It’s awards season! So who receives the distinguished award for best comedy web series of 2012? Without a doubt the clear winner would have to be Matt’s Game Chamber. If you haven’t seen it you are depriving yourself of some serious bellyaching laughter. The series is the brainchild of the gifted writer, comedian and comedy show producer Matt Ingebretson. Matt deftly taps into the dark recesses of the human condition and reveals the sheer foolishness of it all. With a vulnerable and honest comedic voice audiences can’t help but take notice. And did I mention he plays videogames and digs tacos? Get the smelling salts quick! Get ready for this tall drink of water to knock you right off your pretty little feet.
Serial Optimist: Hi Matt! How tall are you? Can you recall any entertaining height-related stories from your past?
Matt Ingebretson: 6’4”
In December, on the plane ride back to LA from my parents’ house I was seated next to a grandmother who asked me how tall I am. I told her and then she told me her grandson is 6’8” (a lie meant to bloat her sense of pride in her grandson). I told her, “that’s very tall.” Then she asked me if I had seen Les Misérables.
SO: She was gunning for you from the start. You are a transplant from the fine state of Texas. Was it a rough upbringing? I recall some of your jokes mention bullying.
Matt: It was a fine upbringing. I probably got bullied about as much as most kids — relentless taunting for wearing a swimsuit in the gym shower in 7th grade and once getting punched in the face a few times when I cut in front of a bully during layups practice in PE in 5th grade.
I grew up mostly in Lake Jackson, Texas, a small town where I spent most of my time cruising for babes at the mall, getting rejected by babes at the mall, and then eating “Southwestern Eggrolls” at Chili’s until I no longer cared about babes.
SO: Any eggroll is a fine eggroll in my book. I understand you may have sported a pucca shell necklace or two in your time. Has Matt always been the lady’s magnet? That piercing gaze is rather spellbinding.
Matt: Ah, yes, you are referring to my days as a glamorous jewelry enthusiast. At the height of it all I wore a pucca shell necklace, a braided hemp anklet (which I braided myself), and sold hemp and bead necklaces for $10. You supply the beads.
I was a fashion icon.
As for being a lady’s magnet, I don’t mean to brag, but I took a date to every homecoming dance in high school. Real-life women. From band (both were clarinet players) and the dance team (one of them was a captain). Wearing pastel-colored dresses. No big deal.
SO: Holy shit! That basement is gonna get crowded. When did you know writing and comedy were your forte?
Matt: I always liked making people laugh and then in college thought maybe I could start doing that in a more formal way, and then I just started doing it. At the end of freshman year I began drawing comics for the school newspaper. And after that I started writing for the Texas Travesty.
For me there was definitely a gap in between when I felt like I was funny enough to do comedy, and when I felt comfortable telling people that. I think most people feel they are funny, so coming out and saying “I’m so funny I want to get paid for it” feels like a cocky thing to do.
SO: In fact, you were Editor-in-Chief at “The Texas Travesty”. What did you learn from that experience?
Matt: That was a great experience. I got a chance to work for some really funny people like Ross Luippold, Thejaswi Maruvada, and Michael Prohasaka, among others. And I think taking creative control over the publication about a year after I started writing for it — having to think critically about comedy so that I could edit and direct the staff writers’ work — forced me to become confident in my sense of humor.
I also learned the power of physical abuse in motivating a staff of writers. Most editors manage their staff with a fine red pen — I ruled over them with a wooden baseball bat.
SO: Sexy. How did you come about making the decision to relocate to Los Angeles? Was that a difficult decision? Most importantly, where can you get a better taco, LA or Austin?
Matt: Austin is a great city with great comedy. I moved to LA because TV is in LA. And because there is a lot more comedy here. Not much more thought went into the decision. The only thing that made it difficult is that the tacos in Austin make LA tacos look like stupid disgusting garbage. Like landfill garbage that’s been rotting for a long time. Eating Austin tacos is like making out with an angel and eating LA tacos is like licking the ass of a heroin addict. (The one exception I’ve found is Best Fish Taco.)
SO: Nice save! In my research I’ve noticed you have a lot of maternal material in your comedy (verging on Oedipus complex fare). Do you find audiences respond to those kinds of jokes more strongly than other subjects?
