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COMEDY BY NUMBERS: Matthew Broussard on loving calculus and looking like an ‘80s villain

Matthew Broussard takes the stage at Dead Crow for two nights of heady, self-deprecating humor. Photo by Mindy Tucker

 

Let’s just get this out of the way: Matthew Broussard knows he has a punchable face. The comedian, who headlines Dead Crow this Friday and Saturday, often opens his sets with the warning, “I look like a douchebag … I feel like before I even picked up the microphone, most of you already didn’t like me.”

He isn’t wrong.

With his swimmer’s physique, square jaw and tousled blond hair, Broussard looks every bit the privileged frat boy audience members may assume him to be. Yet his whip-smart set proves he is more than just another pretty face.

The son of a chemist and a microbiologist, Broussard earned a degree in applied mathematics from Rice and worked as a financial analyst before pursuing comedy. That breadth of experience regularly makes it into his act—his 2016 half-hour special includes jokes about Ayn Rand, double-Y chromosomes and why college is basically a reality show. Broussard’s hard work has paid off in the form of regular TV appearances (“Adam Devine’s House Party,” “The League,” “The Mindy Project,” “The Tonight Show”) and a second-place finish on Comedy Central’s “Roast Battle.” Though he sometimes does crossfit and “look[s] like [he] exclusively do[es] sports most people can’t afford,” he mostly spends his free time creating punny puzzles for his webcomic, ‘mondaypunday,’ and sculpting action-hero figurines out of clay.

encore spoke with Broussard by phone last week.

encore (e): How soon after starting comedy did you decide to acknowledge your looks right away?

Matthew Broussard (MB): In the first year I figured it helped to address it, and in the third year, I kind of perfected it. It wasn’t some genius thing. I would do that joke mid-set, and people would just come up to me drunk after shows and be like, “I fucking hated you, and then you said you look like an ‘80s villain, and I was like, ‘This guy’s alright.’” I thought, That guy just told me how everyone feels, so maybe if I say it earlier, they’ll like me sooner.

My friend said to me one time drunk after a show, “Dude, I could listen to you make fun of yourself for an hour.” First I laughed, and then I took him at face value and started testing it, and it was pretty close to accurate. I can make fun of myself, and there is not a point of diminishing returns for a long, long time.

e: There’s a belief comedy is really only funny if you don’t punch down. Is that something you understood right from the start?

MB: I disagree with that statement. I will say this: people say “punching down” isn’t funny. Yes, it is. It’s almost always funny. That’s why you shouldn’t do it—because it’s just a very easy way to get a laugh.

I think in comedy we kind of want to be surprised; we want to see things work the opposite of how they normally would. To see a person like me succeed is something we are used to seeing in society. I’m an educated white man. So to see me fail is more interesting to people, and it makes them feel better about themselves. If there’s a victim in the joke, I prefer it to be me.

e: Several prominent, older comics have complained about PC culture, especially on college campuses. Where do you stand on that?

MB: I push the boundaries a little bit, but I want it to be smart. If there’s a boundary I’m trying to push, it’s not that one. Everyone thinks there’s only one forefront of edgy. My challenge has been always to inject as much knowledge as I can into a set. People say it’s really hard to talk about abortion onstage. Like, it’s harder to talk about calculus! Calculus is a much harder subject to make funny.

e: What’s it like to do stand-up in the age of Trump?

MB: I think it’s wonderful, because all people want to hear is nothing about him. I see so many comics diving in. I’m like, “Dude, it’s a great time to have a joke about Tic Tacs.”

e: What makes for a good roast?

MB: Brevity. In a small number of words, really twist and deliver a pop. I don’t even think it has to be that mean. I think it just needs to be sharp and unexpected.

e: Is there impostor syndrome in comedy?

MB: Oh, yeah, especially for someone like me. I had no comedy background. I was never the funny guy among friends, so I still find it strange I’m doing this. When I said I was doing comedy, nobody was like, “Yeah, I always thought you’d be good at that.” Not a single person said that. Also, coming from a scientist family, there’s just nothing less funny than science. My parents were humorless people.

I do feel comfortable on a stage doing stand-up, but that took a long time to get to. Science is knowing everything definitively. Comedy is­—on the best nights, you still have no control over the audience.

e: Do you have a favorite thing to eat or drink on the road?

MB: I love bourgie coffee shops. I can always tell a small town is on the way up if they have an explicitly gay-friendly coffee shop. That sounds very specific, but I can name like a couple where maybe there’s just a rainbow flag somewhere, or maybe it’s the whole motif of the place. I’m like, This is going to be a good place to get coffee and sit for a couple hours.

e: How do you feel after a show?

MB: If a new joke works, I’m in a good mood for two hours afterward. The other night, I was walking around like, I must have had a new joke work. I can’t remember it, but the way my body physically feels right now, it felt like I drank a really good cup of coffee.

e: Is there anything you do to unwind?

MB: Is marijuana legal in North Carolina? [laughs] Not much. Sometimes I’ll read, sometimes I write a little bit.

I’m not a party guy. I have a girlfriend, I don’t really drink, so after a show when people are like, “Come out with us,” I’m like, “I just want to go watch children’s cartoons until 1 a.m.”

e: Will you dress up for Halloween?

MB: Yeah, I want to. I need to make sure my costume comes together on time. I have always wanted to be Captain Planet. He’s my favorite superhero. That’s my dream is to play a live-action Captain Planet in a movie. That’s all I want to do.

e: Do you have an all-time favorite costume?

MB: I dressed as Zack Morris in 2010. I had one of those giant cell phones, but made of cardboard, and inside of it was a Four Loko, so I could just sneak it into bars. And you know back then it was a real Four Loko, so that’s a whole night of drinking.

DETAILS:
Matthew Broussard
October 18 and 19,
7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.
Dead Crow Comedy Room
265 N. Front St.
$15 • mondaypunday.com

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