When Chicago native Matt Walsh (HBO TV series “Veep,” “The Hangover”) was getting started in his stage career in the mid-‘80s, he acted in dramatic plays at Chicago’s Live Bait and Players Workshop, but soon decided that what he really wanted to do was make people laugh.
This month Walsh launched an Indiegogo campaign for his second improvised indie film, “A Better You,” to pay for post. If you pledge enough you can take a master class with Matt or buy the main character’s wig.
We talked to Walsh when he was here recently performing for Chicago Improv Fest and also conducting a workshop on how to direct an improvised comedy and autographing his new book, “Upright Citizen’s Brigade Comedy Improvisation Manual.”
What’s your new movie about?
A hypnotherapist, Dr. Ron, who can cure everyone but himself.
Brian Huskey and I liked the concept that people in LA are willing to go to any kind of alternative therapy for their various issues, it’s unique to LA. He plays Dr. Ron.
Have you tried hypnotherapy?
I tried it for smoking. I kicked it for eight months.
Does Dr. Ron, have any redeeming qualities?
At his heart he wants to help people and he gets people to look at their problems seriously. He was once a good husband but I think he will be a good father.
What are the top five things you need to make an improvised movie funny?
A great cast. Interesting story with something at stake. Excellent tech specs – great sound, picture, wardrobe, everything you’d want from a good movie. You can’t improvise the story, you can’t just be indulgent and make everyone on set laugh, it has to be related to the story.
You need patience in the edit room because often times you find elements that are not in the outline but are worth folding into the finished product.
Why does the story lend itself to your improv techniques?
Because it’s a very small niche comedy focused around the journey of one character and his redemption.
It’s difficult to do larger scope stories in an improv format. And I think the way it’s built, the character is someone that has reason to meet interesting people every day. You need a great cast.
What is your favorite aspect of your character of Mike McClintock on “Veep?”
I love when Mike thinks he has the words to calm down US vice president Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and inevitably he puts her in a worse mood, and his confidence inevitably creates more trouble. Mike is unaware of his incompetence most of the time.
What would you like to see Mike do that he hasn’t done?
I guess I’d like to see him be in charge or Chief of Staff where he’s way over his head, where the stakes are even higher. He’s actually good at the human side, he can speak truthful news and people still like him. Or — God forbid — he was a congressman or senator.
In his position now the buck doesn’t stop with Mike, it stops with Selina, so any job where the buck stops with Mike would be funny.
When did you first decide you had the talent to be funny?
I was at a seventh grade party where I was doing goofy dances and everyone was laughing. I realized I could have the focus of the whole room. I went to Hinsdale South High School and I did, in fact, win Class Clown. I got a tiny plastic trophy. Now If I ever have self-doubt I can look into that broken trophy and see the truth.
Carey Lundin is the director of the Chicago International Film Fest Award winning documentary, Jens Jensen The Living Green.