Gavin Matts – Premature

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Gavin Matts had a great Conan set. It was the first time I had heard of the Canadian comic, and it quickly lead me to listen to his album, which combines sketch comedy and stand-up. His Conan set is virtually the only credit this guy has, save the show Just for Laughs, which is significantly easier for Canadians to get. It’s surprising that a guy so relatively early in his comedy career has such a unique voice that comes through so strikingly in jokes.

Matts has an understated vibe. Rather than being a louder comic, he’s a quieter type — more like Brad Wenzel or even, at points, Todd Barry with some Hannibal Buress thrown in.. This is kind of surprising given how long he’s been doing comedy, which is around 6 years. His delivery feels fresh and unique, making it hard to predict where the next punchline will land.

The album was released two years ago, and the standout jokes are also in his Conan set. In one joke, he talks about how he doesn’t have wifi and that leads him to buy a puzzle. This joke is great. It’s a fun little experience that isn’t brought up in comedy spaces very often, so it feels refreshing. I appreciate a joke that isn’t about a usual comedy topic (Tinder, bad dates, the difference between cats and dogs/men and women/white people and black people). Doing an entire bit about entertaining himself through puzzles, and parsing through the nuances of his emotions about that is impressive and interesting in the current trends of stand up.

Another solid joke is a story about him going to a strip club. This jokes starts with him saying the strip club is in Ft. St. John. I have no idea where that is, but it seemed the audience understood well. After this, he mentions that people in Ft. St. John throw “loony and toonies” at their strippers. I had absolutely no idea what this meant and it is not explained, so I was imagining throwing paper cutouts of cartoon characters. But upon a quick Google, it turns out that is a name for Canadian one- and two-dollar coins. The joke then ramps up when the stripper threatens a customer, saying she’ll stab them. Matts makes a punchline out of his curiosity as to where the knife would come from.

There are also sketches on this album. They are alright, but not really what I’m interested in. One sketch involves a court judge who tells Matts that he doesn’t have an ass. The judge is just judging Matts’ physical appearance and other insecurities. I don’t think these sketches are well produced, but each character in them is well delivered. One specific complaint I have about the sketches is that they are produced so that one character is heard through one earbud, and the other character through the other earbud. This gives a sense of space to the characters, but I listen to these albums at work, often with only one earbud, and imagine that others might do the same.

There are some great word choices that heighten the jokes. For example: “I like to use the resources available to me in my municipality”; “Are you a cat? Stop peeking at me!”; “Animals don’t eat that, they don’t have the infrastructure.” The juxtaposition of informal delivery and very formal or unexpected word choice makes these jokes come off as even sillier than they already are.

I think there are some really strong jokes on this album. This album shows that Matts, with a 15 to 20 minute set, can be hilarious and unique in a not-over-the-top way. I am excited to see him develop more material and put out more releases in the future. But this album definitely felt like it was, as the title says, a little premature. This is not to say that it’s bad, or underdeveloped, just that it feels earlier than necessary. What would this album look like if he had waited a year? I only learned about Matts through his Conan set, where he does a joke on the album about buying a puzzle. I think this set is one of the best Conan sets this year.

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