Matt Graham

Comedian Matt Graham is a New York based comedian who has written for Conan and Saturday Night Live. He currently stars in an Off-broadway show ‘This Too Shall Suck’

Matt Graham funny face
Matt Graham

YS) Tell us about your experience in the world of stand-up. Describe the challenge and what drew you to it:

MG) I did my first standup set at the age of 5, although I admit I ripped off another comic’s material. From the point I was first exposed to it it was my favorite of all the art forms, and I would say that back then it was practiced as art as much as simply entertainment. The first comic I heard a lot of was Woody Allen, but I also knew routines by Newhart, Nichols and May, Shelley Berman et al.

YS) You wrote for SNL and Conan – is there a similarity in writing for late night shows? Does the pressure to excel ever take the fun out of the writing process?

MG) There is a similarity to writing monologue jokes anywhere, but what you will do varied from host to show based on style and content preferences. I was hardly at SNL long enough to hang my coat, but obviously it is the most distinct monologue since the intent is to mimic a newscast. Like with anything, doing something as a job inevitably takes some of the fun out of it.

YS) Not a lot of people associate comedians with Scrabble, but you used your skill in the game to make a living. What are the keys to the game and what do you think gave you a competitive advantage? Are there any skills in Scrabble that you can apply to the world of stand-up comedy?

MG) The only skill from scrabble that translates to comedy is reading people. The most important thing in scrabble is leaving a balanced rack, and the game is a math one, not really a verbal one. I think my ability to be self-aware and self critical gave me my biggest advantage.

YS) At age 39, you tried to play basketball on the college level. What was that process like?

MG) The process of playing college basketball at the age of 39 was painful, especially since I had begun developing osteoarthritis of the knees in my teens. So painful in fact, that when I was cut, despite years of work and probably deserving to make the team, I was kind of relieved 🙂

YS) What was the impetus for your Off-Broadway show and what will audiences take away from it?

MG) The impetus initially was needing money to care for my cat, and the lack of women both general and specific. However, after a short while I realized that my odyssey proved of use to many who had experienced or were experiencing tough times. One guy who saw it recently described it as “funny, sad, thought-provoking, and inspiring” So while I still wanna meet chicks, I go into every show with the hope that I can help someone else and keep alive the memory of my beloved cat, Ruth.

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Jodie vs Lance

This week two notable public figures made statements declaring true what many had already presumed for years: Lance Armstrong is a lesbian and Jodie Foster was juicing during the filming of Maverick. Or maybe reverse that. Either way, we have on our hands two public admissions and the world’s reaction to both.

Actress Jodie Foster
Jodie Foster

Jodie’s came first, as she was given the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award at the Golden Globes, which sets the stage for her headline-making acceptance speech. Most actors take the award and thank their families and then maybe have a funny anecdote about advice someone gave them when they started out. Dustin Hoffman had a memorable one, the others know that it’s really an award for getting old. Not Jodie – she talked about a lot of things, including being private and being involved in acting since she was 3, and then said she didn’t need to come out – and she didn’t feel it was anyone’s business if she declared it or not. So, there you have it. Jodie Foster may or may not be gay although she hinted that she was by proclaiming that she had nothing to proclaim. Stay with me on this.

talk show host Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey

The next admission is from Lance Armstrong, and comes via Oprah, which, to me is disappointing. This comes on the heels of her sit down with David Letterman to discuss his sex scandal from 2009. I just don’t like that Oprah’s always the one people want to sit down with. I wish Larry King were alive, I mean, around, so we’d hear: ‘David Letterman here, the affair, the wife, Regina Lasco – Tuscaloosa, you’re our next caller.’ But no, it’s a sit down with Oprah. When Oprah has something to admit, does she just book herself to sit down in front of a mirror? Or maybe Gail puts on a fat suit and they chat. You get the idea. While I haven’t seen the interview, the highlight was that Armstrong was going to admit doping, and then now that he’s done the interview, the news is that he’s admitting doping. How can I say this – I wish I cared more that he took Performance Enhancing Drugs to have an Enhanced Performance. I still consider him a remarkable athlete, after all, you still gotta peddle up the mountain.

