An interview with multifaceted comedian Matteo Lane
By Gregg Shapiro
As coming out jokes go, gay comedian Matteo Lane’s pitch-perfect operatic bit about coming out to his father is right up there with Bob Smith’s Thanksgiving-set, “Would you please pass the gravy to a homosexual?” Total comic genius, really. Lane, who is operatically-trained, and is also a gifted visual artist, is a funny man on the rise. With an appearance on Late Night with Seth Myers already under his belt, as well as a visible presence on the Logo network, Lane is fast becoming one of the most sought-after comics, gay or straight, on the circuit. On April 8, 2017 Lane joins David Angelo and Sam Jay on the Chris Kattan and Friends comedy tour at the Casino at Dania Beach. Visit www.CasinoDaniaBeach.com for ticket information.
Gregg Shapiro: Matteo, I’m from Chicago, too. My husband and I lived in Uptown for several years before moving to Fort Lauderdale. Where in Chicago did you grow up and live?
Matteo Lane: Born in Des Plaines. Grew up in Arlington Heights. I moved to the city when I was 18. I lived everywhere; from Lakeview to Andersonville to Roscoe Village. I think Roscoe Village was my favorite.
GS: You have a gay older brother, Vince, whom you have mentioned in your act. Did that make coming out to your family easier or more difficult for you?
ML: I guess in theory it was easier. But I think the coming out for everybody is their own difficult experience. Even if your whole family is gay, it’s something you have to come to terms with for yourself. I think it was easier because [laughs] my mom already went through it. She knew what to expect. She was like, “I’ve seen this movie before!” Regardless, I still think the coming out process is hard, no matter who you are.
GS: I think of you as something of a modern renaissance man. You sing, you draw, you’re a comedian. Let’s begin with your singing voice. At what age did you realize that you possessed such a gift?
ML: I started singing when I was 15. I kind of fell into it on accident, but I ended up loving it. I wanted to be involved in school plays. I wanted to be onstage. I remember that I was too young. All the good parts went to older people. This one girl named Ashley Stein said, “You should join Show Choir. Can you sing?” I was like, “Sure, I can sing.” A week later I auditioned and then I met with a vocal coach. I became obsessed with singing and learning how to sing opera [laughs]. I fell into it, but I was probably a natural singer, too. I had the right equipment for it. It was a natural extension of expression. I ended up wanting to sing, rather than do plays. I just enjoyed singing more.
GS: Is there any chance you may someday go into the recording studio and release an album on which you sing?
ML: I don’t know. It depends on how gay I want the rest of my life to be. I am actually starting a jazz show in New York that is recreating Barbra Streisand’s original jazz show. It’s called Matteo Lane at the Bon Soir.
GS: That’s fantastic!
ML: Yeah! I hope people show up [laughs].
GS: It worked for Rufus Wainwright and Judy Garland, right?
ML: Yes. The difference between me and him is that one, he’s famous [laughs]. Two, I’m going to incorporate my stand-up into the show. The original Streisand was a weird, kooky woman. She was this exotic creature onstage who was funny, who was speaking Italian and French, who was wearing men’s clothing with long fingernails and Egyptian eye makeup. She was all these different elements. I’m not going to dress like her, but I’m going to be singing her songs and doing my routine and being funny in between. It’s going to be a fun show.
GS: It sounds like it! You are also a painter and an illustrator. Please say something about that aspect of your creative life.
ML: I’ve always illustrated my whole life. I went to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for painting, storyboarding, and fashion illustration. I ended up living in Italy for a while painting at a school there. I graduated and got a job as a storyboard artist for television commercials and fashion ads. I’ve done commercials for DSW, Lexus, 7-Up, Bud Light, Monopoly, and others. The artists don’t get credit, we just help the director. I did that for years until I left it three years ago to do stand-up.
GS: When it comes to inspiration for your comedy, what can you tell me about your writing process?
ML: I’m not someone who sits down at a table and writes all day. My stand-up and my humor comes from conversations. That’s how I grew up, with very funny Italian women all around me who I think taught me my timing. What I’ll do is if I’m talking to someone or I’m on the train and something hits me, I write that down like a bullet-point. Then I go onstage and I record myself and I go home and listen to it. I take out the parts that don’t work. It’s kind of trial and error. If a joke doesn’t work after four days, I stop doing it. Most of my writing is done onstage and then edited from there.
GS: In terms of inspiration, is the current political climate having an impact on your stand-up?
ML: Yes, it is. I’m watching MSNBC as we’re speaking. A lot of my stand-up has always been very personal unless I’m going after Mariah Carey. If you’re going to speak on Trump, you have to find a unique angle. Everyone has already made the orange face jokes.
GS: What did performing on Late Night With Seth Meyers in August 2016 mean to you as a comedian?
ML: I think a late-night set for a comedian is like a checkpoint. I’ve reached a certain point in my career. I’ve done my late-night set. I’ve worked so hard to get to this point. Literally, the next day I’m back in the clubs working on new material. It was an amazing experience, but I don’t really think of it often. I think of what’s going on tomorrow.
GS: You have also made numerous appearances on the Logo network. How did that come about?
ML: I’m gay [laughs]. Logo has been a wonderful home for me. They have been kind and easy to work with. I’ve made such good friends from the people who work at Logo. It’s been a beautiful experience. I love everyone at Logo. They let me be involved with interviewing all of these queens on the red carpet from RuPaul’s Drag Race and flying to Aspen and being a part of special events that mean a lot to me. They saw my stand-up and saw that I was funny and wanted to bring me in on the channel and I was more than happy to do it. I love working with them.
GS: Have you performed or do you have interest in performing on the gay cruise ship circuit?
ML: I would, but I have no clue how to do it, who I would contact, what I would have to do. It seems like a world that exists, but I don’t know how to get to it.
GS: So, about your body. What’s involved in your fitness regimen?
ML: Actually, my sister, Kate Lane, is a personal trainer. She is what they call an IFBB (International Federation of Body Builders) Pro. She has done an amazing job giving me my diet, my routine, telling me what to do when I go to the gym and how long I should spend and everything. Now, it’s sort of like a family business with her. I enjoy going to the gym.
GS: It definitely pays off.
ML: Thank you!
GS: You’re welcome. Did you ever achieve your 2016 goal (as stated on your website matteolanecomedy.com) of finding a boyfriend?
ML: No, I didn’t. I actually thought I would. I started dating a cycling instructor and he dumped me. For a month and a half, I was foolishly believing, “I’m going to have a boyfriend!” The longest relationship I’ve had in New York City was making eye contact with a man on the train for two stops. It is what it is.