Starbucks. San Francisco.
“If we’re doing biopic of your career as a comic so far, where does it start?”
“Where does the biopic start?”
“Yeah, what’s the first scene?”
“I think the first scene is me as an old man. I’m right about to go onstage. [I’m] in the green room and I need to think about my entire life. And then I go out on the stage and it turns out the stage is actually the corner of a tiny bar somewhere. There’s no one in the audience but drunks. I do some jokes, and no one’s laughing. And then I take a gun, and I put it in my mouth, and I go, “Who’s laughing now…?” And then I pull the trigger. [backpeddling] That’s not real! None of that’s how I see it.”
A shoegaze charmer speaking in rambling, meandering patter with self-effacing, neurotic charisma. One part discourse: crafting arguments, mining jokes from exploring multiple angles, entertaining the logic of would-be detractors as puppets for hypotential histrionics, wielding humor to invite a point of view. Another part bombast: overshares in overdrive, wild, guttural splatterings of unexpected darkness, or smut, or absurdity. Fake-fish fucking, penis loathing and time traveling assassins. He’s a millennial everyman, a conduit of emotion, his feelings being the yellow Sun to his unassuming Superman. You end up rooting for Matt Lieb, because, while he’s natural funny, he just seems like he’s so gracious for your laughter, your approval. “[Comedy] keeps me busy. Keeps me from feeling useless, in a way … It’s hard to isolate, hard to hide in yourself, when you have to go out and talk to people… it’s therapeutic in that way.”
Born and raised in West Los Angeles, Matt Lieb, a plucky, awkward youngster, sat in the Laugh Factory on Sunset, sipping $4 sodas, in awe of watching the likes of Bob Marley and Dane Cook whom “absolutely destroyed”. This led to reading The Comedy Bible, “whoever wrote that is a fucking genius, just raking in the cash on people’s dreams that will probably go unrealized”, which lead to writing jokes as a teenager, mostly about how Matt would never get laid and that he hated society—”I knew I didn’t know shit from shit, but what I did know was my feelings, so those where all that mattered”—which lead to attending the quietly infamous stand-up comedy class at UC Santa Cruz (Emily Heller, Mary Van Note, Jesse Elias among its luminaries), which lead to performing stand-up and sketch comedy in college, which lead to… studying to be a teacher in San Francisco?
“Two months into it, I realized teaching wasn’t for me. I realized I was planning all these things around [comedy], [that] once I have this degree, I’ll be able to have a job, and once I have a job, I can make money, and I can feel “okay”, and *then* I can do comedy. And then realized I wouldn’t be able to start comedy until I was 32…”
Matt inherited and internalized financial anxiety from his parents. His father is a neuroscientist turned restaurateur turned teacher, his mother is a law librarian with decades of stability on the books. There were huge fluctuations of economic status, tremendous stress. Imagine how well it went over when Matt dropped out of school and rekindled his relationship with comedy, the financial abyss, in gusto. “My dad said, out of fear, ‘but you’re gonna fail!’” They’ve since come around after witnessing a well-received performance at the Punch Line Sunday Showcase. Matt’s dad has even resorted to pitching his son jokes.
So, how come Matt so funny? It’s something he’s trying to distill: “I ask people all the time, ‘Do I sound funny? Do I look funny? Is it funny because it’s clear that I’m suffering, or is it clear that I’m confident?’ I honestly have know no idea.”
You can try to figure out for yourself. Matt Lieb is an irregular regular on the FilmDrunk Frotcast, has taken down national icon Lebron James, made some of that yogurt money and is a producer of the Tabernacle and the Mission Position. Or you can just see him live, laugh and enjoy yourself, leave the self-conscious existentialism to the rakish goober.
words by oj patterson
illustration by ben walker