by Ryan Meehan
Matteo Lane is New York-based comedian and illustrator who has a moustache and enjoys wearing tank tops. He regularly performs with several of the New York comics who we’ve had the privilege of interviewing, and today it’s his turn as he’s our guest today in 7 questions.
RM: When did you first explore the worlds of comedy and drawing, and which came first? What was the first piece you did that you remember being really proud of; and what was the first joke that made you to realize you had the potential to become a standup comedian?
ML: I’ve been drawing since I could hold a pencil. My mom is an amazing artist, but never made it her career. The first piece of artwork I remember being satisfied with was a drawing of Maleficent in her tower hurling lighting at Prince Phillip. I was 4 years old. I still find myself sketching the same thing today. The first joke I ever told at an open mic that got a real reaction was one about sashaying on my way home from the train when following a girl late at night because I wanted her to know that I was gay, and wasn’t going to attack her. But I was always singing and impersonating MadTV and SNL characters as a kid, or cartoons. I used to sing Dolly Parton as a kid, and my mom still claims she had no idea I was gay.
RM: Do you ever get tired of people referring to you as “The gay comic” when you are the only person of that sexual orientation on the bill that night? Do you ever feel like in some instances, it can actually help you stand out from the others and be the most memorable performer the audience saw that evening?
ML: I probably stand out more for singing like Mariah Carey than I do for being gay. Then again, that might be the same thing. I am a comic who’s gay. I’m sure if you talked to a lot of comics, they wouldn’t refer to themselves as, “a straight comic”. That being said, I understand that it’s not as common to see a gay person doing stand-up comedy, and a lot of people will refer to me as a “gay comic” just because they think it’s an appropriate title. In terms of standing out, I think sometimes I forget that skinny jeans and camel toe isn’t a look people are used to seeing on a male comedian. So I get some looks, but once I start in on my material hopefully people see that I am working hard and trying to craft jokes like any other comic.
RM: You do some very colorful illustrations that people can check out at http://mattlaneart.com. If someone presented you with the opportunity of getting one of the best jobs in the world when it comes to illustration but the only condition was that you could never perform standup comedy again, would you take it? And if you never did comedy from this point forward, what would you miss most about that art form?
ML: UMMMMMMM… That’s a strange question. The truth is, drawing is something I love doing alone, and for myself. I’ve been drawing for so long, it’s almost like breathing or speaking to me. (That sounded incredibly pompous) I will still sit by myself with a giant stack of paper and pencil late at night, and draw till my arm is numb. Drawing is something where I can escape to my own world, and allow my brain to shut down and just work impulsively. Stand up is a cry for love, attention, and affirmation from the world around me. When I hear people laughing at my jokes, I forget about my flaws. But…to answer your question, I would probably choose stand up over drawing. Only because stand-up comedy acts more like a drug, that keeps giving me a high and I keep going back to it. That being said, if I lost the ability to draw, I don’t know what I would do. Probably cry a lot. I don’t even know if I answered your question.
RM: What intangibles does Caroline’s on Broadway have that makes it such a great club for both performers and audiences alike? Was it surreal for you the first time you got to do comedy there since it’s such a mecca for New York comics?
ML: When I first got to NYC all I knew about clubs was that Artie Lange from the Howard Stern Show (who I love) said that ‘Carolines on Broadway’ is the best club in the city. And when they first asked me to come perform there over a year ago, I almost died. I still love sitting in the booth before I go on and reading the ‘Carolines’ sign on the wall, with the “R” just a little off centered. Luis and Samantha who run the club have been nothing but an inspiration and life support for my career and confidence. I love them, and that club.
RM: A couple of years back, you were on Marty DeRosa’s podcast “Wrestling with Depression” where you talked about your struggles with the subject matter. What are some coping mechanisms that you use to get through the day when you feel that invisible rain cloud above your head? Are you the type of person who feels better or worse after they discuss their depression and/or anxiety?
ML: I’m a gay Italian, so I’m always screaming my problems to the world and I have a very hard time keeping things to myself. I’m pretty transparent when it comes to my feelings. I still try to cope with my sexuality, the pain of being in the closet, and the ‘cliché’ bullies I dealt with in high school. These are the skeletons in my closet that I often still have to run from. Except all my skeletons wear Boa’s. (Hacky joke) When I recorded that podcast with Marty, I remember being embarrassed about it because I started crying. But when I left, I called my good friend, John, who is also gay, and asked him if he remembers what it felt like to be in the closet. He and I both started crying. It was a very dark time that I now mask on stage with singing and smiles. But as a 13 year old, you don’t know what’s happening to you and why you act the way you act. And being made fun of for being yourself can fuck you up for a long time. I don’t know if I’ll ever get over it. Maybe I’m too sensitive.
RM: You were one of the “New Faces of Comedy” at this year’s Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal…What was that whole experience like for you; and how did you think that your sets went? Which were you more concerned with: Getting exposure; or networking with other comedians that you didn’t already know?
ML: I was thrilled and scared at the same time. I haven’t been doing comedy for that long, and it’s not good to get too much exposure too early because it can stunt your growth as a comedian. But it ended up being one of the best moments in my life. I had a good set, and a good response and that was all I wanted. The best part about it was last minute I ended up getting booked on HBO Canada. Which I still can’t believe that I was asked to do it. That was such an honor. I don’t think it’s hit me yet how fortunate I was to be able to go. I am very grateful for it. It was an amazing experience. Also, I got to share a room with my friend Liza Treyger, and we sang Wicked all night long.
RM: What’s one thing that people may not know about you? As a guy who’s pretty open about his personal life, do you still find that there are some things you just aren’t comfortable sharing on stage?
ML: That I love pussy. Can’t get enough of it. I don’t know if there’s anything I’m afraid to share on stage. I do think there are subjects that when I’m a better comedian I might be able to shed some light on, or make it funny. But right now they’re just sitting in my head.
RM: How would you best describe your joke writing process? Do you just kind of write jokes as funny things happen to you during the day, or do you set aside a certain time period where you do nothing but brainstorm ideas for new bits?
ML: I used to try and write with a pen and paper. Then I always ended up drawing sailor moon, or Maria Callas. Then I tried for a long time to sit at my computer and write out jokes. That didn’t work either. If I feel like I’m following a script, I become stale on stage. So now, I just wait till something hits me that I think is funny, and I make a note on my phone. Then try to work that idea out on stage that night. Adrenaline really helps the creative process for me, and sparks spontaneity and jokes that I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. So I record all of my sets on my phone, and listen back when I’m on the train, or going to bed. A lot of jokes I have now came from off the cuff comments I made when I was in the moment on stage.
RM: What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2014 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
ML: Trying to get a boyfriend, and to stop pretending that Mariah Carey doesn’t lip sync.
Official Website: http://mattlaneart.com
Matteo on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/matteo.lane
Matteo on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MatteoLane
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