President Obama, Brad Pitt, Tiger Woods, Bono, The Octo Mom, Jon and Kate, Susan Boyle. All world-famous people, no question about it. Each one has millions of admirers in every corner of the globe and many of those admirers would give anything to be that person, just for a day. Not me. I don’t envy these people. Sure, I respect all of them, but I really have no interest in being Bono for a day. I mean, who would want to be a bazillionaire singer in the world’s biggest band and have every whim and desire catered to. Or who would want to be Susan Boyle, also a world famous singer, yet really more famous for being a homely looking English woman doing godawful show tunes and someone no man who want to fuck, even with a stolen dick. Not me, I tell you. I set my sights a little more realistic and down-to-earth. I think the coolest gig around is the one Matt Belknap has. I’d be him for a day in a heartbeat.
Who is Matt Belknap, you ask? Matt Belknap is the founder of A Special Thing Records, which specializes in comedy albums. I think he also helps put on comedy shows in Los Angeles, reads scripts, and probably other stuff as well. I really don’t have much of a clue about him personally, but I’ll go out on a limb and say he’s generally a swell guy. Google him, if you want to know more. I’m sure I’m missing something. Most importantly for me, Matt produces my favorite podcast, Never Not Funny, starring comedian Jimmy Pardo.
I first downloaded NNF, as it’s affectionately called, in October 2006 right before a work-related trip to France. I listened to my first episode the day before I left, thought it sounded entertaining enough, and downloaded about 10 more episodes in anticipation of having a lot of time to kill, which I did. I don’t really remember the details of those first few episodes, but I remember having about 4 hours one afternoon with nothing to do before a flight to Paris. I sat in the courtyard of a hotel in Aix-en-Provence and listened to 4 straight episodes before leaving for the airport. And I laughed my fucking ass off the whole time. I must have looked like an absolute jerkoff to the other people there. Picture your typical American male, sitting in a beautiful French hotel courtyard, surrounded by beautiful architecture and bountiful gardens. Yet there I am, oblivious to all of this, sitting on a bench with my suitcase and backpack, listening to my iPod, and laughing so hard that snot is coming out of my nose. That was the beginning of my relationship with the show. It has continued to this day and I haven’t skipped one episode.
So then, what’s the deal with Matt Belknap, you ask again? Matt is not only the producer of NNF, but he’s also the co-host. He sits in with Jimmy every week as they bring in a comedian or an actor for a 90-minute bullshit session on virtually anything and everything. There is no set agenda, no editing. It’s as Matt says in the intro, “Live, on tape…” Yet, Matt is not a professional comedian, nor is he is a professional actor. He’s not a performer, period. And, because of this, Matt’s contribution to the show every week lends a certain balance that would be missing if he weren’t there. Yes, sometimes his comments and attempts at humor are uncomfortable and can bring the show to a screeching halt. This, of course, is then fodder for Jimmy to point out as only he can.
Over the course of the past couple years, Matt has embarrassingly admitted to his grave fear of coyotes, his inexplicable love for Paula Abdul, and that crazy cave in his parent’s property. Sometimes I listen to the stuff he says and cringe. Sometimes when Matt attempts to contribute something witty, it’s almost as though Jimmy, the guest, Andrew Koenig (who works the video for the podcast, is Jimmy’s brother-in-law, and was “Boner” on Growing Pains), and the listener all know it’s gonna be a complete dud before it even happens. You know he’s trying hard and you feel for him a bit, but it does make for great entertainment. Yet, what Matt is doing each and every week by putting himself on mic with Jimmy and his guests, is the equivalent of a 6th man on an average high school basketball team playing with NBA All-Stars in a summer pickup league. These guys are way out of his league, comedically, and yet, from time to time, he’s able to run with the big boys. When he does nail a good joke or comeback, it’s almost funnier because it came from him. Without Matt, the show would still be good, but it’d be a bunch of comedians just trying to outfunny one another. Even that would get old after awhile.
So why would I be Matt Belknap for a day? He gets to hang out and shoot the shit with some of smartest, funniest people in show business every week. And he makes a living doing it, the lucky bastard. I get geeked for each week’s episode, I really do. Of course, I look forward to Jimmy’s world-class comedic skills. He is a fucking hysterical host. And I look forward to the show’s guest. But I also look forward to Matt’s contribution each week. He is the unsung hero. He and the rest of the NNF crew help me maintain my sanity for an hour and a half every week. Admittedly, I’m a bit jealous of Matt. I have a bit of radio experience behind a microphone, but, like Matt, I’m not a professional comedian or actor. Yet, it must be a fucking thrill to sit and joke with the funniest people on earth each and every week. Lucky bastard, indeed, but it’s cool that he gets to do something a lot of us would love to do.