Writing Jokes with Matt Fernandez (Second City)
Your dad telling a corny joke is never going to be funny because your dad isn’t funny.
[@FattMernandez on Twitter]
What’s interesting or uninteresting about Tampa?
Interesting: It’s the lightning capital of the United States.
Uninteresting: Mitchell. He’s just this dumb guy I know. Not interesting at all.
Why did you first want to start performing comedy? What was the first joke or bit you tried on stage?
I thought I might be good at it, and I didn’t want to work in a cubicle. My life had zero direction up until that point. I don’t remember a specific bit. It was all the hacky stuff most comedians start off writing about; strip clubs, midgets, strip clubs that only employ midgets.
You’ve written for College Humor and Playboy. What advice would you give a comic trying to get his or her work published?
Write your ass off. There are websites who will publish your work, but don’t pay anything. I started there and wrote about literally anything I could think of. I think it’s easier to write about something you really love or really hate. Then after a year or two of that, I started submitting to better websites, and eventually got published.
Second City has churned out some of the world’s most talented comedians. What is it about that place that allows talent to flourish?
A great staff who genuinely cares about what they’re doing. I had a great teacher while I was there. Plus I think the history helps a lot. It’s like going from high school to collegiate sports. If you’re good at basketball, you go to Kentucky or North Carolina to get great. If you’re good at football, you go to Ohio State or Alabama to get to the next level. If you’re funny, and want to learn how to use it and what to do with it, you go to Second City.
Do you prefer forming jokes on paper or on stage? Why?
Paper. Writing is my favorite part of it. That’s actually what I went to Second City for. I always have a notebook and pen around, or I’ll write notes in my phone sometimes. Getting into the habit of writing down anything you say or think of that you can use on stage is necessary.
How are comedy festivals unique, compared to clubs or theatres?
Comedy festivals are like comedian summer camp most of the time. In clubs and theaters you go, you do your show(s), and you go home. At festivals you do your shows, then you hang out because there are 10–20 other comics around to hang out with and meet. I guess it’d be like going to work on a normal day vs. going to a week long seminar where you meet all the people who work at all the different branches of the company where you work.
What do you like or dislike about the comedy scene in Tampa?
Tampa is the perfect place to start stand up. The scene is just big enough where you can get plenty of stage time and there are tons of clubs and rooms all over Florida. The only thing I dislike about the scene here is that the audience is all people who live in Florida. So you’ll occasionally get the middle-aged woman downing Mich Ultra and being obnoxious. Or the guy who shows up in a denim vest like that’s a thing you can just wear. But for the most part, Tampa and St. Petersburg (just outside of Tampa) have a great appreciation for the arts despite what Lena Dunham would have you believe.
Who is the funniest person you know?
I don’t want anyone who reads this to get their feelings hurt, so I’ll just say it’s irrelevant because none of them are funnier than me.
What’s the dumbest superhero name you can think of?
Professor Hugs Too Long (His power is he makes villains feel awkward and uncomfortable.)
Why are jokes funny?
Because the person writing and telling them is funny. Your dad telling a corny joke is never going to be funny because your dad isn’t funny, and the person who came up with the joke originally probably wasn’t that funny. Just like anything else a joke is only as good as the person who makes it.