Matt: With Matt’s Game Chamber we thought it would be funny if my character had the most horrifying mother ever and was still terrified of her even as an adult. He’s the most delusionally confident man in the world but he’s basically a 7-year old in front of his mom. In one episode he describes crawling into his parents’ bed after he had a nightmare and his mother telling him that the nightmare he had was real and that life is a nightmare — which is exactly the worst thing that could happen to a child in that situation. And then watching the ways in which those issues with his mother manifested themselves in his adult life via his basement talk show is what myself and all of the writers liked about that. Nightmarish dysfunction couched in a really silly situation.
And then I’m assuming you’re also referring to the joke where I yell at the audience for not going down on their moms. That just started out as a one-liner that I gradually stretched out more and more until I got to the point where I just openly taunt audiences for not wanting to make out with their moms. The absurdity of telling people that they are wrong for thinking making out with your mom is weird is what I find funny about that.
So I don’t make a conscious effort to write Oedipal material, but I do think your relationship with your family and the way you are defined by and react against it is an interesting area.
In reality my mom is maybe the nicest person I’ve ever known. If you ever meet her she’ll probably offer you some homemade bread.
SO: I’m in love with your mom already. Can you tell us about your contribution to the “Tommy Wi-Show”, the video game show with Tommy Wiseau on Machinima?
Matt: I’m friends with a really funny writer and producer, Brock LaBorde. He created the show and asked me to help punch up some of the scripts and to be on set to pitch ideas during the shoots. Being on set with Tommy all day was a fascinating experience because he sort of exists outside of the reality you and I live in. He’s a bizarrely muscular and wise man that loves to drink Red Bull.
Seeing him up close in a wife-beater is probably the closest I’ll ever come to experiencing God.
SO: Red Bull does give you wings (no plug intended but I’ll take free uppers). Would you say you have a strong affinity for video games? If so, which game has driven you close to madness? Which brings me to my next question, did you always dream of creating a web-series like Matt’s Game Chamber?
Matt: I really love video games but don’t find much time to play them these days. My heyday was Super Nintendo and N64. The water world in Zelda: Ocarina of Time made me lose my mind. I hated it. And not in the way that you “hate” but actually love challenging video game levels. I truly hated and lost sleep over the water world in Zelda. Even talking about it right now makes me upset.
I did not always dream of making a show like Matt’s Game Chamber, but I really like the fake talk-show format because of how loose and silly it is and always thought it would be fun to do that.
SO: How would you describe the series to the unanointed?
Matt: A mentally disturbed man interviews comedians in his basement while they play videos games. I almost like to think of it as a documentary of a sad man with big dreams.
SO: I suspect you’ve performed at comedy shows with a lot of your guests from “The Chamber” (as I will refer to it from here on). Has booking the comedians for the web-series been an easy process?
Matt: I know all of the comics, but Brandie Posey, one of the producers and writers on the show, booked most of them. The only difficult thing was scheduling them. There are a couple comics like Pete Holmes and TJ Miller that we wanted to get on but they were out of town when we shot.
SO: Bummer. How much of the real Matt do we see on “The Chamber?”
Matt: Very little. I basically just tried to play the most sexually and emotionally repressed human being possible.
Matt’s Game Chamber with Brent Weinback
SO: How many takes on average do you do on set per episode? Can you tell us about any hilarious outtakes?
Matt: It depended on the guest, but usually a few takes of each segment of the episode. We usually shot for about an hour and mostly just left the camera rolling while the guest and I played around. Most of the time it would take a bit for the guest and I to discover our dynamic and then after that everything would fall into place.
Brent Weinbach’s episode took a long time because each take he would add on new layers to a joke and pitch ideas throughout. We ended up leaving out a lot of hilarious stuff that resulted from him just because it was intensely convoluted and the episode would have ran way long had we molded it all together.
Joe Wengert’s episode was probably the hardest episode to shoot because I had trouble keeping it together with him. He’s a brilliant improviser and makes me laugh harder than most people. I ruined almost every take.
Matt’s Gamer Chamber – Joe Wengert & Guitar Hero
SO: I’ll be looking forward to a personal DVD of extra footage then! Will we be seeing more of the Yakkov character in upcoming episodes? He was creepily entertaining.
