Matt Bellassai has been building his comedy audience touring the country with his “Drunk and Alone” stand-up show, the new web series “To Be Honest” on Facebook and his just-launched podcast “UnHappy Hour with Matt Bellassai.”
But the Alsip native doesn’t consider himself a product of Chicago’s rich comedy tradition.
“I grew up in Alsip, graduated from Shepard High School in Palos Heights and then went on to Northwestern in Evanston,” Bellassai says. “I always lived around the city, never in the city, and I never really did comedy in Chicago. That started after I graduated from college and moved out to New York. Comedy is such a big part of the Chicago culture, I’m only sorry I didn’t get to try it here when I was beginning.”
Bellassai has a book coming out Oct. 24, “Everything is Awful.” He describes it with a laugh as “essays about my life, about growing up in the Chicago suburbs. If there’s a common theme, it would be all those tiny embarrassing moments from my life so far that have added up to my miserable existence today.
“The book includes those banana-slipping moments we’ve all had at one point or another. In my case, it was the awkwardness of growing up, being a fat kid, feeling uncomfortable in my own skin, having weird hair. I was a total nerd in high school and suffered all those indignities that made me the grumpy person I am today.”
He sounds not the least bit grumpy saying this.
Bellasai says that being gay and closeted in school led him to use his “total nerdiness” to hide his sexual orientation.
“I’ll give you great example,” he says. “There was this South Suburban Science Invitational, held at the local community college. I won the insect-indentifying contest. So you can see I really leaned into that ‘best nerd’ thing big time!”
A good deal of his comedy focuses on the foibles of his family. He says his relatives “so far get a kick out of it all. But, at a certain point, I think they expect to get a dollar every time I make fun of them.”
Because of comedic romps in which he’s seen drinking great quantities of wine, people tend to assume the star of the “Drunk and Alone” tour is a wine expert. Not so.
“I actually think the less I know the better,” Bellassai says. “In my videos, you see me drinking wine, but you have to understand: I don’t drink it or sip it. I’m chugging it. My goal? Just getting it down as fast as possible to give me that buzz I need.”
At Northwestern, Bellassai attended the Medill School of Journalism.
“I do think so much of good comedy is careful observation,” he says. “The kind of thing a good reporter does — gathering facts, noticing tiny but important details — is similar to what makes for good comedy. As comedians, we should notice those tiny, specific things that people find funny — perhaps because they’ve never really noticed those things themselves.
“Or perhaps this is simply a lie I tell myself to justify the thousands of dollars I spent on a journalism degree.”
Matt Bellassai brings his “Everything is Awful” tour to Park West on Oct. 26. Tickets, including the book and a book-signing, are $40 for the 18-and-older show.