An Interview With Matt Bearden
Matt Bearden was one of the eight comedians to win a Rusty Nail at this year’s Aspen RooftopComedy Festival. Does knowing this information remind you of finding out who was the final five Cylons on Battlestar Galactica, or finding out who was on the Oceanic Six on LOST. Well it’s not like it’s a total secret, and if you follow the clues, or read the spoilers or whatever. Anyway, Matt Bearden was on TV too! Does that make him a Cylon? Probably not.
Paolo: What was it like to perform at funfunfunfest a couple of weeks ago? Also, I read somewhere about a mustache incident happening, by way of aspecialthing, would you care to elaborate? Was there even an incident?
Matt: Fun Fun Fun Fest was, for the lack of creativity, very fun. Wow. I just re-read that first sentence and realized how lame it is. I mean, it’s terrible. Sure, I could re-write it, but why not let your audience know what an unfunny douche I really am?
Anyhow . . . two days, perfect weather, free beer. Pretty much a wining combo. I got into the spirit of things and did a stage dive during my set. It was as punk as I get. The guys who run Fun Fun (Transmission Entertainment) seem to be showing a lot of faith in comedy these days. They ran a similar thing during this past SXSW called “Mess With Texas”. Highlights included Tig (Notaro), PFT (Paul F. Tompkins), Reggie Watts, and others along side The Breeders, Matt & Kim, and Jay Reatard, et. al. Both events revolve around outdoor stages, which can usually be the kiss of death for stand up, but if you approach it correctly, it’s a blast.
I hate to disappoint you, but there really wasn’t much of a “mustache incident”. Occasionally, I’ll invite someone else with a stache to join me on stage so that we can touch our cock-dusters together. Like a dude-on-dude kiss, but without actual lip contact. It’s perhaps the most awkwardly looking and feeling thing. This kid in the FFFF audience was a particular trooper. He apparently thought I was inviting him up to simply touch my mustache. Like, with his hands. But once I corrected him, he seemed to be a good sport, and even let me deliver a joke while we stood, nose-to-nose in near bro-love glory. Then we got arrested for violating Prop 8.
Paolo: How did you get into comedy?
Matt: Like most white, 30-something comedians, I got into comedy by being really shitty at high school sports. More specifically, I was a huge comedy fag. Always have been. In the 90s, I worked primarily as an actor. I did sketch shows at a club in Austin, and would always stick around to watch stand up. During one 2-year period, I was watching 5 or so shows a week. In ’97, I landed a role on an MTV show alongside some great comics, and I would often M.C. shows for them. I guess that organically grew into my current comedy career. Also, as an actor, my options for work were always left in others’ hands. As a comic, I can work as often as I like, whenever I like. Stand up is much more “portable” and “immediate”. I love that part of it.
Paolo: Who are your comedic influences?
Matt: I’m a storyteller. In an hour set, I tend to have just 8 or so bits. Nothing makes me more jealous than watching someone who is great at the set-up/punch form, but it’s just not something I excel in. I love, love, love short fiction and comedic non-fiction. Egger’s “Best American Non-Required Reading” series is fantastic. “McSweeney’s”. Donald Barthelme’s short stories are huge. They’re a much bigger influence than I’d like to admit. Occasionally, I’ll write what I think is a totally original take on something, only later to realize how much my sub conscience is filled with ideas that aren’t wholly mine. I have a story about rats. Barthelme wrote a great story about rats. I have a story about teaching. Barthelme wrote a great story about teaching. Am I admitting to being a hack? Maybe. Mostly, I’m just answering the question honestly. Too many times I see someone list a litany of other comedians whose work they enjoy, as opposed to someone who actually has influence over their work. Also, Paul F. Topmkins is an influence as far as “what kind of human being do I want to be?” With all of his talent and success, he seems to still put being a genuine and down-to-earth person ahead of all else. Plus, he always buys the beer.
Paolo: What was the absolute worst who you’ve ever had?
Matt: The “worst who I’ve ever had?” If that’s what you really meant, then I’d say the blonde girl in high school (whose name I can’t remember) who rubbed a hole in my Tommy Lee during a tuggie.
That’d be the worst “who” I’ve ever had. Something tells me however, that you meant, “show”.
The worst show. And that’s easy. September 12, 2001, in Slidell, LA. The day after the towers fell. I performed in front of no one essentially. The club refused to cancel the show. There were three people at one table having a great time: a dude with a stringy mullet, and two chubby gals. They were tweaked out of their minds. In talking to them from the stage, it turned out that they had been partying in a hot tub for 2 days, and had no idea we’d been attacked. Fucking clueless. After I informed them, they went into stunned silence. I still had 15 more minutes to fill. After the show was over, the club turned into a disco. Suddenly it got packed . . . with minors. Later, the lock box was confiscated, as the club hadn’t paid their liquor license fees. Only after a long discussion with the cops did I finally get paid. I went back to the “hotel” room they’d gotten me. Before I got to my door, 2 different hookers approached me. Within the hour, I heard gunshots in the parking lot, and the place filled with cops. I hopped in my car and drove to New Orleans where I knew a bar owner I could stay with. It turned out he was out of town, so his staff let me sleep on the office sofa. But they had to lock me in, and I wasn’t allowed to move much so I wouldn’t set off the motion detectors. Taste the glamor, bitches.
Paolo: How has your life changed since winning a Rusty Nail back in May? If it hasn’t changed your life, what was it like to find out that you won?
Well, my life hasn’t really changed all that much in the last two weeks. Let me explain:
The great thing about my Rusty Nail Award is that it apparently sat in the office of my home club for months before I knew about it. I literally just got the thing a few days ago. When Cap City called me to host their Comedy Caucus, they added “Oh by the way, we’ve got an award here for you. It was mailed to us, and we forgot.” So, I guess it was a bit of an unceremonious affair. It has got me wondering, though, if I might not have an Emmy, or and Oscar, or one of those huge novelty checks stuffed away in some other office out there, just waiting for the right phone calls.
Paolo: I’ve noticed a trend with comics and substitute teaching. Do you think there is a connection between the two?
Matt: I’ve not noticed it. I think you’re referring to a bit I have, but as with all of my bits, it’s pretty much rooted in fantasyland. I tend to approach my bits like a fiction writer. There am a lot of me in all of them, but they’re hardly autobiographical. I take a lot of liberties. I hate to answer the final question this way. Maybe I should just lie and make up something. Maybe I should stop assuming that you’re referring to my bit. Hey, speaking of . . . have you noticed that Rooftop has posted that same bit on the site twice? But it’s listed once as “Girl Fight”, and once by the punch line. Also, the one listed as “Girl Fight” has a 5-star rating, and the one listed as the actual punch line has a 3-star rating. I think that’s probably a good sign that jokes aren’t nearly as funny when someone knows the punch line before hearing the setup. Maybe you can get someone in the office to fix that? Sweet!