What do they say about New York City: There are eight million stories, and sometimes it seems as though eight million of the people telling them think they’re comedians? No, that’s not it. It is a fact, though, that America’s biggest city is also its biggest comedy mecca. Hollywood may be Hollywood, but New York City is where comedians are born funny, become funny or arrive to thrust their funny upon us. I think we should meet some of these people. This is a recurring feature, a mini-profile of newcomers, up-and-comers and overcomers of New York’s vibrant comedy scene. It’s called Meet Me In New York.
Matt Goldich has not only written for the Emmys, but also won a couple of them himself. His TV writing credits include Late Show with David Letterman, The Jeselnik Offensive, Ellen, VH1’s Best Week Ever. and game shows such as Cash Cab, Stump the Schwab, The Chase and the World Series of Pop Culture.
You also can follow Goldich on Twitter @MattGoldich. “I still post jokes on there. It’s a futile endeavor, but I still do it.”
He currently writes for Late Night with Seth Meyers, and recently performed on the show to promote his first stand-up comedy album, “The Matt Goldich Guarantee.” You’ve also seen him on Premium Blend, @midnight and Red Eye, or heard him on the podcast he co-hosts with Andrew Goldstein, “Sorry I’ve Been So Busy.” He and I share a podcast producer in Alex Brizel at ShowBriz Studios. We’ve also both been to Aspen for the HBO U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, but not in the same year, and definitely not for the same reasons. I’ll let him explain.
Arrival Date: August 2001
Arrived From: Providence, RI, and Philadelphia
“I graduated college, Brown, in Providence, Rhode Island. I spent the summer at home in Philly. I don’t remember if I got hired before I moved here, of if only I moved here when I had the interview in the page program at NBC. So I got that job, started in August of 2001. I had done stand-up in college. I really had no idea what I wanted to, but I knew I wanted to try to stand-up. I had no idea how. But I started as page in August 2001.”
Was that your best credit then?
“What was crazy was, when I was in college, I’d only done stand-up – I started stand-up in college because I didn’t get into the improve group and I didn’t get into the sketch group. I’d never done stand-up, and I basically put out fliers: If you want to do stand-up, come to this meeting. And we ended up recruiting 10 people to stand-up and we’d put on stand-up shows on campus. So I’d done stand-up like 10 or 15 times on campus. I’d lived here in the summer between my sophomore and junior year. I started at Brown my sophomore year. Did a couple of bringers that summer. Live in L.A. the summer between junior and senior year interning, did a couple of crappy bringer shows there. But what happened was, second semester senior year, there was college comedy contest where the top five college comedians in the country got to go to perform in the Aspen comedy festival (HBO U.S. Comedy Arts Festival). And so I’d done stand-up like 10 times and I got to go to Aspen. The contest was kind of rigged, because a friend of ours who’d gone to Brown was running the competition. So we were the only people who knew they were coming to our campus. Everywhere else they were pulling people off the quad: Hey, do you want to try stand-up for the first time? And so out of the five, three were from our school. So I got to go to Aspen. Nothing happened from it. Which is good, because I was terrible. I literally went to Aspen, which at the time was the biggest comedy festival other than Montreal – they were tied – and I literally went there and opened with a new joke. I had no idea what I was doing. I was so clueless. But when I got to New York, I did have that as a credit. I could say, I was at the Aspen comedy festival. I was named one of the five funniest college students in America. Out of six, or whatever. So I was able to use that to get on some shows when I got here. But not many.”
What else do you remember from that time in Aspen?
“I remember it was insane. Someone would invite you to a party and George Lucas was there. I was 21. And Steve Martin would be right there in front of you. George Lopez hosted our shows. I remember that. And they were at 4 in the afternoon, so it was weird. The big shows were at night but we were in the afternoon. But Dan Levy was there. He won. It was fun. I still have the tape so I could watch my set. But I wouldn’t. It was so bad.”
Why did you pick NYC over LA or anywhere else then?
“More of my friends from college were moving here. I just liked it better. I had more fun that summer. And I had applied for the page program.” They have an NBC page program in LA, too, though. “They do, but I was so naïve I didn’t know that. I had interned at Late Night with Conan O’Brien, so I thought I had a working knowledge of NBC.”
How long did it take you to start getting paid stage time in NYC?