But there’s more. Why did he choose to make the admission now, after spending so much time denying the charges and threatening those with evidence? It appears that ‘now’ is very timely, as the statue of limitations has run out for him to be charged with perjury from his testifying that he didn’t take drugs in 2005. Whether or not this is completely true is up to a judge to decide, but if you ask a non-legal mind like myself, it seems like avoiding perjury would be the thing to do. As Yahoo! Columnist Jay Hart points out, if he’s trying to repair his legacy, this is the first hurdle to get past: admit your guilt and then work to save the sport. Look what it did for Jose Canseco and Marion Jones.

baseball player Jose Canseco
Jose Canseco
sprinter Marion Jones
Marion Jones

Back to Jodie. Did we learn anything from this? Was it as emotional and powerful as the crying celebrities in attendance and on Twitter deemed it to be? I don’t think it was. It was her first public declaration that she MIGHT be gay. She never said she was gay, she just hinted at it many times during a very rambling acceptance speech. I know that her point was she shouldn’t have to ‘come out’ to anyone, and she valued her privacy, etc. etc., but she lives and works in Hollywood – where none of that is possible or happens. When people come out, they COME-THE-HELL-OUT. There’s usually a TV camera and/or photographer and/or catering and press passes including. There’s usually a teary ‘I’ve kept this concealed for so long’ – and then they sit down with Oprah.

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Webb of Distraction

On Monday, January 7th , 2013, veteran sports broadcaster Brent Musburger inadvertently joined the Dirty Old Men of Broadcasting Club while attempting to call the plays of the Discover BCS College Football Championship.

Continue reading Webb of Distraction

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Kimmel Doesn’t Matter

Imagine if you will, Jimmy Kimmel and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson standing in a wrestling ring, staring each other in the face. The Rock says… ‘Jimmy, how do you feel about your show moving to 11:35pm?’ Jimmy, with a smirk on his face, replies ‘Well, Rock…’ The Rock interrupts with a resounding ‘It doesn’t MATTER how you feel about moving to 11:35pm..’ and with that The Rock picks up Mr. Kimmel and gives him The Rock Bottom.

The Rock meme
The Rock

What’s the point of this imagery you ask? Well, there has been much hoopla made since it was first announced in the Fall of 2012 that Jimmy Kimmel Live at 12:05am was being moved to 11:35pm. ‘Jimmy is going to be rolling with the big boys now,’ the critics chimed in, ‘he’s competing with Jay and Dave now for late night supremacy,’ they hollered from the rooftops. Well, the truth is – yes and no. From an industry standpoint, this is a big deal because the American Broadcasting Company, which heretofore had Nightline to compete with Dave and Jay, now has Jimmy Kimmel. They have finally got entrance into that tight fraternity of men who host shows at 11:35pm on a major network. I’m sure they’re as happy as Eddie Money running a travel agency…..whooo-oooo-ohhhhh. But I digress.

Dave and Jay
Dave and Jay in the 70’s

The point is this: the relevance of late night shows, and I say this as someone who has been watching late night shows since their inception in 1961, is not what it once was. I compare this celebration to that which surrounded Katie Couric when she was breaking the color, sound, sex, and possibly Great Reef barrier in evening newscasts by taking over at CBS in 2006. It was historic, it was smashing the glass ceiling that women still find themselves under (move to a different room already), and it was leading the way for Hillary to become President. It was all those things, and then the excitement wore off and a few years later she left in boredom. I see every similarity to this scenario (from an excitement standpoint) and none to the ‘Jimmy Kimmel is going to make late night hip again,’ that ABC is trying to ride to a ratings win. The only story line I’ve seen is Kimmel’s feud with Jay Leno. He doesn’t like Leno and adores Letterman, and Leno could care less. Guess what, no one seems to like Jay Leno: not Dave, not Jay, not Jimmy, and not his alma mater (so I’ve heard). He’s very popular but no one will admit to liking him. He is – in many ways – the Dane Cook of late night comedy.

Katie Couric dancing
Katie Couric

I say this for a few reasons, and none of which is a dislike for Jimmy Kimmel. I like Jimmy Kimmel, I’ve liked Jimmy Kimmel since he was on The Man Show and had girls jumping on trampolines. He’s a funny frat boy who isn’t trying to prove anything. I saw him interviewed by Bill Carter at the 92Y when he was here to promote the taping his show in Brooklyn, on which he had David Letterman as a guest. At the 92Y he was nice enough to prank call his Aunt Chippy in Las Vegas when an audience member asked if she was really like that. She is.

The reason this isn’t a big deal is because Jimmy Kimmel has been around for 10 years and has an audience. The Dave loyalists (me) will continue to watch Dave, the Jay loyalists (aka the Romney Campaign) will watch Jay, and then hopefully the members of the Harvard Lampoon will continue to watch Conan (it pains me to write that, but his show just isn’t the same on TBS). Jimmy Kimmel will get the usual surge in viewership for the first few weeks as people slowly adapt to his being on at 11:35pm. Then they will remember their first preference, and slowly migrate back to that. It’s good that Jimmy is getting the timeslot that a lot of his people think he deserves, but the fact of the matter is that younger viewers have many more options and distractions at night. They aren’t racing to their TVs at night to watch late night television, so one host moving from one timeslot to another – no matter how old or disgruntled audiences find his two competitors – won’t make all that much difference.

