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’
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.