Second City alums Frank Caeti and Matt Craig on satire, cold medicine and Tebow
Second City Chicago is this country's Mecca of funny. Among its famous alumni are John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Steve Carrell and Tina Fey. It also happens to be the place where Frank Caeti, formerly of MadTV, and Matt Craig, a former Saturday Night Live writer, first met and performed together, creating the working relationship that would ultimately lead them to write and perform their own shows as a comedic duo under the moniker "FrankenMatt." On June 7 and 8 at 7 p.m., FrankenMatt will perform their new satire, American Imperil, at Voodoo Comedy Playhouse. We caught up with the guys for the following Q&A, covering just about everything.
Westword: So, do you want to just start by telling me a little bit about the show?
Matt Craig: We created a fake politician, and we're going to go and meet this gentleman. I love the show because it allows the audience to formulate what it is that they think they're watching... it's not a bipartisan show at all. You decide how your political views will affect how you watch the show.
Frank Caeti: Isn't that--wouldn't that actually make it bipartisan?
M: Oh, yeah. So it is bipartisan.
I saw a clip of yours, of an interview with a "Peter Dong-Johnson." Is this the politician that you created?
F: [Laughs] Not the same one--Peter Dong-Johnson is a piece from almost a year ago, when the whole Anthony Weiner scandal was happening. In that sketch, we actually satirized other things that were happening politically at that time. Sarah Palin was talking about "gotcha journalism," and the thrust of the scene is the tweeting of the genitalia. Like, his inability to use Twitter properly is what literally ruined his political career. That's so funny to me.
Matt, can you talk a little bit about what writing for SNL was like?
M: It was an amazingly fun gig. A lot of people think--the theory is that you have a week to write stuff and the truth is that the way that show is produced, you basically have 36 hours to write and get ideas spun out and picked up by people and chosen for the show. It's a different beast; SNL was designed to be a parody of television, so it is hitting topical ideas on the head and directly doing performances that are recognizable based on TV shows. Like people playing Alex Trebek, people playing Sean Connery. It's amazing--on a weekly basis, I'd be sitting in a room one-on-one with Elton John. It was fantastic.
Frank, what was it like being on MadTV?
F: It was good. That was the reason I moved to Los Angeles. And I was thankful for the opportunity and it was a real learning experience. The situation with Matt and SNL is very similar. It's sometimes hard for junior cast members to get stuff in, and I was the least senior cast member there. None of the seniors graduated. It wasn't easy all the time.
So you weren't writing, you were mostly acting, correct?
F: Oh, no--you're expected to write. If you wanna be on the show. It's not like a sitcom show where it's like, "I'm the wacky neighbor, and the writers will write me a funny line!" No, I had to write bits every week. Same thing with SNL--all the actors pitch and write. You have to.
So, I heard you went to CSU and that you lived in Denver for a while.
F: I did--I went to high school at Stanley Lake, right outside of Broomfield. And then I went to CSU for college. I actually am still in touch with some of my theater professors. They're so supportive that I've had different professors fly to Las Vegas to see the show, to Chicago, and the last time we were in Denver they came down.
What do you miss about Denver that you're looking forward to doing when you get the chance?
F: I haven't lived there in so long, but I still have some family and good friends there, so seeing those guys in particular is awesome. And I really love Benny's Mexican Food, so I'll probably go there. It's a great place and it's always nice to be back.
What are you hoping the audience takes away from the show?
F: I think anybody that creates anything, you want it to work on many levels, and you want it to be appreciated by the audience. We want it to be entertaining and funny, but as is the work in satire, there could be another level to that, like 'oh, there's something being said here.' Do you appreciate it? Are you moved by it?
M: I think of this show kind of like the way they flavor medicines. You want to address bigger picture stuff, even as comedians. I have a daughter and I think it's funny that all these medicines are cherry flavored. We're giving a cherry flavor to our medicine in hopes that it goes down easy and brings a smile to people's faces.
Do you guys have anything else to add?
M: We're really excited to come. I love that town--it's a beautiful part of the country. When you were talking to Frank about what we were looking forward to, the first thing that popped into my head was 'mountains.'
F: Matt is also a huge Tebow fan.
It's so sad--he's not here anymore.
F: He just wants to be in the same place where Tebow walked.
M: Yeah. If at all possible. I am hoping--there's a legend that there's a shroud of Tebow. That after one of the games, he gently rubbed his face on a towel and it left an imprint. So in my free time, when Frank's going to get mexican food, I'm going to be seeking out this holy towel of Tebow's face.
Well, good luck. I hope you find it.
F: We're going to hell.
M: Yeah. Tebow style. When you manipulate a religion for your own personal gain, it's technically a mortal sin, so... But that's between Tebow and I. I'll talk to him next time I'm in New York.
FrankenMatt will be performing American Imperil at Voodoo Comedy Playhouse on June 7 and 8 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $14 in advance and $16 at the door, and can be purchased at Voodoo's website. FrankenMatt will also be appearing at the Colorado Improv Festival in Colorado Springs on June 9.
Get the Arts & Culture Newsletter
Find out about upcoming performances, exhibitions, openings and special events happening in the Denver art and theater scene.