.The impact of confrontational comedy in the woke culture: Insights from Matt Braunger

The art of stand-up comedy seems to provide audiences a window into the inner life of a fellow human. Or perhaps it’s a funhouse mirror.

Matt Braunger’s stand-up performances and albums over the years have detailed his life from stand-up circuit partyer through single life and on to parenthood. The Portland-raised comic spins mildly explicit yarns with an eye to drawing the audience into the story before whacking them on the head with the dumbest and therefore the most genius part of the joke.

In recent years and under the microscope of contemporary critical culture, confrontational comedy has taken its turn in the woke spotlight, and this writer has certainly gone off of comedians that he previously loved—too queer for Dave Chappelle anymore at this point.

music in the park san jose
music in the park san jose

But in the interest of a good time and appreciation of art, Braunger points out that one can’t believe everything one hears from the mouths of known liars-for-a-laugh like comedians.

“If you push the envelope and you’re funny, you’ll probably do better than someone who’s not pushing the envelope,” said Braunger in a phone call that had us both chuckling. “It’s kind of like [rappers] N.W.A when I was in middle school.”

“I listened to them and was like, ‘These guys are murdering people and having sex with multiple women a day; this is insane!’ Like, I believed it. But no, they’re full of crap,” he pointed out. “If they made songs about, like, ‘I went to the store today and I found a delicious cupcake,’ no matter how good the beats are, you’d still be like, ‘I don’t care about the cupcake boys.’”

That juxtaposition makes for a very interesting social environment for comedy today. Add in the creative industry shift toward independent creators, it feels like a whole era to Braunger. One he appreciates.

“When I first got known—around 2007-2008—the internet was a burgeoning thing where you’d put your stuff online [and] it was a good way to find people,” said Braunger. “Now people literally build their own studios for their stand-up podcasts, and you have YouTube comedians coming into clubs.”

“It’s a great time for comedy because it’s really much easier to find and connect with the type of comedy you enjoy,” he added. “But it is certainly the Wild West like never before.”

Braunger said he learns so much from the Zoomer generation creators that he follows online “who are way funnier than they should be for their age, you know? It’s great.”

While his comedy stays true to his Gen X roots, it is important to Braunger that he keeps growing with the times. Watching the next generations gives this father of a toddler reason not to fear the future.

“You know, the environmental climate, the economic climate, what the kids are talking about these days, it’s fascinating and there’s a lot of anger, which is very healthy,” he acknowledged, “but there’s also a remarkable amount of hope.”

With a young child at home, Braunger doesn’t tour as much as he used to. And so like any supportive, engaged dad, he relishes those rare times he does get away.

His upcoming Saturday night show will be his first time in Petaluma. About playing in a new town, Braunger said, “That’s the juice, that’s the adventure, finding a place to get great coffee, get some good food, go find the record store and comb through some vinyl.”

Noting that I too am a father, he mused, “You know what I’m talking about, [just] to have peace and quiet that’s not [because] my kid is somewhere in the house sawing something in half.”

Finally our call had to end. Braunger had to run to “an audition for the role of a neighbor who people think is a serial killer but he is in the witness protection program. That Hollywood writing, still good.”

An Evening of Comedy With Matt Braunger plays at 8:30pm, Saturday, Feb. 8, at the Mystic Theatre, 23 Petaluma Blvd. No., Petaluma. 21+. Tickets available for $25-$37 at mystictheatre.com.


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