Sunday, June 1, 2008

Interview with Matt Gunter from All Comedy RadioNET

For those of you who don't know, TUN3R (all two of us), is based out of Toronto, and Toronto is a serious comedy town. This is an underappreciated fact (and something the Toronto tourism board has woefully under-marketed), but if you come here to visit, be sure to check out The Laugh Resort, Yuk Yuks, and Second City - all of which are a 5-10 minute walk from each other downtown.

I myself have always had a love of comedy, and radio-wise one of my favourite shows growing up was the Sunday Funnies on CHUM-FM (which sadly no longer plays on this station). This was my introduction to stand-up comedy, and what introduced me to such greats as Richard Pryor, Rodney Dangerfield, Bill Cosby, Steven Wright, and Jerry Seinfeld.

I routinely attended the local clubs (mainly the uptown Yuk Yuks), and always had a great admiration for the comic. There is something so incredibly raw and egalitarian about this form of live performance that I just love. The vernacular says it all "kill on stage" or "die on stage". I was even inspired by a friend [Jon Ezer who did a lot of stand-up himself], to prepare my own routine for amateur night (there were some horrible jokes about a threesome between The Mighty Hercules, Helena, and Newton, which I won't get into here). I also spent enough time seeing amateur comics failing to realize just how damn hard of a profession stand-up is. But like I said before, there's an honesty to the audiences reaction that can be addictive.

I could go on and on about some of the greats I've seen (like Billy Connolly's 3 hour unrehearsed act at Massey Hall, or the first time I saw Mitch Hedberg live on the Mike Bullard Show, or the weird club I went to in Joburg South Africa), but these days I'm out of the loop, and I want to catch up with Matt Gunter - the man behind "Comedy & Talk RadioNET" (a.k.a. Comedy104) - one of the Internet's best comedy radio stations.

Q1 Neil: Matt - thanks for indulging me on this one. I'm going start this interview on a more serious note. Every now and then I'll see a heckler who gets offended, and tries to take the club down with him. Are you ever worried that a listener might get offended and take it out on your station - or worse, threaten a Fatwah or something like that? Have you had any complaints?

A1 Matt: Glad to be here :) Hate mail is one of the frequent types that I get. Some hate the old comedy like Bill Cosby or Lily Tomlin, others love it (although people never complain about the new stuff for the most part). I'm always fine-tuning the mix so that things stay "fresh".

Q2 Neil: Is there a particular focus for your station. I've heard a lot of contemporary material. Do you play older stuff like Woody Allen's stand-up, or Lenny Bruce?

A2 Matt: Whatever I can get my hands on, there's no such thing as "bad" material. The biggest obstacle for me is many older comedy albums have never found their way to CD. I am always looking for new stuff and the listeners even send me some, in addition to the unsigned comics that e-mail me as well. Right now my format focuses on playing more new material with older stuff mixed in (sort of how a Top40 station will play mostly newer music).

Q3 Neil: How about sketch comedy (like Monty Python or The Frantics), do you play any of that stuff?

A3 Matt: I really enjoy the Frantics' "Boot to the head" but that is the extent of that. Problem with some of that type of humor is there are a lot of visual jokes that wouldn't be understood over the radio.

Q4 Neil: What original material do you have on the station?

A4 Matt: Not as much as I'd like to have. I just assumed everyone sends their CDs to my competitor :) I've been running promos lately to get more sent to me. To date the only original material I've been sent is from the Reverend Tim McIntire out of Boston. I had an idea for visiting comedy clubs and broadcasting live but that's still in development, many people are skittish about live broadcasts.

Q5 Neil: I'm so out of the loop these days. Apparently Dane Cook is where it's at, but I have to wonder if there are more risque guys out there than him? Who do you see as being on the cutting edge of stand-up these days? Can you describe what sets them apart?

A5 Matt: I think the popularity of the "Blue Collar" style comedy from Jeff, Bill, Larry and Ron has made some comics rethink how far they want to go, seeing as how a clean comedy tour made big bucks selling out large venues. However, on the other scale, if you are interested in dirty Blue Collar comedy I would suggest Rodney Carrington who is hilarious! He might actually be one of the more cutting edge comics, its too bad his TV sitcom didn't work out, having to tone down his humor for a family show didn't work out too well.

Q6 Neil: You're based out of Topeka, Kansas. What is the local comedy scene like? Does anyone bother to make jokes about Dorothy or The Wizard of Oz, or is that always a big groaner?

A6 Matt: Yes I think they wore that one out :) Most of our comedy comes from the Kansas City area though there is a small club here with some traffic...

Q7 Neil: Have you done any stand-up or sketch comedy yourself, or is your background more in DJing?

A7 Matt: Although I think that I can identify what is good comedy and what is funny, people probably wouldn't find me all that hilarious (plus stage fright wouldn't help :). Our sister station (big sister) is Oldies104 It's the one that actually pays the bills because believe it or not the comedy station doesn't make any yet :( That's where I can be found occasionally on the air.

Q8 Neil: I subscribe to the notion that comedians are actually philosophers in disguise as entertainers. I've got two young kids, and every now and then when I'm at my breaking point I think of Bill Cosby saying "All children have brain damage!", which somehow calms me down. Are there any comedy bits that help you make sense out of this crazy world we live in?

A8 Matt: Bill Hicks is one that comes to mind, he brings up a lot of good points during his comedy bits: the meaning of life, religion, and drug legalization. Of course Carlin and the Cos and many other have their own hidden commentary but I think Hicks' is very profound.

Q9 Neil: Who are your all time favourite comics? Why do you like them?

A9 Matt: Oddly enough I like comedy that is very "blue", Dom Imus' early standup from the 70s is great alone with Rodney Carrington and Bill Hicks. People that are basically frank with you during their set, no hidden agenda, just laying it right there on the line.

Q10 Neil: I normally ask what the theme song for your station would be. Instead, is there a bit or joke that best exemplifies your station? Or is it a song?

A10 Matt: Wow, I don't know which one to pick :D I'd say though George Carlin's famous 7 words you can't say on TV would fit though!

Q11 Neil: What does the future Comedy & Talk RadioNET look like?

A11 Matt: As I write this we're in a transition (just a new name change) but at the request of a lot of listeners I'm changing the format to play fewer of the old comedy bits and hopefully add some more new material in the weeks to come. I'd like to someday be the one stop outlet for new and exciting comedy plus new acts and even that live broadcast I mentioned earlier.

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