Originally posted August 12, 2009.
Its easy to find talented people in OB. For such a small community, we have an unusual amount of creative people, both artists and entrepreneurs, within our midst. I learned this first hand over the last few weeks as I got to know my neighbors Matt Cook and self described “couch-monkey” Joe Clarke. Outside of their day jobs at OB favorite Newport Pizza and Alehouse, Matt and Joe are also executive producers for OB’s one and only late night talk show: Matt Cook Live. Matt and Joe have spent the last three months worth of Sunday evenings showcasing local residents who make OB San Diego’s most unique and exciting ’hood.
Matt Cook is an interesting fellow, to say the least. Just like many other comedians, his self deprecation makes it impossible for him to admit that he is, in fact, a really funny dude. With Seth Rogan’s gravelly voice (seriously, it is uncanny), raunchy comedic stylings in the vein of some of today’s most popular comedians, and an approachable, affable personality, Matt Cook belies the perfect host for a late night show in OB. Maybe his comedy isn’t quite kid-friendly, but it sure is contagious. While his comedic influences, such as Bill Hicks and Doug Stanhope, do sometimes find their way into his monologues and rants, Matt’s comedic talent was honed right here in OB.
“After I moved out to OB, my first stand-up gig was as an opening act for a friend at a sushi restaurant downtown. The experience was horrible; the ceiling had to be lower than seven feet [Matt is a pretty tall guy], the lights were way too bright, and all the people in the crowd were really dressed up for dinner. I bombed, mostly because I was completely thrown off by the atmosphere.”
After that experience, Matt decided to withdraw a little and study some of his favorite comedians. With a few months of writing under his belt, he headed over to OBC where he found a welcoming and supportive community perfect for honing his skills and building some confidence. Of course if you talk to Matt, confidence is not something you would think he ever needed to build - the guy is enigmatic. Its amazing what one bad experience on stage can do to a performer. And the community at OBC was a perfect place for Matt to get “it” back.
“Soon after getting into the rotation at OBC, I started hosting the weekly show at Steve [Kendrick], Bob [Hansen] and Jesse’s [Egan] urging”, Matt states humbly. ”When it comes to comedy, I suck at writing jokes and am much more successful making people laugh at funny situations. I found that I was more comfortable setting the tone for other people while also getting my own short comedy sets in, and that definitely evolved into what I do on Matt Cook Live. I have to thank those guys for pushing me. The comedy scene here is like one big family, and the talk show wouldn’t exist if not for the guys over at OBC”.
In true OB fashion, the show didn’t come about through months of brainstorming and planning. Rather, the idea came about over a drunken bet. After the evening in question, Matt travelled back East to visit his family while unbeknownst to him, Joe Clarke was finagling with local businesses to try and find a venue. Fortunately for them, Joe Clarke is the kind of guy who could sell a used car to a used car salesman.
“I’m back in Massachusetts with my family, and I get a call from Joe. He’s yelling into the phone, saying that he had sold the show and that we had a slot on Sunday nights at Gallagher’s. I mean, we had no idea how we were going to get all the equipment together and we didn’t really know anybody with AV experience to put on a live show. We had to build the whole thing from scratch, which scared the shit out of me.”
The night I finally made it out for the show, I didn’t know what to expect. After spending the previous night “out on the town” with Joe Clarke, I wasn’t sure if his description of the show was just the booze talking or if this was in fact a legit program. I couldn’t help but be a little cynical – I mean, a talk show, at Gallagher’s, on a Sunday night? As a guy who loves independent media, I couldn’t let my personal interest blur the line of objectivity. So as I sat down and ordered a cocktail, I started to realize that there was, in fact, a real production being set up in front of me. The energy of the room picked up significantly as showtime neared; for a Sunday night, it was quite packed, and you got the same feeling that you get before a concert or a play. It was great to see this right here in OB.
The set is like a cross between Wayne’s World and Matt’s living room. In fact, the furniture used on the set is actually from Matt’s living room. The desk, the couch, the chair….everything. I quickly noticed that I had sat on that couch just a day prior. Lining the back wall are advertisements for local companies that support the show, such as Seedless and Photon Skateboards. In the crowd, along with a bunch of rowdy, Sunday drinkers, was Matt’s mom. I knew this would be fun to watch, at the very least to see if Matt toned it down with his mother in the audience.
Once the stage was set up, Joe Clarke came out to announce the host. He happened to be wearing a t-shirt with “Babies are Stupid” sharpied onto it, which he was “selling” for $7 bucks a pop. As the show began, John Bothwell, Matt’s “Andy Richter”, took a seat on the couch. With long red hair and beard reminiscent of Bill Walton, John is the unassuming co-host that every talk show host needs to balance out onstage energy. John is perfect at it, chiming in with little side remarks as needed, and providing comic relief at various awkward moments (of which there are a few, as any low-budget production would have).
The first guest was a comedic-musician named Ken Rahn, who sang his trademark “No Reason Boner”. A local musician who built his comedic style playing for sushi restaurant patrons who didn’t speak English, Ken is trying to make it in the local music/comedy scene and was on the show to promote his music. Matt Cook Live provided him with a great venue to reach a new audience, and you could tell that he was enjoying himself.