Jimmy Fallon as Justin Bieber
Jimmy Fallon

The real killer in this is the ‘momentum’ that said move is creating for the likes of Jimmy Kimmel and his eventual-when-Leno-really-truly-honestly-decides-to-hang-it-up counterpart, Jimmy Fallon. To say that either of these fine young men will be groomed into the new Kings of Late Night is a stretch. I like them both, I think they’re both funny, but the late night landscape has changed – and being the ‘King of Late Night’ is not what it once was. Just ask Conan and Arsenio.

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50 First Jokes

50 First Jokes
Produced by John F O’Donnell and Sachi Ezura
Hosted by Sean Donnelly
The Bell House in Brooklyn.

50 First Jokes is a celebration of the year’s first new material from 50 of New York City’s most up-and-coming comedians. One might compare it to a much lower key version of the 121212 Concert, without the music and the celebrity, and the raising of money, and the tragic event. Ok, it’s really just 50 comics on-stage waiting for the person at the mic to be done talking.

The show emanates from The Bell House in Brooklyn. The Bell House is a nice facility tucked into a corner of Brooklyn where people have died trying to reach the concert they wanted to see. They have a state-of the-art security operation, which involves bearded men telling you where not to go. If you think you can just show up and get in line for the show without an invisible hand stamp, well – you are sorely mistaken. Shame on you for thinking that in the first place, you silly white honky (paraphrasing). A sign would be helpful, but I digress.

The Bell House features 10 chairs on the floor in the front set up in airline style closeness with room for 400 people to stand. It is comfortable, it just depends on who sits next to you. I got the fat guy. You know, the fat guy in the mom jeans and sneakers with the belt clip for his phone? Yep, that fat guy. The guy who standing is 5-8 and then sitting is 6-5 because all of that fat gets pushed up towards his neck. I had to move my chair over – to the other room – to accommodate this man’s girth. Fat guy sits down and then Loud guy sits behind him and says ‘Great, I’m right behind the Fat guy.’

Host Sean Donnelly takes the stage to warm up the crowd for a bit, before we get going with the first group of 25 comedians. As an observer of the New York comedy scene, I expect all the comics to know each other – and then you realize they don’t and may be meeting other comics for the first time. A fascinating experiment in comedic socialization if you ask me. The highlight of the first set, however, was when Jon Friedman got up and told a Lactose Intolerant – Missing Children joke and Loud guy behind me bellows ‘Ha, first funny line of the night, liked that one.’ Thank God this guy is here, otherwise the rest of us wouldn’t know what to laugh at. Loud guy continued this routine throughout the night. Other comics of note were Dan St. Germain, Phoebe Robinson, Myq Kaplan, and John F. O’Donnell. Having not seen O’Donnell perform live before, he does bring a lot of energy to his set, which helps when you have 3 minutes to impress the crowd. For those of you at home wondering, the African-American community has found an answer to the Sklar Brothers, and they are the Lucas Brothers.

The ‘huh’ moment of the night came from comedienne Candi Candi (not her real name). Ms. Candi got up to the mic and then held a small flute up to her ass as music played throughout the house. Shen then took said flute and put it up to her mouth and flatulence played. Get it? Because you were expecting the opposite sound from the other end of her body. To paraphrase Adam Sandler from an early 90’s SNL sketch, ‘who are the comedic geniuses who came up with that one?’ I will say that if Ms. Candi had hiked up her skirt and gone bare-ass to flute, it would have satiated the porn fix for at least half the audience, but she didn’t – oh well.

At intermission, we were treated to the comedy team known as Murderfist. I don’t know exactly what they did, but it was bloody and scared both the audience and the group of comics on stage. There was a genuine fear of getting trampled.

To close out the night, the second group of 25 comics took the stage. Among the standouts from that group were Mike Racine, Calise Hawkins, Michelle Wolf, and Nate Fernal. Did I mention James Adomian? I probably didn’t – but the guy does a killer Jesse Ventura impression and you can’t go wrong with that. The show ended with an appearance by the Recovering Whores, who are southern belles with dirty mouths, and quite entertaining at that. When you see two women ready to go onstage at the Grand Ole Opry appear among 25 New York comedians, you say ‘ok, this should be interesting’ and it was, a job well done.

comedian Calise Hawkins
Calise Hawkins
comics on stage
50 First Jokes
comedian Dan Germain
Dan St. Germain
comedians before the show
James Adomian and Nick Vatterott
Michelle Wolf at the mic
Michelle Wolf
comic Mike Racine onstage
Mike Racine
comedian Phoebe Robinson
Phoebe Robinson
Reformed Whores at the mic
The Reformed Whores
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