“I still haven’t! No. The first year I was literally doing all bringer shows, which I was able to do a lot, because I had a lot of friends from college and a lot of people in the page program. And then I would do alt shows. I somehow got my tape to Jeff Singer and I got to do Eating It at Luna Lounge. And then I got to do PSNBC when that existed. Then my second year here, I started discovering all the alt rooms that were listed in Time Out New York. I never figured out how to get in at any clubs, paid work, except for the occasional show where a comedian I knew was booking. I only pretty much did alt rooms. I got passed at The Comic Strip once, and then they immediately changed management and never got in again. I would get passed at Stand Up NY and then management would change. I did eventually after about five years get a college agent. And so technically I would do paid college gigs for a period of four or five years. After 16 years of doing comedy in New York, and to be fair, never fully devoting like six or seven nights a week to it, I’m still not a paid regular at any clubs in New York. That’s fine. Whatever. I’m just happy to get stage time.”
But you’re a TV writer!
You can get Emmy nominations. “I got that, yes. That was exciting.”
Didn’t you move away? “I moved to L.A. for three years. I got a job out in L.A. that ended almost as soon as I moved with my wife there. And then we hung out for three years, really, jumping from thing to thing. Doing spots. And then when I got the offer from Seth, we were always looking for an opportunity to come back here, just because our families are on the East Coast. We just liked New York better. So it was done. We moved back here in 2014.”
How would you compare navigating the two comedy scenes?
“Well, it’s easier now than when I was there, because of Uber in LA.” Other than literally navigating, though. “When I first moved to L.A. and was doing shows, I had these printed out Google maps in my rental car. It was crazy. By the time I moved to L.A., the scene I did, which was mostly alt rooms and the occasional club spot, was I would say pretty comparable to New York. There were enough good alt rooms. When I first moved to L.A., there was nothing. Clubs and then a laundromat. And then so many of those ‘alt room’ people moved out to L.A. that they would multiply. I was doing as many shows in L.A. as I would in New York. Pretty similar unless you’re the type of person who’s passed at eight clubs and can move back and forth doing multiple spots a night.”
When people ask you for an ‘only in New York’ story, what do you tell them?
“Well, I moved here and I got it right away. A month later was 9/11, and I’d started as the tour guide at NBC, and they cancelled all the tours for weeks. We finally came back and started giving tours again and then the next day, someone sent anthrax to Tom Brokaw’s office, and they said, ‘OK, the tours are cancelled again.’ So I got in the face right away. It’s crazy that nothing fazes me at this point. But I did get an education in how and what life could be like here, right away. My first apartment, I was very lucky. It was at Sixth and Houston. It was $850. And it was a seven foot by eight foot bedroom, and I had no living room. So it was bedroom, bedroom, no living room, and I lived in like a cell. But I was at Sixth and Houston and I could walk to all the great shows and stuff in the Village.”
What advice would you give to any comedian thinking about moving here?
“As far as starting now, I think you have to do it. There are still so many great open mics. They’re not great. They’re terrible. But I mean, you can do them. It’s the only place where you could do four or five of them. And the other thing is, this is totally anti- everything they tell you, but I would do bringer shows. If you can. Bringer shows get so much shit. But if you go into it expecting ‘oh, I’m going to use this to get into a club,’ that’s probably not the way to go about it. But if you go, ‘oh, I’m going to get experience performing in front of a big crowd, and build up my confidence,’ because if I started by doing open mics, I don’t think I would’ve had the confidence to keep going. I was lucky to be able to bring people and perform at these bringer shows where the crowd is amped up! If you’re lucky, you get a great tape of it. And you can submit that to Comedy Central or festivals or whatever. I probably did them for too long. But you should do bringer shows. As long as you don’t think it’s going to be your big break.”
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
“Hopefully still in New York. I love it here. Hopefully still writing for Seth. Hopefully we’re all still on the planet Earth. Hopefully President Pence is steering the ship, with a steady hand. Sadly all gay and abortion rights have been eliminated. I’m very upset about that, but at least we’re not going to get nuked at any minute. I don’t know. Well, leave that in. I would love to keep writing for the show as long as they will have me. It’s the greatest job ever. I love doing stand-up on the side. I don’t know if I ever see myself as a full-time on the road touring comic, but I would love to still be performing. That’s one of the things I take a lot of pride in, is unlike some people who get writing jobs and give it up, I never quit doing stand-up. I’ve always loved it, keep wanting to do it. And if there are opportunities to keep performing in five, 10, 15 years, I’d love to be still doing it.”
Matt Goldich’s first comedy album, The Matt Goldich Guarantee, is out now.
Which NYC comedian would you like to see me style and profile next for Meet Me In New York? Send your nominations to: thecomicscomic AT gmail DOT com