By Ryan Meehan
Matt Walsh is an actor and comedian who is best known for his work as a founding member of the legendary improvisational sketch comedy troupe Upright Citizens Brigade. He can currently be seen playing Julia Louis Dreyfuss’ press secretary on the HBO series “Veep”, and has recently entered the world of sports podcasting by covering the Monsters of the Midway on his new show “Bear Down Podcast”. “Upright Citizens Brigade” ran for three season on Comedy Central, and Walsh went on to star on another CC show called “Dog Bites Man” as well as “Players” on SpikeTV. We are very happy to have Matt as our guest today in 5 Questions.
FOH: You are one of the four original members of the Upright Citizens Brigade comedy troupe…Are you surprised how that operation has grown over the past decade or so? What is your favorite part of being a part of the UCB?
MW: My favorite part of being one of the founders of UCB is that I get free t-shirts and cheap disposable lighters whenever I want from the UCB gift shop. I’m also supposed to get 10 percent of my chicken orders at Birds down the street but I haven’t tried to. Also being a UCB elder lets me decide which students from our school have to marry each other. Am I surprised that we started with a tiny converted strip club in NYC and it grew into a bi-coastal, multiple theater corporation thousands of students? I mean, were people surprised at the twist in “The Crying Game”? Or were people blown away when the Giants beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl a few years ago? Yeah, I guess so.
FOH: What’s the most important thing you learned working under comedy and theater legend Del Close?
MW: I learned from Del that if you stick around show business long enough everyone will do an impression of you. I also learned that improv is a skill based on several fundamentals which when practiced can allow you to perpetually experiment with forms to keep your audience interested. Finally I learned that just because my father was the same age as Del Close doesn’t mean they have a lot in common.
FOH: You play Julia Louis-Dreyfuss’ press secretary on the HBO series “Veep”… Could you ever see yourself actually working in politics? How does one go about fake-owning a dog?
MW: As Julia says on our show often, “Politics is about people.” I am a people person. The more you talk to the people, the more listening that happens. And once people start listening, they can hear the truth. And truth is what people respond to, and only when it’s delivered by another person. So working in politics seems quite easy as long as you remember you were born from people, into a country full of people — American people. As far as owning a fake dog, once you have established you are the alpha fake of the household, then fake house training and simple fake commands come quite easily.
FOH: Speaking of dogs, I really liked “Dog Bites Man”, a comedy series you did on Comedy Central a while back. What happened there? Do you think the final episode that you filmed in Tennessee will ever see the light of day?
MW: Comedy Central aired nine DBM episodes during the summer of 1956. It was warmly noticed by basic cable subscribers across America. I suspect we were too advanced for the nation at that time. The cold war audience was looking for geopolitical symbolism in our comedy when really we were just acting like idiots in front of real people to make each other laugh. The one episode that never aired was when we visited the Grand Wizard of the KKK in western Tennessee. It was never cut down to a 22-minute episode which is what all shows were back then, so I don’t think it will ever air. I did however in that un-aired episode discover, after much prodding, that the Grand Wizard did in fact like one black person: Sammy Davis Jr.
FOH: How did you make the decision to get into sports podcasting? Was sports talk radio always something that you were a fan of growing up and which radio personalities did you admire most? (Matt’s podcast “Bear Down” can be found at beardownpodcast.com)
MW: There was a significant niche audience that wasn’t being served on the internet when I started my sports podcast. I’m talking about the silent majority of Chicago Bears fans who follow all sports and like to laugh at ridiculous characters. My friend Scot Armstrong and I set out to reach that audience on our maiden podcast. And I think it’s fair to say that we have kept that promise for over 3 seasons now with a whopping 1500 downloads every week during football season. We even have fans in Wisconsin. I would love it if one day Colin Cowherd listened to our podcast and maybe wrote us a congratulatory email or Tweet or Vine or even a Snapchat.
FOH: Is television acting different for somebody like yourself who has a heavy improv background as opposed to, say, how a stand-up comedian who hasn’t had any formal improv training might go about approaching it?
MW: The sad truth about stand ups who become actors is that in order for them to succeed they have to be near a microphone and microphone stand at all times. Just watch any old episodes of King of Queens or Everyone Loves Raymond or even Seinfeld. If you pause the program enough you can always spot the mic and stand. Improvisors are great actors because they know writing is easy so nobody will mind if you just ignore what the writers have supposedly slaved over and just say whatever comes into your mind. In fact Jimmy Cagney once said “Get that funny guy in here so I can take a leak”.
FOH: What’s up next for Matt Walsh in 2013? Anything big in the works?
MW: 2013 is shaping up to be the busiest year of my life. After wrapping the second season of “Veep”, I went right into planning an Easter egg hunt for our family party, picking four bushels of lemons from our lemon tree in the back yard, and going to both California Adventure and Disneyland with the kids on the same day. So, yeah, I have a lot going on.
Matt on IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0909768/
Matt on Twitter: @mrmattwalsh
Matt on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=1541735719&fref=ts
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