James Mattern Shares Stories From His Best and His Worst Shows

Our next Comedy Records Showcase happens this Monday (September 2) at New York Comedy Club’s Gramercy location. Each month the line-up features a mix of comedians from Toronto and New York’s comedy communities.

The show’s host, James Mattern released his debut album, No Segues on August 16. Mattern is known as one of the top hosts and warm-up comics working in New York, so recording a full headlining set absent of crowd work was new territory for the Las Vegas native. “I think for the first time in a long time in New York, we along with his peers got to see a real compilation of his comedy chops,” explains Emilio Savone, co-owner of New York Comedy Club. No Segues was recorded at the club’s East Village location and produced by Scott Linder.

“James is the consummate professional,” continued Savone. “I often joke with him about how he’s essentially the 6th man for every clubs staff. Being the best host in New York, he’s someone that clubs truly rely on to run a tight ship and to set the tone for a show.”

The respect Mattern has earned from Savone and his comedy peers alike is the result of his time on and off the stage. “He’s one of the best people in this crazy industry,” says Savone. “He’s genuine, sincere, and has made and indelible mark in the New York Comedy landscape.”

Interrobang sat down and spoke with Mattern to discuss his new album and the work that’s lead him to where he is today.

The Interrobang: When did you start performing comedy?

James Mattern: In 2001. After I waited tables in Las Vegas, I went to an open mic three minutes from work. One of my best friends took a date. I waited 2 hours to do mediocre. The guy before me wore a dildo and did hack gay jokes. I don’t think my friend got lucky. It was a weird night but I was hooked. I went home and wrote for two hours in the kitchen. I woke up my grandma who was sleeping in the living room for some reason. She thought I was bananas. She wasn’t wrong.

The Interrobang: When did you move to New York and why did you choose the city over Los Angeles?

James Mattern: I moved March 3, 2006. My buddy, Shuli was living in New York working for the Howard Stern Show. I stayed on his floor for three months. The main reason for the choice was there’s more stage time and public transportation in New York than Los Angeles. That, and the wonderful weather. Am I right?!?!? Seriously, I knew New York would make me a better comic and that’s all I wanted in life. Still do.

The Interrobang: You’ve hosted and done warm-up for some pretty great shows

James Mattern: I’ve hosted all throughout the country. I’ve done warm-up for lots of dope shows like Bring the Funny, The Break with Michelle Wolf, Kevin Hart’s LOL Presents Just for Laughs, The View, The Chew and Netflix Presents Comedians of Earth.

The Interrobang: What are the best and worst shows you’ve hosted?

James Mattern: The worst is easy. It was a benefit for a teacher who passed away in Staten Island. Which is a nice thing but before I got brought up, the dude’s mother spoke. The place was balling. It was like watching Titanic in the theatre, wet eyes all over the place. And then, with no real transition I get brought up, “and now….. comedy!!!!!”

Behind me the whole time is a HUGE portrait of the dead fella. It was like a level in Dante’s inferno. The crowd was hostile. The guy’s ex wife heckled the whole time. She took a phone call in the middle of the show and told the person on the phone, “I’m not doing anything!” Not doing anything?!!!? You are at a benefit for a former spouse who WAS DEAD!!! It was a pure nightmare.

We all left miserable and the organizers didn’t seem into it. A year later, I’m back doing another benefit in Staten Island. I got no details when I took it. Would you believe it was the same benefit? They requested me again!! This business is crazy.

My best show was last summer I was Roast Master for a roast of wrestling podcast personality Bruce Prichard. The dais had some great comics and a bunch of wrestlers we all grew up on. It was so exciting. Some of my biggest influences next to comics are wrestlers. It felt like I died and went to nerd heaven. I bought a bright red smoking jacket for the event like a real Chooch. It shined like a new dime.

I wrote the best monologue of my life chronicling Bruce’s career. The show kept flowing despite some wild moments. I was a traffic cop for all the mayhem. I even got kicked in the balls by Jeff Jarrett. It felt like a rite of passage. If I died after that show I would have passed on with the biggest smile of my life. The next day I sat in a box at a historic wrestling card and got stopped by wrestling fans when I went to the bathroom. It was so surreal. And so awesome!!!

The Interrobang: Describe the experience of putting your debut album together.

James Mattern: It was wild, a really turbulent time in my life. Bay-bay it was absolute chaos. My life was in shambles. I was subletting an apartment for one week and then the landlord, who I never met, told me I had to split. I had to look for an apartment while I was also auditioning all week for a big warm-up gig and in two weeks I had to record an album of material. I could barely practice because I’m doing warm-up during the day and hosting at night so I could afford my rent doubling.

Oh yeah, did I mention it was recorded in October, which is the month of my deceased mothers birthday? I was a MESS. All the emotions hit me. The day of recording I told Emilio at New York Comedy Club I couldn’t do it. I was too tired and mentally a mess. He was able to talk me into recording my debut album – that I have been building to my whole life!!!- God bless him.

It was an absolutely beautiful night. It’s the first album ever recorded at the New York Comedy Club Fourth Street location. It was history. Lots of people from my past and present showed up. After the show I ended up on a train, drunk as a skunk listening to “J.U.I.C.Y” by Notorious B.I.G. On repeat. With tears in my eyes as crazy as it sounds. It was pretty perfect.

The Interrobang: How has the success of your album changed your approach to comedy?

James Mattern: It makes me appreciate the joke writers a lot. As a dude who riffed/crowd worked most of his career it took a lot of effort to put together a collection of jokes that work together. It made me respect the peeps who sling out an album of jokes every year or two. The commitment to the process of writing and working out jokes is so intense. Mad respect to them.

It makes me appreciate the things I have done and not to sweat the ones I haven’t. I’ll either one day do them or I wasn’t meant to do them. The universe is perfect if you trust it.

James Mattern hosts our Comedy Records showcase the first Monday of every month at New York Comedy Club’s Gramercy location. 7PM. Tickets are available for $10 at NewYorkComedyClub.com with the promo code NAFTA.


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