Friday, 21 September 2012 11:22

Matt Braunger: Goofy White Guy Extraordinaire

Written by  By Josh Spanninga
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Matt Braunger
Dr. Grins, Grand Rapids
Oct. 18-20, show times at 8, 9 and 10:30 p.m.
$5-$15
thebob.com, (616) 356-2627

Matt Braunger has been all over the place. He grew up in Portland, Ore., studied theater at Manhattanville College in New York, did improv and stand-up in Chicago, and finally, moved to Los Angeles to solidify his career in comedy.

Braunger has had a solid career in standup for a few years now, with appearances on "The Late Show with David Letterman," a Comedy Central hour-long special and his digital album Soak Up the Night. But even with all of this standup success, Braunger is still probably most often recognized for his acting career. After a few appearances here and there on different TV shows ranging from "Pushing Daisies" to "iCarly," he landed a recurring gig in the 14th season of "MADtv." While on "MADtv," Braunger was able to bring some of his own characters to the screen, as well as do a variety of impressions, though he himself admits it wasn't exactly his forte.

"I wasn't really the best impressionist when they hired me, but I was one of two white males on the show, so [we] had to cover a lot of ground."

Some of the most popular impressions he performed spanned the celebrity spectrum, from old-time comedian Andy Griffith to teen sensation Nick Jonas. When it comes to stand-up though, he veers away from such acts and opts for impressions of a different sort.

"They would be people you wouldn't know, like relatives of mine or someone I came in contact with. None of them would generally speaking be celebrities."

After "MADtv" went off the air in 2009, Braunger focused more on his stand-up career, garnering much attention from critics and finding his way to the top of best-of lists in both Variety magazine and Comedy Central. And while acting gigs would be peppered in here and there, it was 2011 when he found a home on NBC's "Up All Night," featuring Christina Applegate, Will Arnett and Maya
Rudolph.

The show received positive ratings and is currently shooting new episodes. Braunger's character Gene is the next-door neighbor of Applegate and Arnett's characters.

"I play a character that's so different from me it's ridiculous," Braunger said. "He's married. He has kids. He has no self-awareness, but he judges everyone around him. He's basically an A-hole when you really think about it."

So does he mind playing such an annoying character? Not at all.

"I kind of just get into that character and have fun with it because people like that are almost like cartoons."

While Braunger's résumé is filled with comedies, he says he'd like to attempt some more serious acting roles.

"Back when I was starting out I did a lot of plays and I did a ton of dramatic stuff," Braunger said. "I'd definitely love to get back into it if the project is right."

Lucky for us, Braunger isn't planning on quitting stand-up anytime soon.

"I audition a lot but there are thousands of big, goofy white guys that are all vying for the same role ... I don't know how people who just do acting make a living, I really don't."

So he continues touring the country, garnering praise and laughs aplenty for his quirky standup. But when it comes to measuring his own standup success, Braunger has to say this:

"When you get the respect of your peers, that's when you feel you've kind of made it."


Other Comedy Events

Capitol Steps
WMU Miller Auditorium, Kalamazoo
Oct. 19, 8 p.m.
$30-35
millerauditorium.com, (269) 387-2300

In 1981, a group of Senate staffers banded together to perform some satirical skits when asked to provide entertainment for a Christmas party. Not long after, they quit their office jobs and started touring as the Capitol Steps. On Oct. 19 they will bring their own brand of political humor to Miller Auditorium, just in time for the Steps to harvest loads of material from the presidential campaign. Expect lots of singing, dancing and lobbying.

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