Go out of your own way and start publishing your work online. Mostly on Instagram. Replace thirst traps with jokes about thirst traps, hookups, and why all the Disney princes are gay.
That’s what singer-turned-illustrator-turned-comedian Matteo Lane did as he emerged from the haze of COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns. He’s currently one of the country’s rising comedy voices, in part because of his ability to hilariously observe universals, from the seemingly mundane to the quintessentially gay. It was also put into service again Youtube channelHe shares clips from his nightly stand-up specials at New York City’s Comedy Cellar, as well as two comedy specials — 2022’s “The Advice Special” and “Hair Plugs and Heartache,” which aired in June of this year.
When she returned to her hometown for a sold-out show at the Chicago Theater (her first time headlining the storied house), she knew she had to reserve at least 50 tickets for her large Italian and Mexican family.
It’s also something she warned her new husband Rodrigo about, as the series marks the first time he’s met Lane’s family since they married in August and will be his first visit to Chicago.
“He says he’s prepared, but I don’t think he is,” Lane says. “I’m so excited to show him (the city), my school, downtown, my old haunts. I love Chicago so much. “I need to live in New York because that’s where I can do my best work, but Chicago is a really special place.”
While he’s been working as a comedian for nearly 13 years, he’s appeared on MTV2’s early aughts series “Guy Code,” as well as Comedy Central’s “The Comedy Jam” and “Adam Devine’s House Party” and a number of Netflix shows, Lane’s. His name recognition has increased significantly over the last year and a half, culminating in his current international “Al Dente Tour”. He recently returned from Australia, where he performed in the largest theater of his life, with a capacity of 4,000 people.
“I performed in three cities and we sold over 8,000 tickets, which is crazy and the audiences couldn’t have been better,” he said. “The fact that so many gay men are coming out; We all have the same experiences, we share the same lives in many ways, so there’s that familiarity even though I’m American. Being gay transcends that.”
This transcendence added Lane to the ranks of gay comedians and performers such as Joel Kim Booster, Julio Torres, and Tim Dillon, among others. He has a subtle wit and comedy is his weapon of choice; but it is a weapon he uses to explore shared social languages and experiences, not oppression. The approach is simple: Make yourself laugh, then listen to see if it might work for someone else.
Lane first moved to Chicago from his childhood home in Arlington Heights, attending open mics and improv clubs while attending the School of the Art Institute. She was no stranger to the stage, having been formally trained as an opera singer at the age of 15 and had performed around the country and in Italy. At age 21, he began performing in a traveling troupe that entertained audiences with drag shows and striptease routines at gay clubs and bars in the Chicago area.
He was surprised to be asked about those years.
“These are great memories,” he says with a chuckle. “I remember going to The Green Mill to see if I could audition because they had 1920s-esque singers on Fridays and Saturdays, but the guy in charge of it, the conductor or whoever, said, ‘You sing and sing.’ you have to sing a lot,’ and I said, ‘Okay, whatever.’ My friend Jill said she was part of this children’s theater group, but they were doing adult cabaret shows on the weekends and they were looking for a singer.
“I liked it!” he continues. “It was a great way to get on stage, learn how to be on stage and be in nightclubs. People say open mic and comedy are a nightmare, but when you’re performing for 20 people of drunk, gay men, having peanuts thrown at you for not singing a Mariah Carey song, you’re not that afraid of open mic.”
Veteran Chicago comedian Marty Derosa introduced him to the stand-up scene, and it was the energy and camaraderie he found in comedy spaces that brought him joy in a more meaningful, cathartic way.
“I love comedians because they are so honest. They will just say it to your face. “You might think that’s a harsh way to hear things, but I think growing up as a gay person and being made fun of in high school was a very healing thing for me,” Lane explains. “I’ve never felt more connected to any community I’ve been a part of – Italian, gay, whatever. “I am the one most associated with stand-up comics.”
What is another element that has contributed to Lane’s recent, larger-scale success? Cooking videos. Whether she’s whipping up a homemade pasta dish or being persuaded by her friend Nick to visit the Olive Garden, you’re watching and want to be there. The videos are a nod to her maternal heritage (Italian and Mexican) and growing up primarily in the kitchen (which she compares to the “stage” of every room in the house). They’re also a means to deliver his comedy in an unexpected way, in a new space and with familiar faces like comedian Michelle Buteau, star, writer and creator of Netflix’s “Survival of the Thickest.”
There are parallels between making a meal and making a joke, and Lane plans to explore that through recipes and personal essays in an upcoming cookbook project (she can’t share too many details about that yet). Is there a section you’re extremely passionate about adding? Eliminates Linguini as worst pasta.
“The sauce doesn’t stick to it!” Lane declares as the ultimate cause of his inferiority. “This is not fettuccine, tagliatelle, pappardelle, bucatini; it’s just some weird, pre-pubescent, teenage noodling who can’t figure out his identity. Unbearable. The brother or sister you had to drag to your friend because your mother made you. And it’s usually served with seafood, you know ‘linguine alle vongole’, so it’s even more annoying. The only food it’s made for is surrounded by things that will kill me.”
September 29, 7:30 p.m., Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State Street; sold out, 312-462-6300 or Biletmaster.com
Jessi Roti is a freelance writer.