The Comedy Club: An interview with Matt Bellotti

Updated: 4 Dec 2013

Funny doesn’t begin to describe the founder of Time Out KL Comedy Thursday and he’s got Su Aziz in stitches chatting about his observations and the upcoming Comedy Club show in Penang.

How would you describe The Comedy Club?
In three words: Funny, edgy and always entertaining. Hang on, that’s five words. Are you counting ‘and’? I don’t think we should count ‘and’. Still, that’s four. If I abbreviate entertaining can it count as half? Or if I merge funny and edgy, I could call it ‘fedgy’. I know that isn’t actually a word, but it would be helpful if it was. And it does ‘perfectly’ describe The Comedy Club. It’s the fedgiest place I know. (I think this is why I don’t get asked to describe things very often.)

When and how did you get involved in the KL/Malaysia comedy scene?
I started the Time Out KL Comedy Thursday night about five-and-a-half year when we (Mongoose Publishing, who I work for as CCO) launched that magazine and wanted to offer KLites a new dimension in entertainment. There was no regular stand-up night at that point, so we located some amazing talents and have been fortunate to still be a successful night more than half a decade later. I host about half of our nights.

What will you be doing during The Comedy Club show on Dec 8?
Hysterically pacing around and failing to control nerves. When on stage, somehow the nerves magically disappear and thereafter, as host, my role is all about getting the crowd into a comfortable, happy place so that the real comics Gina Yashere and Papi Zak can do their thing and bring the house down.

When was the moment you realised you’re able to make people laugh?
My first comedy stage performance was at aged 10. I was dressed as a Brownie (young Girl Guide) on stage doing a ‘Gang Show’. The main premise of the set surrounded the fact I was an effeminate boy in drag. As I say, I was 10. Thanks Mum.

What inspires your comedy material?
When something in life makes me laugh – and friends, family and Malaysian life are a constant source of inspiration for that – I wonder if I can turn it into a gag or a bit. Sometimes it goes well (my daughter giving me a 30th birthday present led to my favourite bit) and sometimes it doesn’t (*remembers countless tumbleweed moments*).

What makes a person funny to you?
Either complete total awareness of themself and the world around them… or absolute zero awareness of the same. I love geniuses and crazies just the same. It’s often hard to tell them apart.

Please share three tips on how to keep the audience laughing while you’re on stage (or how to liven a dull dinner party).
In both scenarios, it’s not always the laughter that’s important, at least as compere. The key is engagement and making everyone feel part of the night. Whether it’s the table at the back who are chatting around their drinks or the quiet guest who doesn’t know anyone at the dinner party, as host you want to make them feel included. If they’re included, they invest more of themselves to the night and then they’re more likely to be on your side so maybe, hopefully, they’re more likely to laugh. There are tricks to doing this on stage: actively talking to them or stage movement that catches attention (the US comic Tom Rhodes is brilliant at this, bouncing round the stage like a boxer in the ring). Naturally, that’s harder at the dinner table…

On stage, when all else fails, you...?
Laugh. If the joke dies, if the audience is silent, if everything about the show is against you… what else is there to do?

When and where was the best and funniest moment you’ve had on stage?
I was going to answer this with the naff response that every time is so different and I love it all. But actually, I especially enjoyed performing a parody song I co-wrote with Prakash Daniel at Time Out Comedy Thursday recently. Mainly as I have such a dreadful singing voice that the idea of singing on stage is one I found funny – probably funnier than the song itself! Prakash, thankfully, has a great voice and the crowd lapped it up.

What’s the funniest thing about Penang you’ve observed?
I love that people come all the way from KL… just to eat. Penang is like a food court that’s worth a four -hour drive. Try explaining that to an Englishman. Our food’s so bad we drive four hours to France to get away from it.

Lastly, attending The Comedy Club show on Dec 8 in Penang is beneficial because…
Gina Yashere and Papi Zak. That’s why. These two are so, so good. I’ve watched Papi make people laugh for years and Gina is one of the most audacious, hilarious stage presences you can find. She is currently killing it in the US and it’s an absolute honour to present her and Papi to the fine citizens of Penang. You’ll love them both, I promise.

Tags: Features