Matt Knudsen is a comedian, who will take part in The Bridgetown Comedy Festival at 8:00 PM, on April, 18th; here is a link to his blog:
Q: What made you want to become a comedian?
A: When I was growing up, I wanted to be Bill Murray. I still do. As I’m getting older though, I feel as though I’m becoming Ted Knight. I would watch SNL, SCTV, You Can’t Do That on Television (I thought it would be so great to get slimed), Kids in the Hall, Marx Brothers, Harold Lloyd, 3 Stooges. I had all of Bill Cosby’s albums on cassette and would listen to them on my yellow Sony Walkman as I lay in bed. I also loved the stand ups on The Tonight Show, Evening at The Improv, HBO ½ hours; George Carlin, Steve Martin, Jerry Seinfeld, Gary Shandling, Brian Regan. I remember seeing a Louie Anderson special and he was talking about driving around the city with his mom as she pointed out things that had no relevance to him at all. He did a callback much later in the set as his mom stopped by her friend’s house; “I saw where you work. Thanks for the boots.” Hilarious. Carson was the undisputed kingmaker but I really loved Letterman. I remember he used to come out wearing wrestling shoes with a suit and throw TV’s off of buildings. It was so great, plus there was something inherently cool about staying up so late to watch it. As a kid, I was always “funny,” with my friends, which in retrospect probably made me insufferable to adults but I don’t ever remember thinking, “One day, I’m going to be on TV too.” When you live in North Dakota, that just feels like the furthest thing from reality. I was just in awe of and grateful for these people that made me laugh and I still am.
Q: What does a Merchant Marine do exactly?
A: The biggest misconception about merchant marines is that they are a part of the military. That’s not true. Although sometimes they work in support of military operations, all the crewmembers on merchant ships are civilians. The most apt description I’ve heard of merchant marines is, “The truckers of the sea.” Basically any ship that you see transporting cargo; car carriers, tankers, container ships, etc. that is not a military ship, is crewed by merchant marines. Truth be told the crews of most merchant ships look like the guys who are on shows like The Deadliest Catch and Ice Road Truckers. When I was shipping out, I had long hair, a lackluster beard and wore coveralls that I had cut the arms and legs off of. I was in the deck department and responsible for steering the ship in and out of port and maintaining our course when we were in the open ocean. As a late teenager, early 20 something, I felt very lucky to have the experiences that I did. I got to go to Europe, Africa and The Far East and go backpacking in my time off. I always say that my time at sea was basically the chunk of life that I would have spent in college.
Q: What kind of day jobs have you had and how do they influence your comedy?
A: I used to work as a boom operator in film and television while I was taking acting classes and performing at open mics. It was a great experience to see professional actors working in the environment that made them stars. One of my first jobs was a movie called The Suburban’s that had Will Ferrell, Ben Stiller, Craig Bierko and a bunch of other people. I got to see what it took to be a professional actor without having to be a professional actor. Although most of them aren’t listed, you can see some of my other sound credits on IMDB: http://pro.imdb.com/name/nm0461730/
Q: What makes the Bridgetown Festival unique?
A: The thing that I really love about Bridgetown is that most comics are in Portland for the whole weekend and there’s plenty of time to hang out. When you’re in LA or New York, people usually just do their set and split. When you’re on the road, it’s usually just you and another comic. At Bridgetown, it’s much easier to round up a large group of friends and go to the haunted pizza parlor.
Q: What makes someone funny?
A: To be honest, I think it’s difficult to quantify. To me, people are funny for many different reasons. Bob Newhart and Bobcat Goldthwait are both hilarious but they’re definitely not getting laughs in the same way. I like seeing someone do something that is so uniquely them, that it can’t be replicated by anyone else. I also enjoy it when people are relaxed enough to talk about what’s happening in the moment.
Q: What trends in comedy annoy you?
A: I always cringe when I hear someone start a joke with, “So this homeless guy…”
Q: Who was the worst heckler you ever had and how did you deal with him or her?
A: Hecklers are the worst but I usually have a distinct advantage over hecklers because I’m rarely the drunkest I’ve ever been in my entire life. I hate engaging hecklers most of the time because when they hear they’re getting laughs off of your “rapport,” it only emboldens them. One night I was doing a show and a heckler got so frustrated that he left the show room and returned about 3 minutes later with his arms full of toilet paper rolls. Apparently, he had gone in to the bathroom and grabbed as many rolls as he could. I told him I would stand there and promised not move a muscle. True to my word, I didn’t move as threw them all at me one at a time and didn’t come close. The crowd booed him and he left in the club in a huff. I repeat, hecklers are the worst. One night I was battling a heckler in Erie, Pennsylvania but decided on a tactical retreat after he said, “You know I have a gun in my truck right?” “Thanks for coming sir.”
Q: What has been your greatest professional triumph?
A: In 2010 I was at a party at The White House. #Humblebrag I was standing next to Michelle Obama when a party guest asked her if he could take a picture with her and his family. She very diplomatically said that he could take whatever pictures he wanted but that she couldn’t pose with everyone who asked and that she only poses for official photography. I leaned in said, “I have the same policy.” She laughed out loud, rubbed my back and said, “Oh you are funny.”
Q: What is your funniest backstage story?
A: I remember being backstage doing a sketch show and messing up a costume change. I was supposed to be in a toga but came out wearing a green tracksuit and a white wig. I didn’t realize I messed up until I was onstage in front of the audience and the lights came up. In my mind I remember thinking, “Where are all the other Florida retirees?” I believe Morrissey said it best when he said, “I can smile about it now but at the time it was terrible.”
Q: Tell me a joke about Portland.
A: We have a Portland here in Los Angeles, we just call it Silverlake.
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)