Fluent in five languages, with a singing range of six octaves, pinup good looks, and charisma for days, Matteo Lane is already a gay hearthrob (as a quick glance at his Instagram will confirm) and fast becoming a New York stand-up comedy institution, regularly performing at the legendary Comedy Cellar in the West Village. Before getting into comedy, he trained as an artist and lived in Italy as an oil painter and opera singer, and regularly shows off his vocal talent as part of his sets, channeling his favourite divas like Mariah. He co-hosts the hit podcast, Inside the Closet, with fellow NYC comedian Emma Willmann, sharing their experiences of being gay comics in mainstream culture. The most recent episode is entitled, Douched and Ready to Go! He’s performed stand-up on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, Late Night With Seth Meyers, Comedy Central’s Adam Devine’s House Party, and HBO’s Crashing. His own stand-up special can be seen on Netflix’s The Comedy Lineup.
This Friday night, May 6th, he’ll take to the stage at Dynasty Typewriter at The Hayworth in Los Angeles for a sold out solo stand-up show as part of Netflix Is A Joke: The Festival. He’s also one of the acts on the impressive bill at another Netflix Is A Joke sold out event, Stand Out: An LGBTQ+ Celebration at the Greek Theatre on Saturday, May 7th. Produced by Wanda Sykes, the evening will see Lane take to the stage on a lineup that includes Eddie Izzard, Margaret Cho, Sandra Bernhard, Tig Notaro, Mae Martin, Joel Kim Booster, Bob the Drag Queen, and Trixie Mattel, hosted by Billy Eichner.
Ahead of his Netflix Is A Joke shows, Matteo Lane had an exclusive chat with The Queer Review’s editor James Kleinmann about why Joan Rivers was responsible for him getting into stand-up, how he was able to keep preforming when New York’s indoor comedy venues were closed, why Stand Out at the Greek is going to feel like a family reunion, and who his gay icon for life is.
James Kleinmann, The Queer Review: when did you first realize that you had the ability to make people laugh and how did that manifest itself?
Matteo Lane: “When I worked at Michaels and told people that I was straight!”
When you were starting out in stand-up, I imagine you looked out at the comedy landscape and noticed that there weren’t any prominent gay male comedians at that time. How did that strike you and did it make you feel less inclined to get into comedy?
“I think stand-up comedy is so associated with straight men—and very few women—to the extent that if you were gay or queer 15 or 20 years ago and getting comedy it was like, why?! But I’m going to pull from something that Joan Rivers said, that it’s like a nun’s calling. I was just drawn to it and I don’t know why. There’s no explanation for it. When I was 22, I saw Joan Rivers doing stand-up on a special on Bravo and something was unlocked in me, that part of me that was like, ‘Oh, I think I’m meant to be a stand-up comedian!’ It all seemed to make sense and I credit Joan Rivers for that.”
Yeah, well, I think she should get credit for everything we love really.
“Agreed. I seriously agree! Well, she was old enough to take credit for sliced bread wasn’t she?!”
Exactly! Did you ever get to meet her?
“No, unfortunately not. I was still an open mic-er when she passed away. I always found it odd when people would cry when their favourite celebrity died, because it’s such a projection and dissociation from the actual person. But then when Joan died, I cried and I was like, ‘Okay, I get it. Now I understand it.'”
I got to see one of her shows at the Albert Hall in London which was amazing and one of my friends used to write Fashion Police, so I was lucky enough to get to see her up close and meet her a couple of times, which I cherish.
“Wow, way to brag! Put me down to size why don’t you?!”
Having been away from comedy clubs for a while, what’s it been like returning to live shows?
“I actually was performing live in Central Park, on rooftops, in an amphitheater, and in any space where you could have people sit outside and far apart from each other. Me and every other comic in New York did spots wherever we could. Then I was on Twitch for most of last winter, where I would stream playing video games with other comedians. We’d play for four hours, sometimes six, and you’d have to host and come up with jokes and then edit the videos afterwards. So in a weird way I still found a way to do comedy. It wasn’t conventional, or the way that I was used to doing it, but by the time I got back to the stage and started performing again I felt pretty loose and I had a lot of new material based on all of the things that I was doing over the past year.”
It’s like the Jurassic Park tagline, Life Finds A Way.
“It does! In this case though I’m not creating new dinosaurs, I’m just talking about Fortnite for 15 minutes as my act. But you know what? It’s six of one and half a dozen of the other!”
This weekend you’re going to be taking to the stage at the iconic Greek Theatre for Stand Out: An LGBTQ+ Celebration. What does it mean to you to be on that bill alongside your fellow LGBTQ+ comedians, including some certified comedy legends?