The next guest was none other than adult film star Dick Chibbles. Dick recently wrapped up a role in the locally filmed and produced indie flick “Crackwood” alongside Ron Jeremy and Gilbert Gottfried, and was on the show to promote it. The banter between host and guest was solid right from the beginning; Mr. Chibbles, wearing a Yankees jersey, immediately ribbed Matt Cook’s Red Sox allegiance to great effect. Dick, known for wearing clown outfits on “stage”, had a lighthearted conversation with the host about his foray into politics (he ran for president last year, traveling the country wearing his trademark clown gear). The crew then played a clip from the campaign, which got everyone laughing. The irony of having an adult film star follow a musician who had just sang a song about his “No Reason Boner” was not lost on Matt, especially since his mom was in the audience. Although maybe it was a little uncomfortable for him, in true talk show host fashion Matt segued right into the final guests, local band Defamation League.
Matt had mentioned during our time together that one of his favorite episodes from earlier in the season was when Chaz, the lead singer for Defamation League, came on the show and basically berated himself. Although there was none of that this time around, the connection between the two was obvious. I guess there is something to be said about finding guests who really mesh with the show, and Joe Clarke seems to find those people on a regular basis – even though Matt doesn’t always know who’s going to be on.
“Dick Chibbles is easily the most famous person we’ve had on the show, but I didn’t mention to Matt beforehand that he was in porn,” Clarke says with a devious smile on his face.
I guess it would have been helpful considering Cook’s mom was in the house – but that is all part of the fun of the show. There is definitely an improvisational edge, which lends itself to the youthful energy and belligerent comedy on stage.
During a sitdown after the show, I asked Matt if he had some favorite moments from the show so far.
“Well, one of the great things about this show is that we haven’t had to go outside of OB to find interesting and entertaining guests. We’ve had entrepreneurs come on the show who have shared personal experiences, like the guys from Seedless and Photon Skateboards. C -Money from Slightly Stoopid came on the show and played guitar, which nobody was expecting because he’s a horns guy. For me though, probably the biggest highlight was when [locally based musician] Mike Pinto came on the show. Since we’re friends, there was definitely a comfort level you don’t normally find on a talk show, and when he went to play music it almost came off as a lesson on songwriting. He would literally talk about how he came up with a chord or riff for a song, and then go right into it. That was really cool.”
Considering that all the equipment and cameras have been purchased or provided by the crew and according to Matt nobody had real experience working on a production like this, it is clear that the show is finally coming into its own.
“At first, all of our friends came out basically to laugh at us for trying to put on a late night talk show”, Matt says matter of factly, “but now that we’ve put together three months worth of episodes, people we don’t even know are complimenting us on the job we’re doing. I mean, we get a great crowd out here every Sunday night, but we don’t have any gimmicks. The show is the gimmick.”
The crew varies depending on availability, but there is a pretty good size group of people involved in the production of the show.
“Scuff, Sky, Robert, Peter, Robert, Brick, Mike Wendorf, and Steph all contribute to the production of the show. As a group, everyone’s tightening up the program and it just seems to be coming together at the right time.”
Speaking of a second season, Matt is cautiously optimistic about securing a venue and a time slot to continue the show.
“Right now, we haven’t actually landed a venue yet. I don’t want to be overly optimistic, but its possible that we may be able to get a more marketable slot for the show. And we love Gallagher’s, particularly since they have been so good to us this whole time. So while nothing is set in stone yet, we are very optimistic about the future of the show.”
It seems like Cook and the rest of the crew could use a break, after doing this every Sunday for the last three or four months. One of the beautiful things about the show is its independence, but that definitely takes a toll on the people involved. They literally have to pack up Matt’s living room and all the equipment every Sunday, bring it to the set, and then pack it up again after the show.
Here in OB, we have an energy unique to the people that live and work here. Not only do these guys live and work in OB, but they are also contributing to the youth culture of the neighborhood. Since some older folks seem to think it is difficult to get young people to take personal responsibility over their surroundings, there is enhanced meaning in the manner in which these guys go about their business. Joe Clarke and I had a long conversation about political aspirations on a local level, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him running for some sort of local political post in the near future. For people in their twenties, the show could very well be an avenue for ignored voices to be heard. In true talk show host fashion, however, Matt Cook has to downplay this and stay between the lines of comedy.
“I don’t look at the show as being an avenue for political reform, because I really don’t have the time or background in politics to start getting into that stuff. I mean, I’m no Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert,” Matt says earnestly, “I would rather offend someone with a dick joke than talk about their political or religious beliefs. But that doesn’t mean we couldn’t host a debate between say, Joe Clarke and some city council member. That would be really funny, and would help raise the profile of the show.”
Whatever direction the show takes from here on out, I am now a fan. With only a few shows left in the first season, I would urge everyone to get down to Gallagher’s and check it out. Who knows? If the show really takes off, it would be good to know that you checked it out before it blew up. A confirmed guest on this week’s show is the proprietor of Mother Nurture, one of OB’s medical marijuana dispensaries. Definitely not to be missed.
As a locally oriented guy, it makes me proud to know that we have our own late night talk show right here in OB. There is definitely something to be said of the fact that Matt Cook and his crew do the show their way, with a goal only of making people laugh. Matt Cook Live represents the best of Ocean Beach, not just for the show’s ability to reach out to the community but for the infusion of energy, talent, and creativity unique to the show and the people who make it happen.
Matt Cook Live films Sundays at 9:00pm at Gallagher’s Pub. You can also become a fan of Matt Cook Live on Facebook, and visit their website to view past shows at www.mattcooklive.com.