The final episode of the 2016 season of Comedy Central’s Half Hour belongs to Matthew Broussard, a Houston comedian currently based in Los Angeles. Matthew’s first appearance on Comedy Central was on Adam Devine’s House Party when he was less than two years into standup. Since then he’s been seen on Jeff Ross Presents Roast Battle and most recently, @midnight. This Friday his debut album Pedantic will be released by Comedy Central Records on all major digital platforms in conjunction with the midnight premiere of his Half Hour. I caught up with Matthew (and his mom) immediately after his Half Hour taping to discuss the special, the value of comedy competitions, and doing standup on borrowed time.
You just got off stage from taping your Half Hour. How do you feel?
It’s surreal, man. I watched these as a kid. It’s an achievement that feels particularly good because there’s a lot of little things you get along the way like MC spot, feature, first headliner set, New Faces. All of those things are hard to explain to a person on a plane or to your mom. But a Half Hour people just know. It’s very validating.
Mom, did you understand the gravity of this?
Matthew’s Mom: Kind of yes, kind of no. I really didn’t believe it. But watching the whole Half Hour with the spotlights and the audience was exciting.
Matthew, you address your looks a lot onstage. Did you learn to do that because it was a problem when you first started comedy?
Yeah, when I started comedy I had some idea that people perceive me a certain way, but no idea the extent, that whenever I walked into a room people were like, “Fuck this fratty trust-fund kid.” When I started comedy I realized if I just made a quick aside about looking like an 80’s movie villain the crowd would suddenly just turn and be on my side more. If you can get one step ahead of them they’ll be like, “Oh, okay, you get to tell us who you are now.”
You’re taking the power back. It’s like when you’re bullied in school. If you can be the first one to point something out about yourself it gives the bullies less to work with.
I noticed that a lot with the kids I bullied in high school.
Where are you originally from? When I was prepping for this interview I saw connections to Atlanta and Houston. Now you live in LA.
I grew up in Atlanta, went to Houston for college, and started a job there. That’s where I started comedy, so I consider myself a Houston comic.
Before you got the Half Hour you were on Adam Devine’s House Party. How did that come about?
I was a year and a half into comedy in Houston. I had just gotten noticed by Cap City in Austin. They didn’t know how new I was and I didn’t tell them. A Comedy Central showcase popped up and they added me last minute. It was my first showcase for anything. I did it thinking I was going to get it and I got it. Then I realized that a kid from Houston with no representation and no real experience in comedy doesn’t usually get stuff like this. They flew me out to California and I did a five-minute set for them. It was terrible because it made me so cocky for how young I was in comedy. But it gave me a lot of resources and made it so that when I got fired from my job I had some ability to start making a living as a comedian.
In 2012 you won Houston’s Funniest Person competition. I read an interview for that where you said that you love comedy competitions. So many comics hate the idea and experience of a competition. Do you still feel the same way now? Would you recommend competitions?
I would absolutely recommend it. Swallow your ego. Yes, it’s subjective, but it’s going to make you tighten your set, broaden your ability, and push you out of your comfort zone. That’s everything that makes you better as a comedian.
You graduated from Rice with a degree in Applied Mathematics and then started working in finance. At what point did you decide to stop pursuing what you went to college for and switch to a career in comedy?
Never. Two years into comedy I had done House Party and had some stuff set up, so I talked to my boss and I said I’d like to move to California. He said I could keep my job and work remotely. My plan was to go to LA and keep that job for as long as possible. I hated the idea of not having a day job because that meant I had to define myself as a comedian, which meant that every time I bombed I was worthless as a human being. It took being fired for me to go, “Okay, I guess I have to go all out with this.” My plan was never, “I’m meant to be a comedian.” It was, “If I get to be a comedian it would be really cool. But I’m going to make some contingency plans.” Right, Mom?
Matthew’s Mom: Right.
She hated it. She still hates it. She wants me to go take the GMAT.
Matthew’s Mom: You need a fallback.
Have you completely removed the career safety net from your life?
I’d like to think no. I’d like to think I can go take some tests and…whenever I bomb really bad I like to go home and Google application forms for Electrical Engineering Master’s programs. I still feel like I’m on borrowed time. I love comedy, but it’s one thing to love comedy and another thing to expect the world to pay you to do it.