The fact that we even have Bridgetown Comedy Festival today can be owed to comedian Matt Braunger (along with co-founder Andy Wood). Braunger, who was born and raised in northeast Portland, describes himself as “…a lightning-rod of awkwardness…” in one of his specials. His humor is grab-a-beer-with-a-friend relatable, and he bursts with energy on stage. And while he may attract awkwardness, when you see him perform, it is evident that he is a professional. Each joke, tweet, Vine video, and podcast has been fine tuned, and the result is seamless, hysterical comedy.
And he’ll be all over town this weekend making people laugh.
Q: What do you consider your “big break” into the comedy world?
A: I’d say “Just For Laughs – 2007 New Faces” showcase, and then Letterman a year later.
Q: You played a strange neighbor on the TV show “Up All Night.” What’s the weirdest neighbor experience you’ve had?
A: Definitely right now. There’s an elderly guy above me who walks out onto his balcony every day, whips out a blanket and shakes it out. Late at night, he yawn-cries, loud, like his yawn sounds like he’s crying out for a lover. I imagine him, sitting upright in his bed like a sad, angry Frankenstein. It’s pretty strange.
Q: What is your favorite Dad joke or phrase?
A: Pretty much anytime he calls you “Sport” is fun. It’s like a subtle ‘Fuck You’. Okay, sport. Shut up. It makes you check yourself, because you know he’s totally aware he’s doing it.
Q: You are one of the founders of Bridgetown Comedy Festival. What makes Bridgetown stand out from other comedy festivals?
A: Well, it’s a grassroots comedy festival. Once we did it, it opened the door for other people to try it, too. The original idea predicated upon any and all industry. It’s more about the city, and big comedy nerds. It was our chance to make something fun happen in a city we all love.
Over the years, it’s gotten a lot bigger, and now there are comedians all over Portland. We have shows with comics you’ve heard of, and that you haven’t but are about to discover. The formula is streamlined. It’s been called a summer camp for comedians, people are happy to be there and sad to leave. And we have fun things for comics to do besides shows, like we organize field trips and things like that.
Q: What should never, ever be on a sandwich?
A: Peppermint candy. Human flesh. Look, I love Slayer, but I don’t ever want us to get there, don’t tip it early.
Q: What dish do you look forward to eating on the road?
A: Whatever’s regional. If I’m in the Heartland, a great steak house. If I’m in Seattle, seafood. Locals tell you where to eat.
Q: How do you procure food and drink recs when you’re in town? Do you go on Twitter or other social media?
A: I like to use my Twitter mostly for entertainment, so not usually there. But I’ll just ask people in person. Like at a coffee shop, or the venue where I’m working. People who work at comedy clubs or theaters tend to have a youthful vibrancy to them, “You gotta check this place out!” I’m on Yelp too much. I’ll work on jokes all morning, then go to eater.com. I’m definitely a food idiot.
Q: Any Portland specific places you get excited about?
A: Where do I start? Pok Pok, Pine State Biscuits, Le Pigeon, Bunk Sandwiches. There’s always new carts. It’s almost impossible to choose just one; it’s like asking which favorite child you love most.
Q: You have a great bit about strange food you crave when you’re hungover. What’s your ideal hangover meal?
A: Well, it definitely depends on what degree of hangover. If we’re talking typical weekend hangover, like I have dry mouth, but I’m not dying, probably dim sum, or standard American brunch, with bloody or mimosa, to even it out.
If it’s the day after I won lottery and/or New Year’s, whatever I can order in. If you’re trying to impress someone, you can be brave and offer to do the commando run. The “I’m a zombie but I’m doing something good for us” run.” I’ll go to KyoChon (this great Korean wings place in Koreatown in LA). You go there and it’s like, this is it. I killed an elk. It depends. I try to limit those kinds of hangovers, no surgical help needed.
Q: What is your writing process like?
A: Unless I’m actually trying to write, like for example I just finished a script for a short film, I rely on notes. I rarely sit down and write an entire joke. I have some thoughts on jokes, and then let it develop on stage.
Q: Like with improv?
A: With performance/improv stuff, whatever you say, you never say again. It’s something to contribute to motion of the scene. With stand up, I don’t normally do timely stuff. It’ll take a year to perfect a joke. I don’t think comedians should be afraid of repetition.
Q: What are you currently working on?
A: I have a short project I’ve been working on for Nickelodeon that they’re considering. I’m working on a new hour, I’m hoping to shoot it and record it by the end of the year.
And I have some projects I’m working on with friends as well. The more you don’t see a comedian is probably good, it usually means they’re also working on little things you might not hear about right away. They’re just adding irons to the fire.
~Kat Vetrano, Associate Editor
*Photo credit: Robyn Von Swank