Anxiously gathering together, Chicago locals recently swarmed a neighborhood hole-in-the-wall bookstore to listen in on a live podcast from the Upright Citizen’s Brigade (UCB) featuring Matt Walsh. A Chicago native and comedian, Walsh notes that many of his high school classmates and family members were among the audience, and encourages that they promptly leave just before the floor breaks into eager chuckles.
Walsh, though known for his career in comedy and improv, never had the intention to become a professional actor. Despite his one performance during a high school variety show, he never sought a degree in theater. “I took one acting class in college at Northern Illinois University,” he said, “[but] I basically discovered improv comedy in downtown Chicago.”
While working a part-time job at an institutional facility in his twenties, Walsh begun learning his craft and working with the esteemed comedy troupe The Second City, known for producing actors such as Mike Myers, Chris Farley, Brad Morris, and Stephen Colbert. “The psych ward told me what I didn’t want to do [in comedy]. You’re dealing with very needy and cathartic individuals and it’s very difficult. It made me realize that I couldn’t handle that [style of humor],” Walsh said.
After creating a foundation for his career in Chicago, Walsh headed East to New York City. There, he helped to create short films that were shown on Saturday Night Live. Additionally, he had friends who wrote for SNL that resided in Manhattan at the time, which helped him to be cast in small parts on the show. He considers himself fortunate for the network of friends that he has built within the field. “The experience was really helpful,” Walsh said about his time spent working on SNL, “Because when you land in a city like New York, it’s very financially oppressive.” Besides his appearances on SNL, Walsh performed on other popular late-night shows, such as Conan O’Brien’s Conan, that exposed him to unusual audiences and gave him the opportunity to become closer with the hosts.
The hit HBO television show Veep hit the small screen in 2012, and came with not only success for the network, but for Walsh individually as well. Veep, with its six running seasons and its impending series finale, has served as the comedian’s claim to fame, as he’s now universally recognized as his character, Mike McLintock. “Veep gave me the chance to return to the same character, which actors love. It also gave me great exposure to be on such a well-written show, and it gave me stability,” he said.
Even though he’s known and played the character of Mike McLintock for years, Walsh said that, in his real life, they’re not exactly twins. He’s been able to incorporate parts of his true personality in creating a persona for McLintock, though it’s mainly exaggerated.
“I’m slightly messy, but I’m not as bad as Mike,” he said, “I’m not as dim-witted, but I am excitable. There are certain things that I love that are almost childlike, but I’m not completely driven by impulses like Mike.”
Walsh claims that he likes to portray a character as if using a mask, and opposes being himself while performing. “I consider myself more of a character actor. I’m not really a stand-up, I prefer to wear a character,” he said.
With his “addiction” to making people laugh, Walsh said that the effect hits him like a “dose of crack” and the sensation is powerful. Walsh has multiple films that he’s currently working on to be released, alongside his podcast and work with the UCB. Walsh will be appearing as a “jerk husband” in Melissa McCarthy’s latest film this Mother’s Day, and taking on the indie genre in Fam-I-ly.