In 1984, Kurtis Matthews began his stand-up career at the Improv in Hollywood. That same year, he also embarked upon his own journey in recovery from alcoholism after an automobile accident resulted in his second DUI and jail time. Touring alongside such renowned comedy veterans as Bill Hicks and Sam Kinison, he learned the joys of making people laugh as well as the challenges of staying sober while doing so. After twelve years of touring nationally and appearing on A & E’s “Evening at the Improv,” Kurtis took a five-year break to work in the software industry. Stand-up had never left his heart, though, and in 1999, he started the San Francisco Comedy College (SFCC), the nation’s largest stand-up school. The SFCC has trained over 2,000 people to be funny, attracting scouts from HBO and the Late Show with David Letterman.
Most recently Kurtis starred in the hit BBC Reality Show, "Find Me the Funny" and he also made an appearance on Season 2 of the Popular TV Show, "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew"
Using his struggles with infidelity, alcohol and drugs to enrich his material, Kurtis makes audiences laugh while inspiring them to be the best people they can be.
Recovery Comedy: What were you like as a kid?
Kurtis Matthews: I used to drink Thunderbird, smoke and knock kids off their tricycles, and then I entered the third grade.
I was semi rebellious, chubby, inquisitive kid and I rarely took direction. I also thought I knew better than all authority figures around me. I’ve learned better. Luckily, I had two great parents and a very talented and funny brother.
Recovery Comedy: What made you decide to become a stand-up comedian and how long have you been performing?
Kurtis Matthews: I was Pre Law in college, and all my friends were becoming attorneys. Frankly, it seemed a little boring and unoriginal. It also seemed like way too much pressure and a job that you might bring home every day. That kind of life choice didn't interest me. Then again, I’ve always been an easier softer way kind of guy. The joke is on me though because the world of professional stand-up comedy has been anything but easier and softer. I got clean and sober around the same time I started my career, which was 1984.
Recovery Comedy: Were you performing stand-up comedy before you got into recovery?
Kurtis Matthews: I was onstage twice semi drunk, and it scared the crap out of me. I can only read a crowd and be connected to them by being clear headed. Furthermore, drunken comedians tend to be loud and disconnected from the relationship that is happening in a room. However, most of them make more money than me : )
Recovery Comedy: How has your comedy changed since you got into recovery?
Kurtis Matthews: Except for those two shows, I’ve performed 28 years clean and sober.
Recovery Comedy: Does your comedy have a message and if so what is it?
Kurtis Matthews: Entertainment should be entertaining. Personally, I tire of bar fly comedians who have never been lawyers or politicians telling me about the ‘system’; it’s empty pretentious rhetoric. I mean what kind of narcissist telling jokes in a bar really thinks he knows what’s best for the country? But I digress.
When I do the Comedy Addiction Tour show as well as the laughs, my message leans to remember that loved ones are affected by our selfish using actions, and our mothers are the ones that suffer most from our selfish behaviors.
Recovery Comedy: Who are your comedy idols?
Kurtis Matthews: I could listen to Richard Pryor, Brian Regan and Garry Shandling forever.
Recovery Comedy: What is the difference between a recovery show and a Normie show?
Kurtis Matthews: Common language and that people who have come close to death laugh at really sick stuff that people that haven’t faced the end might find scary or off putting.
Recovery Comedy: Where does your inspiration for material come from?
Kurtis Matthews: My Higher Power who I choose to call Chuck!
Recovery Comedy: What is your joke writing process?
Kurtis Matthews: Something strikes me as funny, I jot it down, and then I will talk it out with an audience. Stand up is a spoken art form done for live audiences, and it is best edited standing up and in front of live audiences. I also don’t use the word jokes as that implies wordplay, I call them ‘laugh points', and sometimes they are laughs received by not using words at all. I’m lucky to have a club in San Francisco that I can work out at multiple nights whenever I want.
Recovery Comedy: What is your kryptonite?
Kurtis Matthews: Just kryptonite. Honestly, I’ve wrestled with so many multiple addictions in my life that I’m not really tempted back to any of them. I’m knocking on wood here, btw and just happy that today I have a daily reprieve.
Recovery Comedy: Is comedy part of your healing process?
Kurtis Matthews: Real comedy and laughter between friends and loved ones for me is part of the healing process. And although I can talk about any issue onstage, I’m not sure if the stage is necessarily the place to work things out. That being said I’ve seen many audiences and comedians find a sense of release and identification by delving into topics beyond crotch grabbing, spewing nerve driven ‘F bombs’ and dropping the mic to end a set. Comedy is a service job and when approached correctly can be healing.
Recovery Comedy: What was your worst experience performing comedy?
Kurtis Matthews: Watching young comics that were my friends die before their time.
Recovery Comedy: What was your best experience performing comedy?
Kurtis Matthews: Anytime my parents were in the audience. They are both gone now, and those memories were better and more fulfilling than any TV show, large gig, celebrity party…
Recovery Comedy: What is your comedy dream?
Recovery Comedy: Thanks for your time Kurtis, we’re looking forward to seeing you perform with the Comedy Addiction Tour at the Purple Onion this month!
Kurtis will be appearing with the Comedy Addiction Tour at the Historic Purple Onion Comedy Club in San Francisco on May 31, 2012. Tickets are an amazingly reasonable $15 to see 4 amazing comedians. You’ll also be able to see Will Franken, Ken Townsend and the incredible Mark Lundholm. Don’t miss your chance to see these talented comedians. There are two shows one at 7pm and one at 8:30pm. To get your tickets, please click on the link below.
Also, if you have actually read this far ; ) you can also get a discount, by entering either the code “Clean” or the code “Sober” for an additional $5 off your ticket price.
Click here to get your Tickets for The Comedy Addiciton Tour at the Purple Onion
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