Matt Bearden: Watching and Learning

May 25, 2017


Valerie Lopez


Lara Smith


Last year, Matt Bear­den agreed to an inter­view with Com­e­dy Wham, but it took our tena­cious Valerie Lopez that long to make it hap­pen. You see, despite talk­ing five morn­ings a week on the Dud­ley and Bob with Matt Morn­ing Show (he’s the with Matt”), Bear­den is not a fan of talk­ing about him­self. Get­ting him to take a com­pli­ment is next to impos­si­ble. If you were to refer to him as the stew­ard of the Austin com­e­dy scene, he would prob­a­bly call him­self the jan­i­tor. Unfor­tu­nate­ly for Bear­den, the facts speak for them­selves, and he has had a suc­cess­ful and diverse com­e­dy career that has spanned over two decades.

Mov­ing around fre­quent­ly as a child, Matt Bear­den attend­ed 14 dif­fer­ent schools, between Hous­ton, Brownsville, and Lafayette. The weari­ness of mov­ing, he spec­u­lates, is what inspired him to put down roots in Austin, a town that would soon become syn­ony­mous with his sto­ry. Bear­den recalls telling his grand­par­ents, at age five, that he want­ed to become a come­di­an, though he doesn’t look back at it as a hard-wired tra­jec­to­ry from that moment. It wasn’t until 1990, when a col­lege bud­dy chal­lenged him to try stand up, that Bear­den did his first open mic. Unpre­pared and bomb­ing ter­ri­bly, Bear­den wouldn’t do stand up again for anoth­er sev­en years. Get­ting into improv some years lat­er (to meet a girl), he would watch come­di­ans at The Velvee­ta Room after an improv show. After two years of watch­ing and learn­ing, Bear­den got the itch to give stand up anoth­er try.

In 1997, Bear­den was cast as Quin­ton in Austin Sto­ries, an MTV Slack­er-esque show with a cult-like fol­low­ing. (You may be able to find some eps on YouTube, or grab the DVDs.) Due to uncon­trol­lable cir­cum­stances of ever-fick­le Hol­ly­wood, the show saw a mete­oric rise and fall that year and would not be renewed. The expe­ri­ence seemed to serve as a tuto­r­i­al in the indus­try and in the dif­fer­ence between the Austin and Los Ange­les scenes. Bear­den would go on to do road work, fes­ti­vals, Com­e­dy Cen­tral, win Fun­ni­est Per­son In Austin (2002), and book and man­age com­e­dy clubs, includ­ing The Velvee­ta Room. He also cre­at­ed the show­case, Punch!, that would become the quin­tes­sen­tial tem­plate for a suc­cess­ful Austin com­e­dy show. Run­ning for sev­er­al years at Cap City Com­e­dy Club, the show end­ed, but after much beg­ging and com­plain­ing from fans, it returned after a two-year hiatus.

Bear­den rec­om­mends that come­di­ans do work that is com­e­dy adja­cent,” and eight years ago, while fill­ing out his first ever resume, he got the call to join The Dud­ley & Bob Morn­ing Show. Talk about com­e­dy adjacent…the morn­ing show has been sup­port­ing the local com­e­dy scene for over twen­ty-five years. After sev­er­al years of being third chair on the longest run­ning morn­ing show, they added his name, mak­ing it official.

Now, those are the facts, but what Bear­den brings to com­e­dy, the Austin scene, and our inter­view, is the per­spec­tive of expe­ri­ence and years of work. Matt Bear­den, hum­ble as ever, speaks as if he’s had it easy, cred­it­ing oth­ers with work­ing much hard­er. This from a man who spent many sum­mers work­ing on oil rigs. Because there real­ly aren’t coach­es in com­e­dy, Bear­den often feels comics should help each oth­er learn and grow. He does just that, still scout­ing open mics and offer­ing young comics oppor­tu­ni­ties at expe­ri­ence and expo­sure. You can tell he loves not just the comics, but the scene itself, stat­ing, If I wan­na take cred­it for any­thing it’s maybe try­ing to cre­ate oppor­tu­ni­ties. I don’t write any­body’s jokes, I don’t per­form their jokes for them…I guess I can try to some­times do good things for a scene, but it’s the scene doing it.” He has the abil­i­ty to eval­u­ate a set con­struc­tive­ly, orches­trate an amaz­ing and bal­anced show­case, and ana­lyze the local com­e­dy scene, as well. I have to hope if Matt Bear­den was read­ing this, he’s stopped by now, because he would bris­tle at this next part. If you want to see proof of the impact that Bear­den has had on the Austin com­e­dy scene, go to any open mic in town and look for a com­ic car­ry­ing a small Punch!” note­book with their set notes fill­ing the pages. You will see at least one, I guarantee.

Matt Bearden