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Groomed for the Eden stage | Matt Green

Recently-married stand-up comedian Matt Green speaks to us about his upcoming slot at the 11th Eden Stand-Up Comedy Night at Eden Cinemas. New to Malta, the British comic is gaining traction on the circuit thanks to his new show, Groom for Improvement – all about the agonies and ecstasies of early marriage.  

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic
3 February 2015, 8:30am
Matt Green:
Matt Green: "I much prefer writing stand up than any other kind of writing, just because you can get almost immediate feedback from a real audience". Photo by Michael Wharley
What’s funny?

Wow, big question to start with! That’s akin to asking, “What’s sad?” or “What’s interesting?” I think one of the things you realise doing comedy for a living is that everyone has a different sense of humour and some people find things funny that other people find baffling or offensive or boring or all three. In many ways that’s the joy of this job: performing for a myriad of audiences and having to tailor your act slightly every night. Sometimes you can push boundaries a little more than other times, or you can explore more complex ideas, or perhaps you just have to banter with the front row and that will get the biggest laughs. Whether or not something is funny is dependent on so many things, but it mostly boils down to context: what the venue is like, who is in the room, if the sound and lighting is working properly. That’s why I think a comedy club is the best place experience comedy: every part of the experience is designed to enhance the funniness of the night, and people can relax and enjoy themselves.

But to answer your question more succinctly: people falling over and cats walking on pianos are funny.  

You were a member of the Cambridge Footlights during your Uni days: the jumping-off point for many key British stand-up comedians. What was the atmosphere like at the time you were there, and which important ‘comedy tools’ would you say you’ve gleaned from your time at the Footlights?

The Footlights is and always has been just a student club for people who want to write and perform comedy. I think the reason it has been so influential over the years is that a lot of bright and witty people end up at Cambridge University and some of them (like me) decide that academia is less fun than messing about on stage. And because over the years so many people have progressed from the Footlights to success in comedy, it gives you the all-important confidence to have a go yourself and the belief that it might be possible to make a living from it!

However, the most important thing it gives you is experience in front of an audience with expectations. The club puts on “smokers” every couple of weeks which are basically just open mic nights where you can try out a sketch, some stand up, a song, an extract from a play or whatever you like, and they always get good crowds. Plus every term the Footlights put on a big show, which has a run of a week or two – and then in the summer take a show on tour across the UK and to the Edinburgh Fringe. I was lucky enough to be involved in several of these shows including two tour shows (and I directed a third) so that by the time I left University I had built up many hours of stage time performing material that I had been involved in creating. This is absolutely invaluable: the thing that everyone involved in comedy will tell you is that nothing is as important as time on stage for building your skills. Plus of course I met a lot of really talented and funny people there, many of whom I’m still in touch with and work with occasionally.

You’ve written screenplays, as well as having worked for radio. Did performing stand-up comedy help you get a keener perspective on your writing process?

To be honest, I much prefer writing stand up than any other kind of writing, just because you can get almost immediate feedback from a real audience. I can have an idea for a joke during the day and say it in front of a crowd that very evening, and if they laugh then the joke is a success! With script-writing that process is much more drawn out: you have to write many drafts and often the only feedback you get is from an editor or producer who may take days or weeks to get back to you. I always find that process quite frustrating, even if I can see that drafting and re-drafting work is usually helpful in the end.

I’ve definitely found that doing stand up helps with writing though: it makes you be sharper and look for the punch-line more quickly. I also find that it always helps to imagine a live audience and seeing if I would say my written line out loud in front of them. If it feels clunky or weak and I wouldn’t say it in a comedy club, then there’s probably a better way of expressing that idea.

Could you tell us a little bit about your new show, Groom for Improvement? It’s perhaps a given that being newly married will be ripe for comedy fodder, but from which angle did you choose to tackle the subject?

My new show is still in the early stages of development, although by the time I come to Malta I will have performed an early version of it at the Leicester Comedy Festival. Basically I got married last year but have been with my wife for over fifteen years and so the show is partly about why we eventually decided to get married and some thoughts on weddings (ours in particular!), plus I also intend to talk about growing up, settling down and hitting my mid-30s as friends have children, move away to the country... I don’t feel particularly young anymore but on the other hand I’m definitely not ready to call myself middle aged, and I think there’s a lot to talk about on that subject. Plus I’ll chuck in any other jokes and stories I can think of that are fun – I never stick slavishly to one theme in a show if there are other things that catch my interest!

Are you looking forward to performing in Malta?

Yes, very much so. I’ll be honest and say that I don’t know a huge amount about the place yet, but I will do a bit of research before I turn up! One of my favourite things about my job is getting to travel all around the world. I’ve performed comedy all across Europe, as well as in Singapore and Australia, and I find it fascinating seeing how humour translates in different parts of the world. On the whole I’ve had very positive experiences performing abroad, and I’ve heard that the gig in Malta is lovely. And I’m definitely hoping for a couple of days of nice weather, which will make a nice change from wintry London in February!

The 11th Eden Stand-Up Comedy Night will take place on February 20 at Eden Cinemas, St Julian’s, at 20:30. Green will be accompanied by fellow comedians Geoff Whiting and David Tsonos on the night. Bookings: http://edencinemas.com.mt/Event/2368/

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic is MaltaToday's culture editor and film critic. He joined t...
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