Remembering Matt Villines, half of comedy directing duo Matt & Oz

Matt Villines died in July after a two-year battle with kidney cancer. Villines was only 39, still approaching the heights of his career as a comedy director.

As half of the directing duo, Matt & Oz, he was responsible for many of your favorite short films that have aired on Saturday Night Live since 2012, made even more hilarious shorts for Funny or Die, and marked his big-screen directorial debut with Brother Nature, which just released its first trailer on Thursday (starring SNL cast members Taran Killam and Bobby Moynihan, with Gillian Jacobs and more, it comes out Sept. 9 in theaters and online + VOD).

Villines, a Tulsa native, met Osmany Rodriguez in film school in Los Angeles after he graduated from college and left Oklahoma in the early 2000s. They made videos for the original version of Super Deluxe from 2006-2008, then earned our collective attention when they began directing shorts for Funny or Die.

As Andrew Steele, Funny or Die’s creative director, noted last month:

“Matt and his directing partner Osmany Rodriguez, or Matt and Oz as they were known to most people, joined our family early on and made some of our best videos. After working with us for nearly four years, they left to work for Saturday Night Live, a natural progression for two very talented people. Our hearts are broken today. Our love goes out to all the family and people closest to Matt.

About six months ago, I was talking to our cofounder Will Ferrell about Funny Or Die. As much as we love our little comedy company, we can be critical as well when we feel we aren’t being our best. Will says to me, “Why aren’t we doing more videos like that Dave and Jennie we did a few years ago?” I agreed with him, but then I didn’t have an answer. I do now. Comedy is hard but every once in a while a special person comes along and makes it look easy. If you were ever on a set with Matt Villines, you knew he made it look easy.”

And this, from SNL head writer Bryan H. Tucker:

“Matt was not only an excellent director. He was a warm, kind guy who got an enormous amount done without ever raising his voice. The last time I saw him, he was back at SNL after getting treatment, a bit frail, but ready to dive in. He didn’t want to talk about his condition. He just wanted to enjoy creating great comedy by working with the people who made him laugh. He’s gone but people will remember what he left behind for a long time.”

Matt & Oz joined SNL to help the show form a new kind of pre-taped aesthetic in the wake of The Lonely Island’s departure in 2012, and with it, their own trademarked SNL Digital Shorts.

They quickly put their new stamp on the format.

Slightly off-beat. Slightly more sincere. Truly memorable. In their first month at SNL, they released “Sad Mouse,” starring Bruno Mars as a costumed mascot in Times Square.

Other hits included their Emmy-nominated short, “(Do It On My) Twin Bed”

The Rock as a live-action Bambi:

A generational divide over Star Wars toys

A husband and wife winning the Golden Globes after telling their kids to go to bed

A day in the life of current-day Bushwick with guest host Kevin Hart

The bizarre but funny Grow-A-Guy commercial

In that same vein, Monster Pals

There was, of course, the Totinos commercial spoof:

And SNL recently re-released “Uber For Jen” on YouTube since Villane’s passing, too.

They’ve also re-released to YouTube Matt & Oz’s 2013 parody of a viral video, My Girl:

Villines, with Rodriguez, also directed episodes of FOX’s Last Man on Earth, IFC’s Garfunkel and Oates and Adult Swim’s Newsreaders.

He leaves behind a wife, as well as his parents, sisters and nieces. A memorial service was held last month in Los Angeles.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

View all posts by Sean L. McCarthy →