Q & A with Matt Kissane
Villa Park actor and comedian has made a career of impersonating his idol
Legendary Saturday Night Live comedian Chris Farley may be long gone, but fans old and new relive his funniest moments by catching a show from Villa Park comic, actor and impersonatorMatt Kissane. Recently featured in the A&E biography, “Chris Farley: Anything for a Laugh,”
Kissane is America’s foremost Farley impersonator and re-creates sketches like “Matt Foley: The Motivational Speaker” or “Chicago Bears Superfan” on stage at comedy clubs, festivals and corporate events around the country. Kissane has appeared on “Chicago Med,” worked on “WGN Morning News,” was cast as a regular guy — and terrible cook — with TV’s Bobby Flay, and has made dozens of TV commercials. For the last 10 years he has hosted the web series/podcast “Live from Chicago with Matt Kissane,” where he presents lively interviews with visiting comedians and other celebrities.
Kissane performs a Chris Farley skit, as the late SNL comedian plays on screen behind him
How were your teen years growing up in the west suburbs?
MK: Lots of fun! I was born on the west side of Chicago but I lived in Lombard for my entire junior high and high school years. I went to Sacred Heart for junior high, then Montini. I caddied at Glen Oak Country Club and worked at McDonalds in Lombard. In fact, I went to high school with one of the kids of the CEO of McDonald’s — I know that sounds like I’m dropping names, so watch your feet! We were just a regular middle class family and I really enjoyed growing up here, and it’s where I’m still living. I just had a great experience.
Were you always a funny guy?
MK: I was. I was always the class clown. I distinctly remember in second grade bringing a joy buzzer to class at my little elementary school in Lombard.
What did you do after high school?
MK: We moved out to the East Coast — New Jersey and Maryland. I was on the East Coast for five years, my entire college career. While I was out there I worked at “NBC Nightly News. “ I was Tom Brokaw’s intern for an entire semester when I was at University of Maryland. Well, here’s the deal, Tom’s a Midwest guy and his assistant was from Chicago. They welcomed me with open arms. If you would have told me that was going to happen two years earlier I would’ve just laughed — working there and getting on an elevator with David Letterman and all those big celebrities from back in the day. And I got an A in the internship, so it all kind of worked out (laughs).
When did you start thinking about becoming a comic?
MK: Probably when I was in second grade. My mom and dad used to let me stay up on Fridays and Saturdays to watch “The Late Late Show” or movies with Jerry Lewis or Dean Martin. My dad would make a deal that if I took a nap during the day, I could stay up late. So, even back then, I thought, these guys are great!
Comedy is a pretty uncertain path to take. Did your parents encourage you?
MK: Yeah, my mom had a little bit of atheatre background and my dad wasa musician. He played trumpet. My dad would always put on funny little skits for us. He would play music and sing songs from “Yankee Doodle Dandy” — he loved Al Jolson. He loved jazz so we grew up with music and entertainment in our house. It was wonderful.
What were your first steps toward making a career in comedy?
MK: Right after graduating from Maryland I enrolled at Second City in downtown Chicago. This is the late 80s. I never made it onto the main stage but I was also doing stand-up comedy while I was taking classes. I met Chris Farley when I was at Second City. He was on stage and we all just idolized him. He was not famous at all — just a local comic actor making 400 bucks a week. One night after the show me and a couple of friends happened to run into him. He was kind of hanging out by himself just outside Second City. I told him, we love ya, and we want to start the Chris Farley fan club. He thought that was pretty cool so he came across the street with us and we got a few beers at the Old
Town Ale House on North Avenue in Chicago, which is still there. He was wonderful.
How did it feel to be included in the Chris Farley documentary?
MK: I was just blown away. These guys called me out of the blue and I had no idea it was coming — I honest to God think they just found me on the Internet, I’m not 100 percent sure. The entire production crew came out to my house in Villa Park and they shot for a full afternoon. They rearranged my whole house. Next day, we went down to Second City and they took over the entire club. I got to go on the main stage and dress up as Chris Farley used to when he did his skits as Matt Foley: The Motivational Speaker. I got to perform as Chris — they even built a little impromptu breakaway table for me and I fell onto it, just as Chris would in his act. It was so cool.
Has Farley always been your go-to comic to impersonate?
MK: I’ve been impersonating people since I was a little boy. You start out with your family members then move on to celebrities. But yeah, Chris is by far my favorite. I’m a big Irish guy, just like Chris. He was probably a little bit heavier than me, but we have the same look, the same hair color. I played rugby in college, he played rugby in college. And we’re both Midwest guys. It was just a perfect pairing.
Who else do you impersonate?
MK: I like “The Sopranos.” I watched it non-stop and picked up the nuances of the various characters to work into my act. Comedy is just hit and miss. You can work something in that you know is funny, but you often have to tweak it in club situations. I’ve even been doing a little bit of Donald Trump lately, but not too much. People either love him or hate him, so it’s an interesting mix.
Who would you pay money to see? Steve Martin.
Highlight of your career? Going on tour with Weird Al Yankovic — or making a documentary for the band Cheap Trick.
Three words that describe you? Funny, energetic and handsome!
How would others describe you? Loud, energetic and handsome!
Who would you most like to play in a movie or on TV? I have a striking resemblance to actor Brian Dennehy. If they ever make his story, I’m ready to go.
Best comic to share the stage with? Kevin Nealon from SNL.
Go-to eats in Villa Park? I love Simon’s Restaurant, Michael Anthony’s Pizza — and Portillo’s!
Hidden gem? Open mic night at Josephine’s Martini Bar in Villa Park.
Any advice for would-be comics? Yeah, quit right now and go to law school. That’s a joke — if you love it, you’ll find your niche.Edit Module