Matteo Lane has finally made it as a comedian. We’re used to seeing clips of the handsome funnyman on social media or performing on Netflix’s The Comedy Lineup, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Late Night with Seth Meyers, or HBO’s Crashing. Houstonians will get to see him live January 21–23 doing what he loves to do.
But before he launched his comedy career, Lane started in a much more classical part of the performing-arts world. “[When I was 15], I knew that I wanted to be onstage, and I wanted to do the comedies at my high school, but I wasn’t old enough. So a classmate told me I could join the show choir,” he recalls. “I didn’t think, at that point, that I could sing. But when I joined, I realized I really could sing. My teacher pulled me aside and said my voice is very well developed and that I should use a private teacher.”
Lane studied under Nick Falco, one of the Chicago area’s renowned voice coaches, who taught him proper breathing and opera technique. “And all the good stuff that you need as a classical singer,” he adds.
After high school, he went on to art school and studied storyboarding and fashion illustration, where he focused on figure painting. (Not finger painting, Lane jokes.) He also studied oil painting in Italy.
“I graduated and got a job immediately out of college. I was storyboarding for television commercials and fashion ads professionally. I made an entire living doing commercials for clients like Lexus and 7 Up. I did a lot—a lot—of hair and makeup commercials because I can draw a believable woman very quickly, which gets you a lot of work. My whole life was basically art: drawing, painting, portrait painting, more drawing, etc.”
But the calling he felt to get into comedy never stopped. “It’s like a nun’s calling,” Lane notes. “My friend was dating a comedian in Chicago [who] said he would give me three minutes on stage. And I just loved it. Then I started learning more about comedy: ‘Oh, you have to do this every night. Oh, you have to go to open mics every night. Oh, there’s a whole community. Oh, you need to start doing bar shows.’ Everything kind of opened up to me, and I started to discover what the world of comedy is, and I became obsessed. It was a huge shift in my life.”
It was then that Lane decided to move to New York City to pursue his dreams.
“I moved to New York for a drawing job, and I thought I’d keep performing stand-up. I knew literally no one in New York, and on my first day living in the city I went out to an open-mic night. It really is a young man’s game—I don’t think that I could not do that now at 35. But I was 25, and I had nothing to lose, so I just went for it,” he says.
He spent the next two years doing stand-up every chance he got. (Or, as he puts it, “I sang in high school, made art in college, and started telling dick jokes at 25.”)
“I did comedy every single night, and three to four open-mics a night. I eventually got on TV and was able to quit my day job. I didn’t get paid a lot, but it was enough for me to say, ‘If I’m going to make this move, I’m going to make this move.’ It’s a lot of work. It’s no dating, no drinking, no partying. You focus 100 percent on stand-up comedy. Your friends are comedians, your life is comedy, your entertainment is comedians, your life is all about jokes. Now I’m a little more established, so I can take a vacation or go on a date. But at first it was like training for the military.”
He mentions Kathy Griffin, Margaret Cho, and Joan Rivers as his inspirations. His humor in drawn from his experience growing up gay in a big, messy family, so he credits his relatives with giving him his start in comedy.
“I have a very, very funny family. My mom and her brothers and sisters had a very traumatic childhood: interracial parents, divorce, and separate families. My childhood was a complete mess. My family turned their negative experiences into something palatable through humor. So I was taught to deal with a lot of my issues with humor,” he admits.
Now that he has finally started gaining notoriety as a comic, he can slow down and enjoy a few evenings at home enjoying his original passion: music.
“I’m not very exciting. I don’t go out anymore. I’d rather stay home and listen to older music. I love Sarah Vaughn, Cleo Laine, Barbra Streisand, and Mariah Carey. I like good vocalists. It’s the only kind of music I listen to,” he explains.
In fact, even though he claims the “G” in the LGBTQ acronym, he laments that there’s not an “M” in there for “Mariah Carey fan.”
Matteo Lane plays at the Houston Improv, 7620 Katy Freeway #455, January 21–23. For show times and tickets ($40 to $180), visit improvtx.com/houston/comic/matteo+lane.
This article appears in the January 2022 edition of OutSmart magazine.