‘Disgraced financial analyst’ Matthew Broussard talks being funny
A self-described “disgraced financial analyst,” Matthew Broussard (’10) was crowned Houston’s Funniest Person a mere two years after graduating from Rice with a degree in computational and applied mathematics. What started as doing open mics as a hobby before transitioning to full-time comedy, Broussard has since appeared on shows like Comedy Central and Conan, prodded John Mayer about his ex-girlfriends on Roast Battle and created a puzzle app called Monday Punday. He has also met Chris Hemsworth once in an elevator.
“I don’t consider myself super funny,” Broussard said. “I like writing jokes. I like doing stand-up. There are many, many funnier people than me … I think I was particularly not funny growing up. Rice was nice because it wasn’t that fratty, competitive, social atmosphere of a state school, and [it] allowed me to feel more comfortable.”
Growing up in Corpus Christi and Atlanta, Broussard’s career is the odd result of a Cajun chemist father, Jewish microbiologist mother and an applied mathematics degree.
“My parents really pushed me academically,” Broussard said. “We would eat meals every night on a periodic table placemat. I was convinced thoroughly by my parents that any career I was going to make [would be] off of my mathematical abilities and training.”
Spurred on by his parents, Broussard arrived at Jones College in 2006. Considering majors like mechanical engineering and computer science, he knew that, at least, he wanted to pursue math. Broussard eventually settled on applied mathematics, a degree that he put to use as a financial analyst after graduation for a few years before being let go. At that point, Broussard said he had been pursuing comedy as a hobby for a while and was able to make the leap into being a full-time comedian, though his degree still remains very much in use as a comedian.
“The funny part is, you would think that my degree doesn’t apply. but all comedians talk about is the algorithm,” Broussard said. “That’s all we’re talking about. It’s just all this hypothesizing over TikTok, what link the video [has], what time of day to post, all these rather mathematical constraints that optimize your performance.”
The algorithmic nature of the entertainment industry is as tedious as it sounds, according to Broussard. Although around 90% of the career focuses on the logistics surrounding comedy, Broussard said it also allows him to appreciate the 10 percent of pure performance.
“Once it becomes a job, it is a job. I certainly had a little more hustle when I was secretly writing jokes when my boss was out of the office for lunch,” Broussard said. “There’s a lot of things around it that are laborious and tedious: booking my flights, editing clips, studying the algorithm, getting ready for auditions, taking classes … But being on stage and writing jokes are still really fun. I really like being on stage. I think that’ll never get old to me.”
Perhaps a less obvious use for a mathematics degree is comedic fodder. Broussard’s favorite type of humor, though, leans academic — with a penchant for the tedious and oddly intellectual, Broussard said he does bemoan the fact that he’s still unable to make math funny.
“I talk about math more on stage. It is truly the hardest thing in the world to make funny. 9/11, abortion [and the] Holocaust aren’t nearly as challenging of subjects as mathematics in terms of getting a crowd on board, because people hate it so much,” Broussard said. “I don’t want to blow up my spot saying you’re going to learn anything special. But it’s fun when I get to use my education a little bit because I feel like I’ve otherwise squandered it.”
Broussard credits much of his current comedy style, “self-effacing and weirdly educational,” to the unique dynamic of Rice’s student culture. A school removed from Greek life and home to countless traditions and themes set the blueprint for Broussard to become a little bit funnier.
“I don’t think I’d be the same person without having come here. It made me feel less alone and less afraid to be interested in what I’m interested in,” Broussard said. “The humor of the Backpage … the [Orientation] Week themes, the Beer Bike themes. All of that stuff is just right up my alley. It’s fun, it’s playful, it’s ever so slightly intellectual … I think it’s nice when smart people can have fun and not take themselves too seriously.”
The heart of Broussard’s experience at Rice was the odd, quirky kids surrounding him — the smart students who didn’t take themselves too seriously were key for his own development, he said.
“I was very much the dumbest guy in CAAM and I would do homework assignments with some really brilliant people,” Broussard said. “There was a kid … we’d do analysis problems together. I remember we were doing these problems, got stuck, and he would go, ‘I'm gonna take a break real quick.’ He'd leave and come back five minutes later smelling like weed. I’d go, ‘Did you just get high?’ He goes, ‘It helps with my lateral thinking.’ And then we'd solve the problem [and] he would get it right.”
The only thing that Broussard laments about his peers is the lack of Rice graduates in the entertainment industry alongside him. He wants nepotism, and he is not afraid to ask for it.
“I think [Rice] is a really funny school. The only thing that disappoints me is that fewer people from Rice don't pursue careers in entertainment,” Broussard said. “I do feel … all the [University of Southern California] and [New York University] kids have these networks to call on. Anyone reading this, I could really use some nepotism and favoritism for being an Owl in the industry. Come join me so we can create unfair opportunities.”
The annual Mr. Jones pageant was actually the place where his future career first blossomed. Although his initial venture into comedy began with a spontaneous sign-up for an open mic at 23 years old, Broussard recalls the talent show as his first time ever performing jokes in front of an audience, eliciting laughter but unfortunately not quite enough to win the pageant.
“I don't have any talents. So I just wrote 10 things [that] I'll miss about Jones and each of them was a joke. I had never done something like that before, but a couple of them got laughs and it felt really, really good,” Broussard said. “About a year after that, I saw a flyer for an open mic and I think I connected that feeling [of stand-up] … to go in front of a crowd of people and make them laugh.”
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