The 36th edition of the Just For Laughs festival is announcing its full line-up later today, but we’ve got already got a sneak peek of what’s to come for the always popular, The Ethnic Show. This year, the festival has yet again outdone itself with The Ethnic Show, featuring host Maz Jobrani, special guest Orny Adams, plus Gina Brillon, Francisco Ramos, and the opera singer / oil painter turned stand-up comic, Matteo Lane. For this edition of the show, Lane will be representing Italy, a country in which he’s spent a lot of time and picked up quite a few traits along the way. Lane also has a Netflix special being released sometime this summer. I had the chance to speak with the hilarious Matteo Lane about his career and what we can expect this summer at JFL:
GF: You were featured in the ‘’New Faces’’ of JFL at the 2014 festival, and now you’re coming back to represent the Italian community in ‘’The Ethnic Show’’, how excited are you to be back?
ML: *Laughs* I am representing the Italian community. I don’t know if the Italian community is ready for me to represent them, but I will be doing that for three weeks in Montreal. I love the city, I’ve been coming back for a few years now, and it’s nice that I can practice my French, and try my best to look like I’m smart.
GF: You have a pretty eclectic background; tell me more about this:
ML: Oh yeah, I’m like Barbra Streisand. I’m originally from Chicago but I now live in New York. I moved here because I was illustrating TV commercials and fashion ads for a living, and I just started doing open mics at night and now I just do full time comedy.
GF: Is it true that you were also an opera singer and oil painter while living in Italy?
ML: Yes. *Laughs* that’s the most Italian thing about me. I cook, I sing opera, I paint, I’m dramatic, and I’m everything an Italian is.
GF: How does wanting to be a comic even come to mind when you have all these different talents?
ML: I really just wanted to get up on stage. I tried to make it as a singer in Chicago; I also joined this terrible cabaret group where we performed at strip clubs and I was like ‘’this is not for me’’. I just remember someone saying you could go to open mics, and it was great, you could do whatever you wanted. I could sing, talk, it was a way for me to be creative on stage, and overnight I realized; ‘’I think I’m meant to be a comedian. I fell in love with comedy.
GF: I saw an episode of Comedy Central’s ‘’The Comedy Jam’’, where you literally belted out Whitney Houston’s ‘’I Will Always Love You’’, and I thought; ‘’Holy s**t, this guy is incredible!’’ Do you incorporate music in your set or is it just straight comedy?
ML: Well I never do straight comedy; I’m as gay as the day is long, but yeah I do. I think when I first got on stage I was doing all these singing impressions like, opera, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Mariah Carey and even Andrea Bocelli, but I think I did all that because I was insecure. I knew that would impress people but I still had to work out some jokes. Now I just do jokes, but I’ll still come out and sing.
GF: Who inspired you from a young age?
ML: That’s an interesting question because I never related to comedy as a kid. I think most people relate because they’re watching someone they share a perspective with, and there’s still no famous gay comedians, so I was more inclined to be aligned with women comics like; Ellen (DeGeneres), Kathy Griffin and Joan Rivers. Before I even started comedy my Aunt Cindy was probably the biggest comedic inspiration to me and she wasn’t even a comic. She’s a professional comedian but just amongst the family, you know? Especially with Italian families, everyone’s a little bit of a comedian. When I’m on stage, I just imagine that I’m at my Nonna’s house and I’m just talking to the family, and get everyone interested in what I have to say.
GF: I’ve got a quirky question for you: describe your perfect date:
ML: *Laughs* my perfect date would be eating at Ribalta in New York City, my favourite Italian restaurant. Then, if it was nice out and there was no wind, no wind is very important, walk around the city, and then have great sex! That’s really all I need, and listening to Maria Callas.*Laughs*
GF: I’ve got a dark question now: what song would you have played at your funeral?
ML: Oh don’t be a racist! Honestly, I want karaoke at my funeral. Put me in a dress, in a clown wig, raise me out of the casket and anyone who speaks has to sing a Mariah Carey song. No drama!
GF: Finally, where do you see yourself in 10 years?
ML: Dead. No *Laughs*, I don’t know. I see myself happily married, performing, and working on projects I care about. Not working paycheck to paycheck. I want my own animated show or scripted show, and hopefully I haven’t lost my hair… and I better meet Barbra Streisand or Liza Minnelli.
Upon ending the conversation, Matteo and I found out that we’re actually ‘’paisanos’’, with our families being from Agrigento, Sicily. I’ll have to have him over at my Nonna’s when he’s in town. The Ethnic Show runs from July 11th until the 26th at Club Soda and for a few dates over at MTELUS (formerly Metropolis). Tickets cost $45.92-$62.52 and are already on sale, and selling fast. Visit HAHAHA.com for more info. This JFL series is always one of the many highlights of the festival be sure not to miss it – see you there!
Gianni Fiasche lives and breathes all that is entertainment. Since a very young age he has been a film and music enthusiast. Gianni watches and reviews over 200 films a year, attends hundreds of concerts, and loves listening to old and new music. When he isn’t doing these activities, you’ll find him spending quality time with family and friends. You can follow him on Instagram as @snobreviews.