featured photo: @mfriend1998 Twitter

Artists of all kinds have been forced to adapt to a sudden absence of live events in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, there have never been more outlets for virtual entertainment and content creation. While a complete lack of stage time has made for a jarring lifestyle shift for comedians, they now find themselves in an environment where podcasts, YouTube videos and Instagram stories will have to suffice for now. We talked to Matt Friend, an impressionist in New York City, about the difficulties of isolation, his creative process and why his particular comedy works so well right now.

Attendee.com (AC): How are you doing, man? 

Matt Friend (MF): I’m doing well. 

AC: I wanted to ask you a few questions about your creative process in the midst of this quarantine. Obviously there are a lot of comics in New York who haven’t been on stage in a long time, but you have a very unique act as an impressionist. What have you been up to?

MF: I’m finishing up my last semester of college. Throughout college, I’ve been onstage basically every night. Of course, I miss being on stage; I love the thrill of performing for people. I think everybody has to find new ways to create new routines for themselves and not fall in the habit of watching TV all day. For me, it’s making sure to be creating something every day. I think for traditional standup, this is an extremely hard time. Traditional comics need that stage to see what works. With impressions, it’s a different ball game. You’ll be fine if you can create funny premises and videos. 

AC: This is obviously a very difficult time for everyone for a lot of reasons. In the midst of this virus, what’s been the most difficult part for you in trying to continue making people laugh? 

MF: You have to look at the state of the world, and I’m not going to stop doing my thing. This is an extremely hard time. What I’ve been studying at NYU is the role of satire socially. You don’t want to make fun of the crisis, but what we are doing is providing levity and letting people laugh; this isn’t the first time this has happened. After September 11, Lorne Michaels asked Rudy Guiliani on Saturday Night Live, “Can we be funny?” Guiliani said, “Why start now?” We need comedians more than ever to keep people laughing. Laughter is one of the best medicines there is.

AC: You’ve started your own late-night show called Quarantine. How did that come about?

MF: I’ve always been really obsessed with late-night. As a kid I watched every Johnny Carson segment I could find. I was a host on HQ trivia … I’ve always loved hosting and wanted to do something centered around that. Now we have a third segment called “Governor’s Grief” where we do a John Oliver-type deep dive into what’s going on with governors around the country. And there’s these doors in my house that allow me to walk out like a curtain, so it works out perfectly.

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AC: Now that you’re not onstage, how do you gauge what’s working and what’s not?

MF: An impression either sounds like the person or it doesn’t. You need to have written a bit, otherwise it’s not a good impression. If you want to be a comedian, you have to come up with situations. I’ve just been making stuff, writing stuff. I really enjoyed “Saturday Night Live At Home.” I loved how Fallon did his monologue at home with his kids. Colbert did his from his bathtub. I love what people are doing on TikTok. 

AC: Where are you most looking forward to performing again in New York?

MF: I would say Gotham Comedy Club and Broadway Comedy Club are my two favorites. Also Stand Up New York and West Side Comedy Club.

AC: How long have you been doing impressions?

MF: It all started with Austin Powers for me. I was four years old when I discovered this Austin Powers DVD. I started to talk like my teachers, uncles, relatives, grandparents … like a parrot. It sort of morphed into a fast obsession. I realized it was a marketable skill, too. I was always fascinated by how people sounded. Now, it’s not meant to be braggadocious—as Trump would say—but I do just over 250 impressions.

AC: Are you working on any new impressions right now?

MF: Joe Exotic and Rick Kirkham from Tiger King. I’m still working on Shawn Mendes and Harry Styles. Ones I’m starting to write more around are John Oliver, Ted Cruz … Timothy Chalamet is one I’m going very hard on right now. Basically, there are times when I sit down and write, but I need to be walking around, screaming in my house, doing different voices. They come from me talking to myself. But I do physically type out scripts…mini-dialogues I have for myself.

Follow Matt on Instagram at @matturdaynightlive
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