next for Matt Walker in the twelve months to come? Any big plans?
MW: I’ll probably be hitting the road a lot more, and I’m working on setting up a tour with Stephen Glickman now. Since he’s always shooting things for TV shows and movies we have to work around his schedule, but that’s a nice problem to have. I’ve also been working on my acting chops the past few years, so I’m hoping you’ll start to see me in some things on your TVs soon. I can at least be convincing saying “Here’s your pizza.” Oh, and I’m up to 13 death threats for the year on Twitter- I suppose I should have mentioned this when discussing social media, but I tend to upset fans of boy bands and pop idols on there. 14 year olds have zero sense of humor when it comes to Justin Bieber and One Direction. If you want to read the best negative comments I’ve received, check out www.mattwalkersucks.com. I now end my time on stage telling people that if they like me, they should check out funnymatt.com, and if they don’t, they should go to mattwalkersucks.com. I guess that’s a good way to end this interview as well.
Official Website: http://www.funnymatt.com
Matt on Facebook: facebook.com/funnymatt
Matt on Twitter: twitter.com/funnymatt
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