“You’re asking serious questions to a comedian! What does it mean to me? Well, it’s an honour to be recognized and it’s a great group of people and they’re all fun. We all know each other and we’re all friends. Actually, before speaking to you I was literally just texting Trixie Mattel about how excited I am to see her, because I haven’t seen her in almost three years. So it’s going to be almost like a family reunion. I’m very excited.”
“Sometimes you do shows and you’ll be the only queer person on the lineup, which is good, we should be having queer people mixed in with every other type of person, but Stand Out is a fun and celebratory thing that Wanda Sykes put together. It’s full of really talented people and there’s no other show in the world that I would rather be on.”
Will it be a night to try something completely new or is it more an occasion for very tried and tested material?
“No, you never walk on stage for a taping and do something off the cuff! These are jokes that I’ve been working on for a while now. It’s only five minutes, so it’s not like a late night set, but I’ve been figuring out what I want to do, stringing old jokes together and trying to find a rhythm. Luckily, I work at the Comedy Cellar in New York City all the time, so I was able to pretty quickly put together a set that I’m really happy with and that I’m excited to do.”
A lot of your jokes relate to being gay, can you give me an insight into how you approach telling those jokes about yourself or observing behaviour in the gay community?
“I just say what’s funny to me. Look, I’m a gay man. I love Streisand and Mariah Carey. I’m a bottom. I have sex with men. My best friends are drag queens. I’m gay! It’s who I am. It’s not a lie. It’s not a facade. When I was younger and more insecure, I used to worry, ‘Oh, am I talking too much about being gay or not talking enough about being gay?’ But I think the secret to comedy or any art form is just being yourself. I’m talking about myself on stage and so why limit myself to talking about things based on how other people are going to perceive it and whether it’s too gay or not, who cares?! I’m just talking about what I like and if it happens to be super gay, good! If it happens to be not gay at all, great! It doesn’t really matter.”
I get the sense that your material doesn’t really change too much depending on the makeup of your audience, say if it’s a predominantly straight audience or if it’s largely queer folks watching you?
“At the weekend when I headline, it’s a predominantly queer audience that comes out to see me and then on weekdays when I’m performing at the Comedy Cellar, it’s audiences that don’t know me and that are predominantly straight and I don’t change any of my material. It’s also a credit to how far we’ve come as queer people that audiences have opened up more, that they’re interested in hearing about my life.”
“I feel like whatever is funny is funny. I guess on the outside, not being in the world of comedy, it almost looks like like comedians are X-Men and you’re like, ‘Well, what is Magneto doing hanging out with Storm?! These two don’t belong with each other!’ But really the comedy community is very tight. We’re all more concerned about how good the jokes are, how well the joke is written, how hard we’re working, and whether we’re doing hack material or not. It’s more of an appreciation for the art form as opposed to thinking, let me do this joke because these people are gay or let me do that joke because these people are straight. It doesn’t really work that way, for me at least.”
What is your favorite piece of LGBTQ+ culture or a person who identifies as LGBTQ+; someone or something that’s had an impact on you and resonated with you over the years?
“Maleficent! I was so obsessed with her when I was a kid and I’m still obsessed with her! It touches on all of the old tropes, it makes sense. She’s a queer icon because she’s an other, she’s rejected from society, and all of those elements. But really, I just love that she’s a fabulous woman with horns shooting lightning at people! I could not get enough of her as a kid and still each time I watch Sleeping Beauty, which is my favourite movie, every time she walks up that tower getting ready to throw lightning I just get so excited! Maleficent is the gay icon for the rest of my life!”
Have you ever cosplayed as her or drawn her?
“She’s the thing that I’ve drawn the most in my entire life. If you go through my IG, I’m sure half of the drawings on there are of Maleficent! But I’ve never dressed as Maleficent! I don’t know where I would dress up as her, but I do enjoy drawing her.”
Maybe at Michaels when you return there to do some arts and crafts shopping?
“Yeah, I guess if I get fired from stand-up, I can go back and just steal more stuff from Michaels and make myself a Maleficent outfit!”
By James Kleinmann
Matteo Lane’s sold out Netflix Is A Joke solo show is on Friday, May 6th at 9:30pm at Dynasty Typewriter at The Hayworth, Los Angeles.
He will also appear at the sold out Stand Out: An LGBTQ+ Celebration at the Greek Theatre on Saturday, May 7th at 7:30pm as part of Netflix Is A Joke: The Festival alongside the likes of Eddie Izzard, Margaret Cho, Sandra Bernhard, Tig Notaro, Wanda Sykes, Sam Jay, Patti Harrison, Mae Martin, Judy Gold, Joel Kim Booster, Bob the Drag Queen, and Trixie Mattel, hosted by Billy Eichner.
For upcoming tour dates and more on Matteo Lane, head to MatteoLaneComedy.com. Follow him on Instagram @MatteoLane, TikTok @MatteoLane, Twitch @MatteoMariah, and subscribe to his TouTube channel.