Sketchfest Q&A: Matt Braunger


From SF Weekly

January 27, 2010
By Irene McGeee

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The only cure for the crappy, rainy weather is comedy… well, comedy and beer. Luckily, the Punch Line not only sells booze, but the club will also host but the very funny Matt Braunger his week as part of SF Sketchfest. He’ll be at the venue along with Kyle Kinane and Brendan Lynch this Thursday at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 and 10 p.m.). An award-winning comic, Braunger started in improv and transitioned into stand-up. The mix helped him earn a reputation as one of the most diverse and talented rising stars on the scene. His album Soak Up The Night, released by Comedy Central records in 2009, is available both on iTunes and on vinyl (we love the old school vinyl release). His television credits include The Late Show with David Letterman, Live At Gotham, and Mad TV.

When did you start doing stand-up?

I started in improv in Chicago right after I graduated from college. I was always a comedy fan, so I started to take classes at Improv Olympic. I was lucky enough to study under Del Close a couple of months before he died. I got kicked off my improv team because I couldn’t afford to take the classes. One of the things people don’t understand about improv is that you have to take the classes to be able to perform. Anyway, that’s when I turned to the dark side of comedy: stand-up.

When did things start to hit in your career?

It’s been a strange process. From Chicago I moved to LA. I felt like I was a hamster in a wheel, and I wasn’t really going anywhere in Chicago. I figured I might as well be a hamster in an enormous field full of wolves, so I moved to LA. Plus, I wanted to have an acting career and a writing career as well, and knew I’d have more opportunities in LA. I first got noticed at the Chicago Comedy Festival in 2001, but it wasn’t until the Just For Laughs festival in Montreal in 2007 that the ball really started rolling. The Montreal festival was what allowed me to quit my day job about a year or two later.

What was it like to be on the David Letterman show?

You get so nervous because it’s a show you grew up loving and I was such a big fan. Literally 15 minutes before I was about to do my set, a booker told me I was going to get to sit and do an interview with David Letterman after my routine. The booker asked if I had a funny story to tell David, so I said sure, and I told the booker a story. I did my set, then I sat down with David Letterman and told him my funny story, and David Letterman laughed. I could tell it was a genuine laugh. I felt like my life was made. I could die now. The funny thing I remember is when it was over, you shake hands, you take pictures, and then you leave out a side door onto a stark empty street in NYC by yourself. I was standing there thinking, “Did I just dream that? Did that just happen?”

Was your family supportive of your career?

My parents were both just extremely supportive. They were school teachers, and believed in doing what you love, not in just following money. They were proud I would get out there night after night after night and take risks. In terms of security, we have no security, and everything has collapsed. The days of working at one company and getting a gold watch at the age of 50 are long since gone. If you are going to follow your dreams and be an artist, there has never been a better time then now. You really might as well.

Did you ever want to quit?

No, it never crossed my mind. Never. I had been a bartender and a waiter for six years, I’d been a PA, I’d worked as a closed captioning writer – I always felt like there was something I could do on the side. As a kid I’d have nightmares about feeling left out. I always knew I’d break my own heart if I just took some job for the money and I didn’t work as a performer, or a writer, or something really creative. I might have a nice apartment, and drive a nice car, but I would just hate myself. It’s not because I want to be a star; I want to do stuff that entertains people.

What’s your ultimate career goal?

I’d like to collaborate with all the hilarious, amazing friends I’ve met and create projects we can write, direct, and act in. I’d like to have a steady comedy career. I’d like to have a decent television and film career, doing writing and some acting, without having to be the star. I’d just like a career with some guaranteed work, but doing what I love everyday. My philosophy on life is that you have to keep improving your problems. You are always going to have problems no matter what, but it’s up to you to make them better problems. No matter how frustrated or pissed off I get, I look at my problems and say these are better problems then I had four years ago. Way better problems.

Why should check out the show?

I always really try to put on a fun show and try to make sure no one wasted their time to see me. I never take it for granted that people left their homes and spent money to come see my comedy show. This is my last date in January before I go off the road for two months. This show at the Punch Line is going to be a big hurrah for me.

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