It's interesting to wonder what would have happened if 2020 were any regular year. The vari-gifted comedian/actor/director Matt Green might now be heading for LA, for example, as a short film he made with fellow comic Joe Bor has been selected for the LA Comedy Film Festival.
Mr Green has tasted Hollywood glamour before, even starring with Pulp Fiction's Winston Wolfe (in an ad, admittedly). Still, it's good news, and well-deserved, as Hearts is a lovely piece of work.
"Thanks! It's based on a bit of stand-up I used to do, which was itself based on a true story," says Green. "Joe had made a couple of other films with comedians inspired by routines they did, and suggested that we make something similar.
"I thought it might work as a film with no dialogue, so I wrote a script and we brought together some of our comedian friends to make it in February this year with a view to get it out for Valentine's Day. It was a really fun shoot and I was very pleased with what we produced - and I'm glad we managed to get it done before Covid hit."
Green then found another on-camera outlet when the gigs stopped, writing and filming some sharp shorter clips, like this on-the-nose pastiche of every flipping TV ad this year.
Getting those online "has been a real lifesaver for me during lockdown," he says. "Making sketches at home feels like a way of continuing to be creative and also develop my production and editing skills - I've learned a lot over the last few months!
"It's been lovely to build more of an online audience for my work. Through these sketches I've been able to talk about different subjects and express my opinions in new ways that perhaps I'd stopped doing in my stand-up. I definitely intend to keep making videos even once Covid is over and the circuit comes back to life."
Home-based Hollywood is the way forward. But now: back to Hammersmith.
My first proper gig was for Mirth Control some time in Summer 2003. It wasn't a huge audience, but I was very nervous. Luckily the compere was Paddy Lennox, who was very friendly and helped me feel at ease. We've been friends ever since. I had a bit of a stroke of luck because the open spot who was on before me was someone who was notoriously terrible (and not a very nice person) and he absolutely died.
It sounds awful, but I was relieved: at least I couldn't do any worse. I had an OK gig. Some of my jokes worked, and I clearly remember a moment about halfway through when I relaxed and started to have fun. Afterwards I immediately tried to book as many gigs as I could. The other thing I remember about that gig was that the headliner was Rhys Darby. The last time I saw him was in Jumanji. He's done OK.
Favourite show, ever?
I've played many brilliant venues, but if I had to just pick one I'd probably choose The Mill Arts in Loddon. It's a venue in Norfolk which is basically a converted barn in someone's backyard. The first time I arrived there after a long drive I was shown into the 'green room' which is basically a box room in someone's house with a model railway in it. The omens were not good.
But then I looked into the venue and it was packed with about a hundred people, all of whom seemed to know each other. Those are always my favourite gigs - when you turn up in a small village and it feels like everyone from the area is there. The atmosphere is always very warm and playful and the gig feels like a special local event.
I performed in Loddon a few times and it was always a highlight of my year. Sadly I don't think it's running any more - hopefully it might return in the post-Covid world!
I had one Edinburgh show where a drunk Glaswegian guy started throwing stuff at me, including a football. I still can't understand where that came from! Then when I stopped the show and asked him to leave, he wouldn't go. I spent the rest of the hour braced to avoid more missiles...
Which one person influenced your comedy life most significantly?
When I was growing up my favourite comedy was stuff like Blackadder, The Day Today, Spaced, Eddie Izzard and I also listened to a lot of radio comedy, especially on Radio 4. But in terms of my professional comedy career, I'd have to say that James Woroniecki, who runs The 99 Club, has been a big influence.
We became friends early on, when we were both open spots, and when he started to run gigs he gave me my first MC residency at a small club in Islington which was pivotal in developing my compering skills. Since then I've gigged for him many times at all of his different venues and I've been so impressed by how he's expanded his company into one of the best comedy clubs in the country.
Comedy is a very volatile business, and it's so important to have people in your corner who trust you to deliver the goods - then you can relax and produce your best work. James has always been that for me.
And who's the most disagreeable person you've come across in the business?
By contrast, there are a few promoters who seem to enjoy the power that they have over acts, and revel in the fact that they can behave badly and there's not a lot you can do about it. I think I've been lucky that the ones I've encountered have tended to run gigs that I can simply avoid, but it's always disappointing when people decide to throw their weight around.
Is there one routine/gag you loved, that audiences inexplicably didn't?
Not just one, there are loads! One example that stays with me was a Brexit-related joke that I put on Twitter and got a huge reaction - way more RTs and likes than anything I'd posted before. But whenever I tried to do it at a gig it got nothing.
In the end I accepted that it just worked better written down. However, I did get so many bizarre responses to it that I was able to turn that into a routine for my next show, so it wasn't completely wasted! You can even see a video of that here:
They're similar in that, in both cases, you have to be taking a holistic view of the work - as a performer it's easy to get hung up on details, but as the director you always have to keep in mind the final product. But otherwise they are quite different jobs.
When you're directing film you're always looking at the visual side of things and there is a lot of technical preparation and collaboration with other people involved to ensure you capture the required footage.
As a stage director, particularly of comedy, I think your role is more of a facilitator and creative partner. We spend a long time on the script and on performance, and a big part of my job is taking notes on previews and helping develop the show based on the audience response.
Arguably the biggest difference is that as a film director you can have total control of the edit and therefore the finished product, whereas as a stage director you eventually have to step back and let the performer do their thing. In the end you have to relinquish control to them.
Are there particular reviews, heckles or post-gig reactions that stick in the mind?
Someone left an online review for my show where the drunk guy was throwing things and criticised me for not catching the football! That always seemed a little unfair to me.
Drunk audience members sometimes come out with the weirdest stuff. One woman told me after a gig that she I thought I should dress up as a "sexy Cherub" on stage. That comment became the basis of a very successful routine - although not a short film. As yet.
How do you feel about where your career is at, right now?
It's definitely in the strangest place since I began. For the first time since 2003 I have no live gigs in my diary and I think it will take a long time for things to get back to anything like 'normal'. But on the other hand I'm slowly building an audience for my online sketches and feel like perhaps I should use that to develop my live work in a new direction. Maybe I'll do some sketches or characters as well as stand-up?
Or maybe I'll continue to develop my production skills and move more into working behind the camera. Everything's up in the air so it's very hard to say. But I'm determined to stay involved in comedy in some form or another. Unless we get hit with a new virus that is only spread through laughing, in which case we may all have to reconsider our life choices...