With seven shows under his belt, a string of awards and a cast of veteran comedy performers, director Matt Hovde wanted to take a risk with Second City's new Mainstage revue, "Let Them Eat Chaos." Matt and the cast of "Chaos" took a journey inward. And in doing so they, discovered the human elements that never change, our desire to connect, and how hilarious (and powerful) that struggle really is.
I work for Second City, and when I heard the new show was, "doing something different," I thought, "but how different can it really be?" Well, in a comedy revue that spans continents and centuries, "Let Them Eat Chaos" uses everything in its arsenal to show how, for better or worse, "you're always someone to someone."
I had a chance to sit down with Matt in a classroom at the storied Second City Training Center to pick his brain on comedy, direction, The Second City and how you relax after a project this big:
How did you get into directing?
When I was 10 years old I saw a show at The Second City and I pretty much decided then that that's where I wanted to be when I grew up. After graduating college, I moved to Chicago to study improvisation and I figured out pretty early on that directing would be a dream career. And so I just started doing it. I started a sketch group and figured out how I liked to work. Several years later, I caught a lucky break and started to direct for Second City.
As a director at Second City, you help create the material too. What do you look for in potential scenes?
I'm generally looking for scenes that have a spark of intrigue. These are often scenes in which an actor plays a great character, or a scene that has a great element of satire, or a scene that is undeniably hilarious. They don't have to be perfect. I'm just looking for moments with great potential. And then of course I'm looking for variety. We don't need six scenes about cops in a doughnut shop. We probably don't even need one.
You've directed several successful Second City shows. Did you go into this one with different goals for yourself or the show?
Absolutely. I've worked with most of this cast on the preview show and I think we were all interested in trying to do something different. One of the goals we had was to try to stay away from conventional material, meaning we wanted to avoid predictable premises and structures. This meant we sometimes had to sacrifice easier laughs in order to find a better laugh down the road. We wanted to keep the show unpredictable.
What's your favorite part about working with this particular cast?
They are a stellar ensemble. Each one of them brings terrific skills to the table, but they're also willing to sacrifice for each other and the good of the show. A lot of groups say they'll do that, but few actually do. They had complete faith in each other and in me, which is a very special thing. Improvisationally, they are one of the top ensembles we've had. They're so patient and smart. And ridiculously funny.
Here's a moment backstage with Steve Waltien and Edgar Blackmon:
How do you keep live theatre relevant in an increasingly digital world?
Live theater will always have a place in our digital world because technology can't replace being in a room with other people. GrubHub hasn't replaced going out to dinner, because sometimes people still want to share an experience with others. And because our shows use improvisation, it's never a passive art form. Sketch comedy has adapted to modern audiences, but we're still actually doing a very similar thing to what our founders did - use audience suggestions to create something from nothing, and robots can't do that (yet).
Now that the show's open, how do you plan to relax? What are your favorite activities outside of comedy?
For the first couple of weeks, I'll just go insane and miss the cast terribly. But then spring will come, and the warm weather will help me get by. So I'm looking forward to playing flag football, hosting game nights, and taking my lady on actual dates. She doesn't know this yet.
For more information on "Let Them Eat Chaos" or to order tickets, click here.
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