Matt Falk was born to do comedy. A stand-up coming from Niverville, Manitoba, Falk has been performing on stages ever since the first high school talent shows where he was handed a microphone.
“I was that kid in school who was constantly trying to get attention. I was the class clown, but the annoying class clown,” he says.
“I think a lot of people who grow up in small towns have a chip on their shoulder about small towns, understandably so. It can be difficult. There’s no anonymity in a small town […] But for me, that really helped,” adds Falk. “You had everyone in your business, but when you’re trying to self-promote, you kinda want everyone in your business.”
Starting as a 15-year-old magician who would perform for kids at corporate parties — “I’m wearing a bright-red women’s blazer from the thrift store. It was like the brightest thing I could find, so in my mind, that was a good magician suit jacket,” says Falk — the Niverville native grew up idolizing Ellen DeGeneres and Robin Williams, memorizing their performances and adding their bits to his own sets.
“My early couple years, I stole a lot of material from other [comics],” Falk laughs. “People were like, ‘you’re really good.’ And I’m like, ‘no, they’re really good.’”
Originally, he thought he’d become a pastor, but got a feeling that he was meant for comedy instead. So it was that Falk began writing his own material, talking about growing up as a Mennonite in small-town Manitoba.
“I had this blind optimism. I never thought that there was something to overcome, or that I was somehow at a disadvantage. I was like 17 when I was getting into comedy clubs and really busting onto the comedy scene, and people were just amazed that I was so young and putting together full sentences that were funny.” – Matt Falk
“Everytime I would mention Mennonite at all onstage, it would get a huge laugh. And I didn’t even really understand why at that age. You just kind of know it’s working,” he says.
Every now and then, Falk’s background would raise an eyebrow or two.
“That’s a big question I get: how do you do comedy as a Mennonite? I never understand that question,” he laughs. “I just do.”
At 21 years old, Falk got his first big break, finishing second at the World Series of Comedy in Las Vegas.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” he says. “Just being in the competition was like, huge.”
Fresh off his success, Falk moved out to British Columbia and then Ontario, leaving the small town of 4,000 he’d called home for all of his life. At the same time, he was starting to hit his first growing pains in the industry, a challenge Falk would have to confront time and again over the coming years.
“It was only in my early twenties that I really started facing this huge crisis, because I was no longer young enough to be, like, a prodigy. I now had to be funny enough just as an adult, and that was when I really started to struggle,” he says. “The only reason you get into comedy in the first place is there’s some sort of insecurity. No healthy person is seeking the affirmation of strangers night after night. So when you go onstage and it doesn’t work, all that insecurity — the stuff that makes you a comedian, your superpower — comes back, and it turns out to be your downfall.”
“I don’t know why we have fears. I know that fear is a liar.” – Matt Falk
Now back in Niverville, Falk is able to reflect. His latest comedy album, 2017’s Generational Gaps, reached #1 on the iTunes Comedy charts, his second offering to reach the top after 2013’s Apple Pie & Scars. The self-doubt hasn’t totally left — and perhaps it never really does for any of us — but with time, he’s gained new perspective.
“Our feelings are excellent followers, but they’re horrible leaders. So often, we put them in charge of things, and they shouldn’t be in charge of things,” says Falk. “The only way to get yourself out of these things is to know your true identity. I know who I am, and who I am is not Matt Falk, the comedian. You need to know who you are, and it needs to be based off something bigger than you.”
Photo from mattfalkcomedy.com. Photo credit: Kaeleb Visram/Sea of Glass.