GIGGLE CITY: Matt Lisac ‘leaves them laughing’ – and thinking

Matt Lisac has attacked Edmonton’s comedy scene by stealth.

He did a one-man show at the 2010 Fringe, innocuously called “A New Canadian Century,” for which he appeared on stage as a kindly, bearded Christian with guitar and a story to tell. About one minute into his opening number, it became obvious that this performer was neither kindly nor Christian – though, like Jesus, he did have a beard. Several audience members were offended and walked out.

Lisac has since abandoned the bait ‘n’ switch technique in favour of the school of hard knocks – the stand-up comedy circuit – prevailing recently as the winner of the Comic Strip’s Leave Them Laughing talent search. The prize is a gig – the co-host for a new comedy show on local producer Michael Kryton’s Internet television site:, aiming for webcast in July. Lisac also plays the Calgary Yuk Yuk’s next weekend.

Q: So what was with that Fringe show?

A: It was brutal. The problem was that I didn’t even know I was going to get a show, so I never prepared anything. I had a month to put it together and I made the description and title in the Fringe program as vague as possible because I didn’t have any idea what I was going to do. So I got a lot old people who just wanted an afternoon of non-offensive theatre, and that’s not what I was going to give them.

Q: Did you secretly get a kick out of having people walk out?

A: I felt bad. I actually ended up bringing $100 in cash thinking that if five old people show up I’d just give them their money back and not even do the show. I didn’t wind up giving any money back. The people who walked out never stuck around long enough. But I never want to put people in an awkward situation like that and make them …

Q: Make them think?

A: It’s OK to make people think, but I also want to entertain people.

Q: We may have already covered this, but do you have a good heckler story?

A: The first time I ever got heckled was from a fellow who seen me before and he didn’t have all his marbles. And part-ways through one of my jokes, he yelled out the punchline before I got to it. I’d never been heckled before. I didn’t know what to do. So I froze. Then I went into another joke and after I finished the punchline, I looked straight at him and said, ‘I bet you didn’t see that coming!’ I might’ve used an expletive. That got a good laugh from the crowd.

Q: Do you have a joke you think is close to being over the line?

A: I have a joke that implies that a lot of organized religion is just a way of using dead people to justify your actions. It’s a great way of getting out of doing something you don’t want to do. Say you don’t want to go to John’s funeral, so you say, ‘I think John would’ve wanted me to stay at home by myself and watch the hockey game instead of going to his funeral.’ Not everybody likes that joke. I don’t do it anymore. It felt like a cheap laugh – mostly from the people who were anti-religious anyway.

A: Do you think you have to be pessimistic about humanity to be an effective comedian?

Q: I hope not, because I’m very optimistic about humanity and I want to be a good comedian. People like George Carlin and Bill Hicks came off as angry and bitter, but I think the reason is that they WERE optimistic about society: We don’t have to be stupid and lazy. We’re better than that. That pessimism is just an underlying optimism for the human race.

Q: What’s the difference between kids today and when you were a kid?

A: The only difference I can think of is the attitude towards intellectual property. They think that ideas shouldn’t count as something you should own. I think that’s crappy, because it will lead to worse and worse art being created.

Q: Here’s question just for you, because you’re new: Why did you decide to go into stand-up comedy?

A: I started out as playwright and written a couple of one-act plays. Even though I intended to make them dramatic, they wound up being comedies. I discovered that I just like writing jokes. And then one night I was dragged out to an amateur night at the Comic Strip and I found out: Hey, anybody can do this! I want to write jokes and I want to make people laugh, so it was a no brainer. Also, I have a lot of opinions, but no one is going to volunteer to sit there and hear me talk about my opinions for half an hour, but if I can make them laugh, then maybe I can make them think.