Sunday, December 20, 2009

Interview with Matt Hovde

Danielle Solzman: Thanks for joining us today. How are things in the Windy City?
Matt Hovde: It’s freezing and wonderful.

DS: I understand that you've been named as the new artistic director for the Second City Training Center. What exactly does that entail?
MH: I’ll be steering the philosophy of the various programs. I’ll also be working to strengthen the connection between the artistic side of Second City and the educational side. I think it’s a great opportunity to take all the great things that happen in the Training Center and make them even more focused and relevant.

DS: What led you to discover improv and sketch comedy? And what have you done to get to where you now?
MH: I’ve been a comedy junkie all my life. I used to memorize Monty Python Sketches and perform them at school, and even in junior high I would stay up late to catch Johnny Carson. Also around that time I caught a Kid’s Show at Second City, and was pretty much hooked. I studied theater in high school and college, and came right to Chicago after I graduated so I could start classes at Second City. Then I just worked on a ton of independent shows, including Galileo Players. And Brad Morris and I did a two man show briefly called Schlitz und Bagels – this was before the internet, mind you - which helped shape my comedic point of view.

DS: You are a founder of the Galileo Players. How did that come to be in existence?
MH: Tom Flanigan, Ron Feldman, and I started Galileo right after we graduated the conservatory together in 1998. We felt like a niche would help distinguish us so we chose to focus on science. For the first few years we focused on writing original sketch revues and put them up in various venues, including Donny’s Skybox, Victory Gardens, and Live Bait.

DS: You directed both America: All Better and Studs Turkel's Not Working. Which production had more pressure? What is the process like as far as transitioning from one revue to another revue?
MH: It’s hard to discuss pressure, actually. There is inherent pressure on any resident production, of course, because you’re trying to uphold the legacy of all the shows that came before you, and you know that your work will get lots of attention from the press, the community, etc. And with this year being the 50th Anniversary of Second City, there was an added amount of scrutiny. But on the other hand, you have to be immune to pressure, because you want the process to be creative, and fun, and spontaneous, and if you’re too worried about he external pressures you may end up suppressing your mojo. I remember once Andy St. Clair coming up to me after a show once – he was upset because he felt too much pressure so I just told him to be like a samurai and block out all external stimuli. He laughed and the very next day created a killer monologue about African politics. Classic St. Clair.

As far as transitioning between revues, Second City shows never close – they simply morph into a new show. When we start developing new material, we slowly start blending it into our current show until eventually there is nothing left of the old show and we have an entirely new revue.

DS: How are the revue names determined?
MH: Lots of fighting, bickering, and pulling teeth.

DS: What was your experience like during the 50th anniversary festivities at Second City being around all these famous alumnni?
MH: The 50th was a humbling and inspiring party. It made me feel deeply connected to the entire Second City family, and motivated me to try and keep doing the best work I can. I had the pleasure of working first hand with some of my idols – Scott Adsit, Richard Kind, Brian Stack, Rachel Dratch, while also the irritation of dealing with crotchety Shelley Berman.

DS: Thanks again for joining us. Is there anything else you would like to plug?
MH: You guys were great – best of luck!

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