Besser in June 2006
|Born||Matthew Gregory Besser
September 22, 1967
Little Rock, Arkansas, U.S.
|Occupation||Actor, comedian, writer|
|Spouse(s)||Danielle Schneider (m. 2008)|
Matthew Gregory "Matt" Besser (born September 22, 1967) is an American actor and comedian best known as one of the four founding members of the Upright Citizens Brigade sketch comedy troupe, who had their own show on Comedy Central from 1998-2000. He currently hosts the improvisation-based podcast Improv4humans on the Earwolf podcasting network.
Besser was born and raised in Little Rock, Arkansas, to parents Diane and Sandy Besser. His father was Jewish and his mother was Christian, and Besser is an atheist. He is also half German and French on his mother's side. Besser's grandfather's cousin was Joe Besser of The Three Stooges.
He was recruited to play soccer after starting on his high school team, but instead attended Amherst College with a major in American Studies. There he started doing stand-up comedy and competed in a contest at UMass that was judged by Judd Apatow. After graduating he briefly moved to Denver in an attempt to pursue stand-up, but quickly moved to Chicago. He worked various odd jobs, including stints as a substitute teacher, a host at Carnegie Deli and a host at Dick's Last Resort.
After being "blown away" seeing a improvisational comedy show at iO Theater featuring Dave Koechner, Tim Meadows and Chris Farley, Besser began taking classes there. His improv group Victim's Family (alongside Rick Roman, Adam McKay, Miles Stroth, and Ian Roberts), later renamed The Family (minus Roman, plus Neil Flynn, and Ali Farahnakian), was directed by Del Close, the first long-form group Del focused on.
Besser is a founding member of UCB, which began as a sketch comedy group in 1991, earning a cult following from the start. Original members included Ian Roberts, Ali Farahnakian, Adam McKay, Rick Roman, and Horatio Sanz. During that time, UCB were regular guests on stage at the New Variety hosted by the Chicago Improv comedy club. While working at the New Variety, Besser was cast and directed by New Variety founder and Artistic Director R. O’Donnell in the TV comedy/variety special Twisted which aired on Fox, Chicago. Twisted also featured Besser in a series of improvised commercials directed by O’Donnell for McDonalds, Toyota, and Ameritech along with stand-up comic Michelle Garb.
In 1996, the UCB relocated to New York City. In NYC, they made three seasons of their sketch-comedy series Upright Citizens Brigade on Comedy Central from 1998 to 2000. The cast consisted of Besser, Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh. It originally included a voice-over by Del Close. Since its cancellation the show continues to maintain a large following and is often hailed as one of the great cult sketch shows. Comedy Central has since released all three seasons on DVD.
Since then, Besser and the UCB moved on to other projects and opened comedy theaters in New York City and Los Angeles. He was the creator and co-star of the Redman & Method Man MTV hidden camera prank show Stung. In 2004, he created and starred in his second Comedy Central show, Crossballs, which mocked news debate shows by pitting fake experts (played by Besser and other comedians) against real people.
Besser has appeared in films such as Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Martin & Orloff (written by UCB cohorts Roberts and Walsh), Year One, Undead or Alive, Drillbit Taylor, and Junebug, in addition to a number of sitcoms. In 2003 the UCB filmed their first full-length improvised movie, Wild Girls Gone. After several years of being unreleased, in early 2010 the long-awaited film was screened at several indie theaters in the Los Angeles area and is now sold for digital download on iTunes and on DVD at the official UCB Theater website. The troupe had also performed their signature brand of longform improv (ASSSSCAT) in a special for the Bravo channel in 2005. In 2008, they also released a DVD entitled ASSSSCAT!: Renegade Improv Comedy through Shout! Factory, which features an uncensored improv performance by the troupe and special guests, the DVD also includes deleted scenes and along with other bonus features.
In 2008, Besser played the part of "Courtney Frenchip", the hippie roommate of David Cross in David's Situation, a pilot made for HBO written by Cross and Bob Odenkirk. As Odenkirk explained on his web site, “It will follow a traditional sitcom feeling, but will also feel like a big sketch, even though the characters will remain the same each week.” The pilot was filmed live on May 9, 2008 but was not picked by HBO as a series. In 2013, he portrayed Edwin Stanton in the "Chicago" episode of Comedy Central's Drunk History.
Besser and the UCB continue to run comedy theaters on both coasts. The Upright Citizens Brigade Theater currently has three locations, in Chelsea, Manhattan, the East Village, Manhattan, and Los Angeles, California. Besser and the UCB currently perform several times a week at the Los Angeles theater, most notably in their long-running hit improv show ASSSSCAT 3000 every Sunday night.
Besser makes frequent appearances on many podcasts on the Earwolf podcasting network, including Comedy Bang Bang, as well as hosting "The Earwolf Challenge", a reality-competition series where several podcasters compete against each other.
Besser's Comedy Central pilot This Show Will Get You High aired as a sketch comedy special on October 27, 2010. The show featured video shorts and sketches from Besser and Upright Citizens Brigade Theater comedians John Gemberling, Brett Gelman, Paul Rust, and Betsy Sodaro.
In 2011, Besser began hosting the Improv4humans podcast, where he and guest improvisers perform scenes based on suggestions sent in via Twitter.
Besser wrote and directed his first film, Freak Dance, based on his long-running UCB stage show. The film premiered at the Austin Film Festival on October 21, 2011 and had a limited theatrical and video on-demand release in May 2012. The film was made available on DVD and iTunes on July 10, 2012.
In 2014, Besser co-starred in the Hulu comedy series The Hotwives of Orlando, which stars his wife Danielle Schneider, who also co-created the series. Besser plays the husband of Schneider's character. Besser and Schneider play another married couple ("Blake and Karen") in the epilogue of a 2015 episode of the comedy series Community.
Besser married actress-comedienne Danielle Schneider in 2008. Their first child, a daughter Sidney Diane Besser, was born on July 29, 2013. Besser previously dated comedian, Amy Poehler, when they were both actors at ImprovOlympic.
- Edwards, Gavin. "The Merry Pranksters". Details Magazine. Retrieved 2011-08-22.
- "The Funny Ones" selections from the Diane and Sandy Besser Collection / Opening Reception Friday April 20th, 2012, | Eggman & Walrus Art Emporium
- Nashville Scene Review |
- Matt Besser: The _Heeb_ Interview | Heeb
- Totally Laime
- A Couple of Stooges, episode #9 of Who Charted? on Earwolf
- "BA #029: Matt Besser". Box Angeles podcast.
- Spitznagel, Eric (October 11, 1993). "The New Variety Just Might Make Comedy Dangerous Again". The Third Word magazine Sept/Oct issue.
- THIS SHOW WILL GET YOU HIGH on Comedy Central
- Matt Besser interview on blankmaninc.com (July 9, 2012)
- Poehler, Amy (2014). Yes Please. United States: Harper Collins. p. 111. ISBN 978-1-74353-415-1.