A former monthly performer at The Laughing Derby (then the Comedy Caravan) with his improv troop The Indicators for four years, Louisvillian Matt Gifford left the Derby City five years ago to follow his ultimate dream of pursuing comedy in New York City. In Brooklyn he started his own comedy variety show and after near $50,000 in rent, Gifford placed in the QuarterFinals of the 2014 Laughing Devil Comedy Festival Competition, all so he could meet an owner of the aforementioned Laughing Derby, and book a show back home.
Youâ€™re from Louisville so I have to ask the obvious question, where did you go to high school?
Well, I went to Oldham County High School, which isn’t in Louisville, at all. But, I was born and raised in J-town, before moving out to Oldham County in middle school. As soon as I was able to, I moved to the Highlands to be back in Louisville and within walking (home) distance from the bars.
When did you know that you wanted to perform professionally, and when did you know you wanted to move to NYC to follow that dream?
I’ve wanted to be a comedian since I was a kid, but I started thinking about doing comedy professionally when I was in college and a professor I had saw some of the comedy videos my friends and I had made. He suggested that I pursue comedy if it’s what I truly loved doing. So I went to Chicago the following summer and trained in sketch writing and improv at Second City. When I came back to Louisville, I joined the sketch and improv comedy group, The Indicators. After about 5 years of performing all over the eastern half of the country and winning a few awards for some of our sketches and short films, we decided we needed to move to a larger market. Los Angeles and New York were the largest markets for comedy, and since you don’t need to own a car in New York, that’s where we landed.
Do you make it back to Louisville often?
Whenever there is an event that encourages drinking heavily and having a good time, absolutely! So I try to get back for the Derby, 4th of July, and Christmas. I will have managed to be in Louisville for all three this year. My liver hates me.
Have you been to the Laughing Derby at the Comedy Caravan since LA based comedian Steve Hofstetter and friends purchased and revitalized it this year?
I haven’t been to the club since the changeover. The Indicators performed a monthly show there for about 4 years before we all moved. Steve is a busy, busy man. He also runs the Laughing Devil Comedy Festival Competition in NYC. I placed in the Quarter Finals of that competition and that’s where I met Steve. Because of my involvement with the festival, I was able to get this show. I’m really excited to see what changes they’ve made to the club. It’ll be like a home-coming and getting to perform in a new club, all in one.
Do you naturally lean more towards improv or stand-up?
Right now I’m focusing more on stand-up. I still do improv and sketch when I get the chance, but I do think there’s an age limit on improv. There’s something about seeing an older dude miming milking a cow or something that’s weird. It’s extra silly, but not in a good way. Something about it kinda bumps me when I’m watching it, so I’m less likely to do improv as I get older. I am thankful for my improv background though. It’s great to feel confident enough to riff on stage. It’s freeing.
What would you tell someone thatâ€™s never been to a comedy show to get them to come out and give it a try?
It’s getting harder and harder to get people to come out to watch live performances, because there is unlimited entertainment, literally at our fingertips now. But there is something about a live performance that you just can’t get with a smart phone, TV or computer. Feeling the energy in a room when everyone is laughing and having a good time, and sharing that experience with others, is something that just can’t be delivered through a screen. Also, when you sit there on your couch and stare down at your phone, you get this nasty looking double-chin that looks even worse in the light of your phone screen. When you do that all the time, you’re boring. So, I would tell that person, “Don’t be ugly and boring; come see a live show.”Â
Anything else youâ€™d like to add?
It’s really difficult to live in New York and do comedy. Don’t get me wrong, I love it, but every time I come home to Louisville to do a show, and people come out to support me, it makes all of that effort, stress, and grind worth it. It’s completely validating. I ride that feeling through the next year. It keeps me afloat. So, I would just like to thank everyone who is coming out to the show in advance for being a part of a show and experience that means so much to me.
Tickets are available online at www.laughingderby.comÂ or by calling 502.459.0222.