Savage Henry Independent Times Interview Nov 2012 Issue

Chris Durant


Stand-up comic Matt Gubser is familiar with Bays.  He grew up in the Monterey area, lives in the San Francisco area, and has played a handful of sets up here in Humboldt.  For the last four years he has been honing his jokes and stage presence around all these bays without the influence of alcohol.  How does he do it? How does he "calm the nerves" without the benefit of "go go juice?" Well, you're about to find out.


Savage Henry:  How did you get started in stand-up comedy?



Matt Gubser: My first year consisted of just going to the weekly open mic at Pepperbelly’s Comedy Club in Fairfield every Wednesday. Like every new comic, I was terrible for a long time (and still am, occasionally).  It took me a good six months just to stop pissing myself whenever I got onstage.  I ruined several pairs of shoes.


SH: What made you want to get on stage and tell jokes in front of strangers?


MG:   I think it mostly came down to the desire to be paid in nachos. Suck it, Taxman!


We’re an entertainment-driven culture.  I used to teach sculpting classes, so I knew that I could make dry material funny and I had firsthand experience that people stayed more engaged when they were being entertained.   If you’ve got something to say, you better be entertaining (or terrifying, if you’re into talk radio).  Stand-up seemed like it might be a good fit.  Nobody wants to come hear me lecture on the misogynistic dual standard with which we view female sexuality, but you surround that with three minutes of dick jokes and BOOM! Instant fame and glory!


Plus I’d watched enough comedy on Comedy Central that I could confidently declare, “Those guys are terrible.  I’m funnier than that.”  I was wrong, but I was confident, and confidence can take you a long way (Iraq, for instance).


Looking back,  on some level, I’d decided to try comedy about a year before I ever got onstage.  I had taken a flight and airport security had confiscated my toothpaste.  It really pissed me off.  The idea that our lives and “liberty” were somehow being protected through the confiscation of toothpaste and nail clippers struck me as so mind-bogglingly naive that I scribbled down some notes about a terrorist hijacking a plane with toothpaste


“Nobody move or the pilot gets it right in the eye!”            


 “Oh, God.  He’s serious! That’s cinnamon! It’s gonna’ burn so bad!”. 


I was just venting frustration and had no conscious thought of doing stand-up at the time, but a year later, when I did decide to go up onstage, that story was the first thing I did.  I don’t think I’ve told it since though.


SH:I understand you don't drink, can you get into why?


MG: It’s just never really been a part of my life.  When I was in high school, I was an athlete.  My diet was strict.  I was a work-out nut.  Later I was a personal trainer for a few years and again trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  Plus I had kids at pretty young age and there just wasn’t any time for me to drink, even if I’d wanted to. 


Alcohol really doesn’t do much for me. I never developed a taste for it. It mostly just makes me sleepy and kind of obnoxious.  I’m more than capable of being both of those things perfectly sober.


When you’re doing comedy, there’s alcohol everywhere.  You’re in bars or you’re in clubs that are making the bulk of their profits off of alcohol sales.  You’re always given drink tickets.  If you do well, people want to buy you more drinks.  For me, it’s just easier to avoid it completely.  Comedy is my job.  I try to stay professional when I’m at “work.”  For me, that’s easier to do that sober.


A lot of comics drink before they go up to calm their nerves.  It’s more important for me to be sharp.  I need my brain working 100%.  I can’t imagine trying to do stand-up drunk.


SH:I know when I'm sober at a bar that drunk people absolutely get on my nerves. How do you deal with it when drunks start heckling and carrying on?


MG: Getting heckled was, by far, my biggest fear when I first got started.  I remember watching clip after clip after clip of other comics dealing with hecklers.  I was terrified of the very possibility.  But here I am, roughly a thousand shows in, and I don’t really get heckled that often.  I’m sure part of that has to do with me being a big guy.


I give people the benefit of the doubt.  I don’t think anybody spending their hard-earned money on comedy tickets and overpriced drinks comes in with the idea that they’re going to make an ass of themselves and possibly have an entire room full of strangers end up despising them by the end of the night. A lot of people who heckle don’t really intend to.  They may not realize that their conversation is distractingly loud.  In other cases, people think that they’re helping.  They’re not, but they think that somehow they’re adding to the show.   As a comic, anything else going on that competes for your attention can be fatal.  You have to maintain control of the room, especially if you’re doing material that’s, I don’t want to say complicated,  but material that you have to pay attention to in order to avoid missing the point.  If I get people fading in and out, I’m screwed .  So the distractions have to be handled.  I’ll ask politely at first, and more forcefully if necessary.  If someone insists on derailing the show, they get to become the show.

SH: Do you feel like you should be getting paid for baby sitting, too?


MG: Should I get paid more? Like getting guacamole on my nachos? I’m all for that.  Avocadoes are great for you.

SH: You have a favorite room or type of room to play?


It doesn’t matter what type of room, but the audience needs to take you seriously, which means they need to see that the venue takes you seriously.  Distractions have to be limited. If it’s a non-comedy venue, it’s great if there’s a dedicated room for comedy. You don’t end up with an audience of pissed off regulars, resentful that they have to keep it down at their bar for some clown in the corner with a microphone.


I’ve done so many shit rooms where there are a million things going on: pool tables, TV’s, etc . I did a recent show at a casino in a room that was fully-lit, no stage, audience and staff constantly in and out of the six exits.  It was like trying to do comedy at a Home Town Buffet.  At one point a waitress stood directly in front of me, mid-joke, and said, “Don’t forget to tell them about dessert.”  Great experience.


SH: Recently, I saw on your Facebook feed that you blew up on Reddit. Can you talk about how that happened and what it meant for your exposure?


MG:  Reddit started an area for comics to post images with themselves with their jokes on the images.  It’s the same stuff you see all over the internet. One of them got posted to a larger area on the site and made it to the front page.  It was a nice little publicity bump.  My YouTube channel got more views in one day than it had in the previous two years.   What it meant was 50 new Twitter followers, 100 YouTube Subscribers, and 1 Google+ circle.  I just need to repeat that once a month for the next five years, and then I’ll be a real boy!  Or to look at it another way, in one day, more people disliked a joke I did than had ever actually seen me perform it in person . And it was a good thing.


SH: Could you give me a brief synopsis for your inevitable sitcom?


I play a former major league baseball player who bartends in Boston.  Everyone in the bar knows everyone else’s name.  I think it could be huge.  


SH:  Are your children constantly providing you with material?


MG:  Definitely.  Being a father has played a big role in shaping and reshaping who I am and how I see the world.  An audience ultimately wants to hear about you.  I couldn’t convey that without mentioning that I’m a dad. 


SH: Have they ever written jokes you've used on stage?


MG:  No. They have no taste in comedy.  Then again, when I was their age, I thought Pauly Shore and Adam Sandler were the funniest people in the world.  I haven’t given up hope for them yet. 


SH:Can you tell our readers how to see more Matt Gubser?

MG:  You can find me on roughly 217 different social networks. I upload new videos every week or two to my youtube channel ( and I’m in the process of launching my new website,  In November [coughJulycough], I’ll be releasing my first album “Hilarious Things” which I’ll be making available for free directly from my site.  I think it’s a pretty good deal.