By Matt Levy
Five years ago, Philadelphia comedian Matt Hyams waited in line at the “world famous” Comic Strip comedy club on the Upper East Side of Manhattan for an audition date far in the future on an unseasonably warm March afternoon. I stood in line next to him. We struck up an easy conversation lobbing comedy news at each other and volleying bits back and forth. After an hour or two of casually joking, we received our audition dates and parted ways. Inexplicably, the two of us stayed in touch and remained friends, the past few years. In fact, full journalistic disclosure, I even invited the agreeable fellow and his wife to my wedding.
Still, I am ashamed to admit I knew very little about my friend’s life.
These profiles don’t often begin so earnestly; however, this one is different. Interviewing the subject, who is my friend, I learned so much that I didn’t know and am excited to share. For example, I had no idea that, in addition to being a comic, Hyams was the founder of the hysterical satire site, Egobaby, a place where “your spirit goes for news.”
Here, Matt takes on the spiritual / wellness / alternative lifestyle community tackling everything from “yoga to meditation to vaginal steaming to polyamory to veganism.” The project began with a very Onion-y spirit but now he’s moving toward spoofing the Goops of the world. As Matt says, “It seems Gwyneth Paltrow is getting by without much blowback about her site, which is where I first heard of vaginal steaming, and thank God, because my vagina has never been calmer.”
It should be noted that for many years, Hyams had a very angry vagina.
Matt felt that this subculture was perfect to lampoon because, “People who fall into this lifestyle tend to ironically lack self-awareness and have a lot of spiritual materialism where they’re just as attached to being evolved as a typical American man might be to football. So it’s just replacing one identity for another and I find it very funny.”
Yet, this need to spoof the world didn’t come to Hyams overnight. In fact, as a lifelong active member of the Buddhist community, he often visited his mother’s guru, Maharaji as a child. They often went and touched his feet. When he was a bit older, he attended teachings and always felt like the tantric “spiritual” community was saying everything is wonderful and they can’t bear rain or anything negative.”
Hyams points out this hypocrisy here adding, “Actually, Buddhism tells us that everything is not wonderful — on the contrary, it makes a point of mentioning that we live in a world of suffering. So it’s ripe for making fun of and I enjoy it.”
Also, his site needs more writers. Seriously, if you’re a comedy writer reading this, reach out and send him a sample.
Long before his life in comedy, Matt was born north of the border in Quebec, spent his childhood years in Miami on a strict “no dairy, no sugar, no meat, no white flour” diet and then at nine-years-old, moved to Larchmont, NY for the remainder of his youth.
Once in the northwest, his life improved greatly. He found friends he loved, rode his bike everywhere, and immediately became funny.
For the most part, Matt said he had the classic comedian upbringing. He outlined it for me as 1.) abandoned by father, 2.) a loving but absentee mom who was working to provide for her sons and 3.) left alone to watch TV. Lots of TV.
I had no idea this was the formula but it does make sense.
In the nascent stages of his path to becoming funny for a living, Hyams was a cynical high schooler playing guitar in his classic rock cover band, Dead Center, and concerned with being thought of as funny, but also looking cool.
At the time, there was nothing cooler to Hyams than becoming a comedy writer for television. So, when he turned 22, he moved cross country to LA to pursue the dream. Unfortunately, it didn’t pan out. Still, he accomplished quite a bit writing TV spec scripts, attending online satire classes and kicked off his long-tenured standup career, all paving the way for his future as a performer and founder of Egobaby.
In an effort to not sound too spiritual, because I know Matt would rip me apart for it, some things really do happen for a reason.
As far as his stand up goes, Hyams admits, “I’m one of many straight guys talking primarily about porn.” Nevertheless, he and I agree his stand up style is rightfully categorized as “dirty smart” in the vein of Dave Attell and Bill Burr.
The dirty smart comic has had many high highs thus far but the first signpost for him that he had chops was in 2015, when he advanced to the finals in a Gotham Comedy Club New Talent Competition. When the emcee announced his name as one of the comics that would be moving forward he was floored. He had never heard his name out loud in that context and he thought, “Huh. Maybe I could actually do this.”
Inspired by his success, Matt began branching into other avenues of the comedy world like producing funny business videos of himself as a clueless “thought leader” poking fun at the many leadership coaches that pop up on LinkedIn attempting to be Gary Vaynerchuk and Tony Robbins. This all came about while Hyams was handling his wife’s social media. You wouldn’t believe it but she happens to be an executive coach, the very thing he’s satirizing.
There’s more to Hyams as a performer than just comedy though. As noted earlier, Matt was in band in school and this carried over to his adult life. In fact, the highlight of Hyams’ creative life thus far was a 2004 CD release show for his band The Vitamen at the Mercury Lounge. The pop group had a line of eager fans around the block, they packed the place and Hyams felt like a rock star. For one night, he got a peek into what it’s like to be a legitimate musician, and liked it.
However, the dream is, and always has been, to make people laugh professionally. At the moment, Egobaby is developing a subscribers-only edition available via a Patreon-like service that readers would pay $5/month for exclusive content. In five years time, Hyams hopes Egobaby takes off and he can cash in on that sweet, sweet passive income. As subjects like ayahuasca, shamans, gurus and yoga become more mainstream, I could certainly see Hyams’ site reaching the heights of contemporaries like The Hard Times and Reductress.
Also, of note, he plans on “getting Charlie [his son] started on tennis so he can be amazing later on.”
That’s five years from now. Let’s go five years back now to the “world famous” Comic Strip. Matt and I shake hands and part ways. When I finally have a moment to myself, I say, “Man, I’d like to know more about that guy.”
I’m glad I do now.
If you’re interested in taking in Matt’s interests, here are some of his favorite things:
Music: The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Steely Dan, Antonio Carlos Jobim, and “Tezeta” by The Ethiopiques is his favorite song.
Comedy: Norm MacDonald, Albert Brooks, Christopher Guest, Eddie Murphy.
TV: Arrested Development, Seinfeld, Larry Sanders, Family Ties, Friday Night Lights, Shark Tank.
Movies: Midnight Run, Big Night, Something About Mary, Office Space, Lost In America.
Books: Revolutionary Road, Updike’s Rabbit series, Sophie’s Choice, everything Salinger.
He doesn’t care for parmesan crisps.