By Ryan Meehan
Matt Ward is a father, comedian, comedy show producer, writer and musician. He is an anomaly among his peers that focuses on balancing the most important parts of his life. To Ward, balance is the meaning of life. “As a lover of comedy I work hard to balance not only being a great comedy producer, but a strong comedian as well. I want to be great on both sides of the mic.” Ward says. Others marvel at the amount of projects Ward is involved in. Matt Ward grew up in Lancaster, Ohio and spent 8 years living in Columbus, Ohio where he earned his bachelor’s degree in marketing from Franklin University. In 2006, he relocated to just outside of Wilmington, North Carolina to take a job with Verizon Wireless. Soon after moving he began his stand-up comedy career. Matt started getting on stage weekly at Timmy Sherrill’s Nutt Street Comedy Open-Mic every Tuesday in Downtown Wilmington. Together with other local comics including Sherrill, Ward helped build the comedy scene in SE North Carolina. In 2009 Ward and Sherrill began laying the groundwork for the Cape Fear Comedy Festival. In the fall of that year Matt moved once again, this time to Knoxville, Tennessee for a higher paying position with his company. In the spring of 2010 the Cape Fear Comedy Festival was born. In the fall of 2010 Ward did what many dream of doing – he left his soul-sucking job at Verizon Wireless behind him, and plunged headlong into working in the comedy industry. He had watched work/life balance become so skewed while working in the corporate world that he was becoming increasingly unhappy regardless of how much money he was bringing in. One day a district manager for his company revealed to him that the key to success within the company was sacrifice by putting family 2nd. Ward then composed the most important document he may ever write, his resignation letter. He delivered it the very next day and never looked back. Currently Ward produces and performs stand-up comedy full-time, but spends the majority of his time with his son Sam who was born in October of 2011. Ward appeared on Doug Stanhope’s CD “From Across the Street”. By appeared, we mean he introduced Doug on the CD and then walked to the back and sat down. He also has shared the stage with comedians such as Shane Mauss, Nikki Glaser, Myq Kaplan and Kyle Kinane. He has performed at Zanie’s in Nashville and the Improv in Atlanta, and has also appeared at the Laughing Skull Comedy Festival, Laugh Your Asheville Off and the Memphis Comedy Festival. Matt was also retweeted once by Jose Canseco. Ward has a CD under his belt: He released his debut ‘Glamorous’ independently in the Fall of 2011, and he’s our guest today in 7 questions.
RM: In what ways has your background working in the telecommunications industry helped you in the world of standup comedy? Do you feel that it’s more comfortable to be able to have an interaction (such as crowd work) where you can poke fun at someone you are speaking with devoid of the possibility that you could lose your job?
MW: Yeah, I took escalations in retail management. It was basically like having someone heckle you while you attempted to make them happy. In comedy very little fazes me. Every once and a while I get thrown off by something someone says but not often.
RM: As a guy who both assists venues in booking shows and performs comedy for the masses, where do you come out on the whole topic of having patrons removed from the venue for rude or unruly behavior? In other words, when does it not become worth the money that is coming in from drink purchases? What’s your take on bachelor or bachelorette parties coming to a comedy club on their big night?
MW: Unruly patrons ALWAYS lose the venue money. Jackasses don’t tip, they don’t make for happy bartenders or wait staff and they don’t make the people that sit around them want to come back. Remove them if they aren’t fulfilling their end of the bargain of listening to what the person on stage has to say.
RM: You did kind of a “FAQ” blog for new open-micers recently, and I noticed that you provided a lot of the same answers that I’ve read in similar blogs. In this piece you also said that “everyone progresses differently”. That being said, when is it okay for a comedian to “skip steps” or maybe move up in the food chain faster than they had originally expected? Is this something that will be dictated by the venues and people in their particular comedy scene; or is it a step ahead in the process that should be initiated by the comedians themselves?
MW: Opportunities should be taken when they are presented. However comics have to understand when hard working comics or even just entitled veteran comics see you pass them, there is going to be resentment. Never hold yourself because of fear of that resentment, HOWEVER, never expect to skip steps. It’s a double edged sword. Stay humble and never get too cocky, or you will end up sitting in your own ego’s bukkake.
RM: You also mentioned on one of your blogs that you had been accused of being sexist for not booking enough female comedians on your shows, and that you weren’t exactly sure why there are so many more men than women who do standup. Do you think some of that might have to do with the fact that women who would fit the description of being a feminist are afraid to do comedy because the audience expects them to openly discuss sex? Do you think male comedy fans to an extent DO expect female performers to talk about sex in their act a great deal?
MW: No, I don’t think this has much to do with it.
RM: How has your writing process changed over the past few years? What’s been the biggest adjustment that you’ve made as of late which has produced the most significant results?
MW: I have begun to attach things to one another instead of allowing them to just float alone in my set unrelated and randomly hoping they’ll be remembered. Trying to instill a larger message, not preachy but something outward edge relatable.
RM: What’s the most bizarre interaction you’ve experienced as a standup comedian? Looking back on it, would you have handled it differently than you did at the time?
MW: I got in a fist fight with a comic that was picking on another comic on my first so-called tour. Looking back I would have probably done the same thing. I can take it, but don’t fuck with my friends.
RM: What are you most excited about seeing at this year’s Scruffy City Comedy Festival in Knoxville?
MW: I am the most excited about the mix of comics we will be bringing in this year and the late night secret shows we have planned that fans will have to hunt for info about 🙂
RM: What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2014? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
MW: I am heading to Hell Yes Fest in New Orleans, and beginning to work on plans for the 6th Annual Cape Fear Comedy Festival in Wilmington, North Carolina in May of 2015.
Official Website: http://wardcomedy.com/
Matt on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mattwardcomedy
Matt on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mattwardcomedy
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