Matt: That was one area I wish we would have filmed more of — the camera crew that agreed to film this “show.” We had written a backstory where they were all Russians that Matt hired off of Craigslist, and Matt regularly got into screaming matches with them, but we never got around to putting it in an episode.
SO: Too funny! You did a bit of road stand-up on your Feelings: A Comedy Tour. What was it like touring through the US with your comic buds Dave Ross and Jake Weisman? What was your favorite part of the trip?
Matt: A lot of fun. We basically just drove all day and did shows at night. Jake and Dave are two of the funniest guys I know, so most of the trip was just us giggling at each other. Jake and I spent a considerable amount of time in heated debate, screaming at each other, over whether cats or dogs are better — he continues to delude himself into loving cats, and it’s for that reason that he will never truly be happy.
It was also amazing seeing how many people came out to shows. There are great pockets of cool people looking for new comedy in every city, and we were lucky enough to fill up most of the rooms we played.
And this will sound sappy, but my favorite part of the trip was hanging out with people we met along the way after shows. Usually the entire day was spent making final arrangements and promoting the show, so after it was done it was such a release to relax and have fun with people we met in each city.
SO: Sounds like it was a truly enriching adventure. The Feelings Tour diary videos were quite illuminating and hilarious. Are you relieved you didn’t get picked up for public urination?
Matt: It only recently sunk in that public urination could pretty easily lead to a sex offender charge and sort of destroy my life. Up until lately I have maintained the same mindset on public urination that I had as a teenager — just find a bush or fence and make sure nobody’s looking.
Last year your Art Fuck show got off to quite an eventful start with the po po arresting a bunch of people at the Art Walk in DTLA as well as leaving many citizens trapped in the heart of the city. Was that all part of your diabolical publicity plan? What prompted you to start the Art walk show?
Matt: I paid the police chief $20,000 to send a squadron downtown and rough everyone up a bit. Helicopters and all. It was easily the most ill advised thing I could do with $20,000. Not only did it do nothing to boost show attendance, but I am now in very serious and real credit card debt. I’ve had to resort to pornography.
Not doing pornography. Just watching it to take my mind off of the impending blow-up that will result from my very severe credit card debt.
SO: Well, to add to your woes, your Funny or Die articles made me laugh so hard I think I may have to sue you. What goes on in that noggin of yours that produces such dark, wickedly funny material?
Matt: Thank you. I find dark humor really cathartic. I think joking about a lot of the horrifying things in life makes them feel a little less horrifying.
And I have to imagine that most people have a lot of weird dark thoughts, and that they keep those thoughts to themselves because it’s probably against Bank of America’s corporate policy to tell your coworker at the bank that last night you got a little drunk and started wondering whether it’s possible for animals to have sexual fetishes. I think what’s unique and great about being a comedian is that you get to indulge your weird thoughts.
Also I probably have a giant tumor in my brain.
SO: You and EVERYONE that saw Kindergarten Cop. “Drinking Game for the Lonely, Broke Person” is one of my favorite pieces. There’s something there for everyone. How do you get inspired to write?
Matt: Sometimes when all is good in the world ideas will just pop into my head and I will jot them down, but most of the time I just sit at my desk and think about things that are going on in my life or bothering me. But the vast majority of my writing comes from starving children in India. I know this guy who knows this guy who owns a factory in India that employs dozens of children under the age of 11 to write comedy. The working conditions are horrendous, but those kids write the FUNNIEST jokes.
SO: No doubt! What does post-Armageddon-scare 2013 have in store for Mr. Ingebretson? Any teasers?
Matt: I just recorded my set for the upcoming Holy Fuck album, which I think will come out sometime this year. Also trying to get a handful of various video things off the ground. And also trying to get a handful of non-video things into the ground (RIP Chris and Marsha my dead hamsters). I’d like to finally gain the social status needed to get invited to galas. I wore a tie in public last week and am considering doing that again. Other than that I’ll be spending most of 2013 practicing making out with my pillow.
SO: Practice makes perfect! Thank you for indulging our great curiosity in all things Ingebretson. Happy 2013!