Matt Walker is an improviser based in St. Petersburg, Fla. A longtime festival staple, Walker will be performing four separate times over the course of the festival weekend, and will also be appearing in various interstitial bits. In this spotlight interview, Walker discusses his new group Wallares, his bizarre obsession with coffee, and why Kelly and Justin are not to be trusted.
We’re excited to have you back at Countdown — and, once again, you’ll be performing a lot! Take us through the shows you’ll be doing this year. What can audiences expect to see?
Matt Walker: I’m always very honored to be able to do so much with you and the greater Countdown community! On Wednesday at 8:55 I’m performing with The Third Thought in the live-streamed portion of the festival (twitch.tv/countdownimprov). Thursday at 7 on the main stage, I am performing with the Yuck-Yuck Gooftown Pioneers (with a new member) as I try to stay away from any bad news that might ruin my set. Then Friday at 8:45 on the main stage, Geoff Fella, Christian Torres, and I are doing our Wallares set. Finally, Saturday at 10:25 on the HCCsStudio stage, John Lasavath and I will be joined by the inimitable Joe Bill (and more?) for our Magnificent 7 monoscene set to close out the stage! I’m also helping out some folks in their own interstitial hosting gags, so if anyone wants to see me at the festival, just keep your eyes open. I’m tired just thinking about it!
Wallares is a relatively new group; you guys first got together earlier this year. How did the team come about?
MW: Wallares was born out of our desire to engage with the concept of improv itself beyond what was available to us. Our shows tend to embody the qualities of improv we find personally valuable, which are bit-centered, significantly meta, and a departure from form. We love interacting with audiences as well, I mean; we also just really jive with one another. We are also very academic about our improv philosophies and styles, which makes for fun post-show conversations. It has breathed new life into a previously stagnant man (me).
The three of you are all great performers, but you also each have slightly different performance styles. How do your energies complement each other on stage?
MW: Geoff and I have known each other for about 12 or 13 years, and we came up learning together at Eckerd College. He is a literal genius when it comes to game, but please don’t tell him I said that — this is confidential, right? Christian is the mover of the team and we’ve known each other for like 6 or 7 years. His initiation, reference, and context changing moves, come from his encyclopedic mind. It’s pretty amazing (always surprises me) and leads to some great 4th wall moments that I personally love to capitalize on. They genuinely make me laugh. I am lucky to perform with both of them and have to cut myself off here lest I sound like what the kids call a “simp.”
Last year’s Magnificent 7 set was legitimately epic: You and John Lasavath strapped an iPad to Gavin Hawk, covered his face in a mask, and had him serve as the “body” of Joe Bill, who FaceTimed in from Chicago on the iPad. How are you guys planning to top that for this year? And will this year’s set also find ways to squander Gavin Hawk’s talents?
MW: We always love coming up with some new overly complicated dumb-dumb way to include Joe Bill- I learned to button press for that iPad gag! Other than our first show ever, we have never not performed with Joe (somehow). This year will be no different, and we may surprise everyone with a Gavin drop, and possibly more! Don’t want to ruin any surprises! You’ll have to come and see it!
So, what is it with you and coffee? Why can’t you just drink RC Cola like the rest of us?
MW: I will be bringing my Keurig with me. You can have your RC.
Finally, on a scale of 1-10, how excited will you be to see Ursula get inducted into the Countdown Improv Festival Hall of Fame this year?
MW: I know more about Ursula that could blow this year’s Countdown Improv Festival Hall of Fame induction out of the water. A tale of intrigue, greed, corruption… it will blow your minds. Not yours, Justin and Kelly- but those of you reading this. (Thanks for letting me say this, Justin and Kelly, means a lot.) Justin and Kelly must be stopped at all costs. The future of Dead Bob’s could depend on it. Anyway, I give it a 7.