Interview with Amy Matysio

Comedy has a simple purpose: to make you LOL as much as possible and leave you feeling great. However, there’s way more to the artist behind the ha-ha’s than you think. Amy Matysio is a perfect example of talent + attitude meets comedy. We sat down with this powerhouse character – also fellow Canadian and all-round awesome person – to chit chat about her journey in the world of comedy, her milestones and her absolute passion for her art.

You don’t hear comedy being a “career choice” in anyone’s books, which does raise the question:  why comedy? Matysio apparently caught the comedy bug at a very early age. ” I did start doing improv when I was about 15 years old”, she explained. “I was just always sorta the laughable kid. I knew that I was interested in watching things like Police Academy instead of cartoons with all my friends!” This Police-Academy lover found common ground with comedy at a rather interesting time in her life. “I’ve always been drawn to the idea that I could make someone laugh”, she began. “Throughout high school, you use comedy as a defense mechanism for going through an awkward time in your growth or whatever that is. Without a doubt I knew I could make someone laugh and that made me feel very confident. I think everyone is sort of looking for what can help them with their confidence when they were younger.” She took her comedy well into her university days, becoming a field of study she was most interested in. Funny enough, comedy didn’t really begin until much later. “Until I did inSAYSHAble, in film or television I had done a lot of drama. Especially in film, I was cast in a lot in drama and I was cast in small parts in comedy. Which was the opposite because on stage and in theatre, I was doing so much comedy and barely any drama. With inSAYSHAble and then Single White Spenny, I was sorta able to take a springboard and just show how much comedy I was capable of doing.”

Comedy is not an easy art. Matysio explained it as a “science” and for it to work you “have to understand how to present comedy, how to write comedy [and] how to produce comedy.” Making someone laugh is a difficult skill to master, and like any art, you need to connect with it physically and mentally. Matysio shared her reason why she felt so comfortable in the art of comedy. “Being in a comedic ensemble is one of my favourite things to do”, she explained. “There’s something really magical about being around people who also understand comedy. With inSAYSHAble; Christina for example – the other female that plays Fran; that’s just like being in a playpen with your best friend and being able to just run wild. Every actor seeks that kind of opportunity to feel so free in what they are doing and for me comedy totally allows that.”

Improv is a theatrical technique that is a must for any actor, whether it be for film or for stage. Matysio, as said before, began practicing improv when she was only 15. In high school, she participated in the Canadian Improv Games – a training system for aspiring improv artists – and through that she created the backbone to the work she does today. “Something that improv does for me – and still does for me – is that it’s taught me so much about my own instincts as an actor”, she explained, reflecting on the countless hours she spent working on an art that was all about the style and skills and not about the content. “I’ve used improv in every job I do, in every audition. It takes away a lot of the fear from myself. A lot of actors fear that moment when they don’t know what they are going to do or don’t know what they are going to say or something’s gone wrong and things are going off the rails. I feel like I don’t have that fear. I’m very thankful to my years of improv and allowing myself that it’s okay to take a leap all the time.”

Matysio is not all about comedy. In fact, she has done one project that you simply cannot begin to comprehend. As part of the 2009/2010 season of Regina’s Globe Theatre, Matysio did a one-woman show called The Syringa Tree, a play by Pamela Gien that was directed by Jillian Keiley. In this one-woman show, Matysio played 24 different characters, all of different race, age group and gender, with over 15 different regional dialects involved. “It’s definitely one of those projects that changed my personal work for sure and kept my career in a bit of a trajectory after I had been through that,” she explains, after having spent months preparing for her many roles. Can you imagine the stress in perfecting 24 different characters, all by yourself? “The memorization alone; I was having meltdowns on a nightly basis after I left rehearsals! Back when I was first offered the part, I immediately thought there is no way I can do this. It took more than one phone call to get me to go to the audition because I just really felt that I did not have the skills to do this play. You say that and that’s all based in fear just because of the gravity of the content.”

Doing a one-woman show can be a daunting experience, especially if you’re as social as Matysio and then end up with no co-stars to join you for a chat backstage. However Matysio shared a rather lovely story. “I had a very special moment one night with my stage manager. I was sort of telling her how I didn’t know how I was going to go out there tonight by myself. She said, ‘You know, you’re not going out there by yourself’. She said, ‘Amy, every time you step on stage I see you and 23 other people’. That to me was an amazing moment to realize that I had created all these other characters and that other people could see them. That’s pretty intense for an actor to be able to go through that. I’m just so thankful for that opportunity because it taught me so much about work ethic, and myself, and pushing myself and I guess, what I was capable of doing.” If only we had a rewind button to go back and see Matysio pull off her ensemble of characters in The Syringa Tree!

The Syringa Tree maybe an opportunity lost to see Matysio in action but there is another place where you can see her bold, energetic comedy skills. inSAYSHAble has been mentioned a few times already and that’s one show that doesn’t have an expiry date. inSAYSHAble is a web series created, written and produced by Matysio. Saysha – the title character – is an improv character that Matysio would bring to life on the comedy stages. “I just always loved working on this character. There was something about her that I kept going back to.” She ended up bringing a version of her character into a short film called Callback, which she did with another fellow Canadian actress, Tatiana Maslany. “I always was going back to that when I was trying some of the projects that I wanted to work on and I just kept thinking, I need to do something with this character! There’s something there! People really respond to this character, either in a negative way or a positive way, which is equally funny to me.” Armed with the drive to make it happen, she was given advice from a friend to do a web series. In classic Matysio style, what was supposed to be a tiny project turned into something bigger. She rang up her elementary school friend Mark Montague – one of the producers who produced this for Minds Eye Entertainment – and began a collaboration long in the making. “For me, I wanted to do something that was extremely comedic and a bold, strong, come-out-with-a-bang kind of a project. inSAYSHAble is definitely that!

Matysio was able to leverage available tools – video production, the internet and the concept of a web series – and created something that would let her art be reached by people across the world. “That’s one of the things, with a web series, is that you can see it and you know what I have done. With the web, it gives instant interaction with your audience and with fans and creating an audience and generating buzz, and be able to talk about the kind of comedy that I do and share all the aspects as a writer and as a creator.”

You could have a chat with Matysio till the end of next year and not get bored one bit. She demonstrates a strong passion for her art in a beautiful and subtle way. Here is an artist who has taken every opportunity – whether it be education or experience – to grow herself both as a professional and an individual. She brings her value in relationships, her love for conversation and her amazing energy to everything she does, which is truly awesome.