Mormon Artist

Matt Meese

Matt is best known for his work on the hit sketch comedy show, Studio C, on BYUtv. He also enjoys pie, and the idea of gardening. Check him out. Website
Photo courtesy Matt Meese

Tell us about yourself. Was there anything specific about your upbringing that got you interested in comedy?

I grew up in Phoenix, with three siblings, of which I am the second (which in my humble opinion is exactly where you want to be when it comes to birth order). And I always enjoyed making people laugh, but I’m not sure how good at it I was, or am currently. But I’ve kind of always liked the idea of laughing at the unfortunate things that happen to us all from time to time. Not the big things, but the smaller things that we sometimes let get the best of us. Being able to laugh about those things has always helped me keep from getting too stressed about things that ultimately just don’t matter much.

Studio C was born out of Divine Comedy, a BYU comedy troupe. Can you describe the transition?

It was a crazy time. I think it was a year from the day we first pitched the idea to the day we shot some test footage. There are plenty of probably boring details about all the meetings we had beforehand trying to figure out how to make the sets look different without having to build seven different sets for each episode, or even what to name the show. But once we figured out those things, the rest of it was already waiting to go (scripts, actors, etc.). We were very blessed to be as prepared as we were without meaning to be.

Divine Comedy takes most of its humor from distinctly BYU/Mormon culture; with Studio C, how do you adjust your act for a larger audience?

It’s really just about finding things that most people can relate to. Or at least a lot of people. There were a few times in the first season when we were like, “Oh, this joke would be so fun to do, even though only LDS audiences would get it.” We really don’t have things like that anymore. And it’s really the way we want it, because at the end of the day we want as many people as possible to be able to connect with the show.

You’re one of the creators of Studio C and you also produce. How do those roles expand your involvement with the show?

I get to go to more meetings, haha. I’ll weigh in on things involving the set or costumes and hair/makeup, but we have a great crew that is so creative and fun that it’s nice to give them a script and see what they come up with. They’re extremely talented. Most of my “expanded involvement” comes with the writing, though. Each of the writers weigh in on each sketch. We throw around additional ideas, joke changes, things like that. So by the end of it, we all have a little ownership in just about every sketch.

Photo courtesy Matt Meese

Where do you get your ideas? Do you have a disciplined routine to invite creativity or do they come to you spontaneously?

Definitely both. I do most of my writing when I first wake up, or after some exercising. But whenever I get ideas throughout the day, I’ll write them in my phone for later. I won’t end up using the vast majority of them, but that’s okay. Not every idea is going to be gold. And sometimes I won’t use an idea for a long time and then I suddenly get an inspiration for how I could use it. So really, you just never know, but I’ve found good results from writing mostly in the first part of my day.

Tell us about two sketches you wrote—how they grew from an initial idea to a polished sketch.

I wrote “The Great Oak Tree” one day when I just couldn’t think of anything fun to write. The sketch is basically me as a talking tree that’s supposed to be wise and all-knowing, but people keep treating him like a normal tree and abuse him quite a bit. I got the idea after I decided to just leave the house and get outside to see if anything out there would give me an idea. I walked out, saw a tree in the front yard, and thought, “Yeah.” So that’s a good example of something that doesn’t happen all the time, which is having a sketch idea come out of the blue.

Another sketch, “Weighty Matters,” which involves putting Whitney on a scale and threatening to disclose her weight to the world, took a little more work. I knew I wanted to involve something with the taboo of talking about how much you weigh, but I was having a hard time figuring out how to make the stakes high enough to make the sketch interesting to watch. I paced around for a good while, which I do a lot when I think, and eventually landed on the scenario that we used in the sketch, which is a torture/interrogation scene. So some sketches are easier than others.

How do you decide if a character becomes serial? Is it based on audience reaction or do you plan jokes that will build on each other?

When someone first presents a potentially reoccurring character, we use the response in the writer’s room as our first test. If we all liked it, then we usually tell them to write more. Then after we start filming, if things go well, we keep moving forward. If not, then we usually hold off until the sketch gets online and we can gauge the wider audience response. If it’s positive enough, we’re happy to bring them back, provided there is something new enough for the character to do so that it doesn’t feel like a rehash.

And any jokes that build upon the jokes of previous sketches, are, to my knowledge, never planned in advance. They just happen when we’re writing and someone will say, “Oh, we should do a call back to that other joke.” It just happens organically, which is always fun, and gives the impression that we had it all planned from the beginning, instead of the truth, which is that we’re making it up as we go.

It seems that sometimes the easiest path to a laugh is the crude or politically incorrect route. How do you keep it clean?

The kind of humor we do is the kind we feel most comfortable with. Our test has always been “if we feel good about it, other people probably will too.” Not everyone who watches us agrees 100% of the time, of course, but when does that ever really happen? In the end, you don’t try to cater to every person, because that’s an impossible and self-defeating goal. We try to do excellent work while using our best judgment, which is all you can ask of anyone, I think.

Studio C has a viewership in the millions. How do you handle the new level of fame you’ve achieved?

Well, the nice thing is that my best friends are having the exact same experience I am, so we can all talk about it, and it makes it feel not so weird. I really love the people I work with.

How does the gospel inform your work?

When we first started out, I knew I wanted this show to be something the family could watch together, bond over, quote to each other later, that kind of thing. I felt like helping families be closer knit was one of the best things we could be doing, and that idea is obviously born out of gospel principles.

How do you see comedy helping build the kingdom?

Laughing can help us all when we’re feeling down. It can also bring us closer together. I think anything that can do that is worth a lot. In the larger sense, isn’t that what it’s all about? Lifting others and fostering love and unity? Comedy does that almost without effort. It’s wonderful. ❧

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