Philadelphia comedian and musician Josh Machiz has released the first episode of his comedy web series, “Josh Matchstick: Tiny Cruiseship Comedian.”
Machiz has a firm place as one of Philadelphia’s comedians-to-watch, not to mention his other notable achievements in Philly’s music community playing for the likes of TJ Kong & The Atomic Bomb, Dirty Dollhouse, BalletX, and launching his solo project later this year. He has performed at such prestigious venues as Lincoln Center (with Tareke Ortiz), Kimmel Center, and The Guggenheim. He’s also curated the Grin & Beer It Comedy Show, which attracted national headliners such as Kate Willett, Usama Sididquee, and Dina Hashem. He has also had his stand-up featured on Amazon Prime’s 2018 Turnpike Comedy Festival.
In his latest project, “Tiny Cruiseship Comedian,” you can find Machiz performing, writing, directing, editing, and designing the web series. Josh Matchstick was shrunk in an accident and recently divorced. He’s continuing his career as the World’s Tiniest Comedian on his cruise ship circuit. Sometimes he plays Reno, bar Mitzvahs, and weddings.
As a musician, comedian, and composer, Machiz has been confusing and delighting audiences across North America for the last two decades. He is a two-time Barrymore Award Winner and was co-recipient of an American Composers Forum Grant. He has worked with several Grammy Award winners and nominees, Pew Grant winners, a MacArthur Genius Grant winner, and an Obie Award winner.
He is currently a member of TJ Kong & the Atomic Bomb, Josh Machiz Brasses, Arcana New Music Ensemble, Dirty Dollhouse, Hurricane Hoss, Hot Club of Philadelphia, and David Fantasy & Adult Content. He is one of Philadelphia’s most in-demand bass, sousaphone, and tuba players, and plays a number of other instruments competently as well. In comedy, Machiz has been a quarterfinalist in 2017 & 2019 Philly’s Phunniest and a featured comedian in the 2018 Turnpike Comedy Festival on Amazon Prime.
Machiz has performed for Jazz Night in America on NPR & PBS and at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Guggenheim Museum, Kennedy Center, Kimmel Center, SXSW, Charm City Comedy Fest, Joyce Theater, Vail International Dance Festival, Jacob’s Pillow, Philadelphia Folk Festival, 92nd St Y, Oberon at Harvard University, La Mama, Mann Center, MusikFest, Good Good Comedy Theater, TLA, QED Astoria, Union Transfer, Trocadero, FringeArts, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and CMJ.
PW recently caught up with Machiz to talk about his comedy and career.
PW: How did you get your start in comedy?
JM: I was actually 12 years old the first time I tried stand-up. I had a super conceptual idea for how I would perform. I would tell really bad jokes, then repeat the punchline three times as though the reason nobody was laughing was that the audience did not understand the jokes. The audience did not like the jokes and also did not like the concept.
Later, I tried comedy for two years from the end of high school into college, but I was really bad. I came back to it in my early 30s with a clear concept of what I wanted to do. Perhaps life experience is an important ingredient for having something to say that’s worth listening to.
PW: You’ve performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, SXSW and more. Is there a show that stands out as most memorable or your favorite? Is there a gig or venue that’s still on your wish list?
JM: The Pig Iron Theater Company production of “Twelfth Night” is the closest thing to a perfect piece of art that I’ve ever worked on. It was also just the second major theater production I worked on, the first one being a collaboration with BalletX and the Wilma Theater called “Proliferation of the Imagination” in that same year, 2011. That year really felt like a turning point in my career; from that point on I was consistently working with people that I had the utmost respect for, on projects that were able to reach huge audiences all over North America.
At this point, I mostly wish that I could perform for people who aren’t on Zoom. I would love to be able work my way up in comedy to the point where I’m performing at those same venues telling jokes and being a weirdo.
PW: While most of us were hunkered down in our bunkers during the pandemic, you were putting together your web series, “Josh Matchstick: Tiny Cruiseship Comedian.” Can you talk a little about the premise of the series? How can people see it?
JM: Josh Matchstick is a cruise ship comedian who was recently shrunk in an accident and divorced and is continuing his career as the world’s smallest comedian. He’s about nine inches tall. The series is shot using Forced Perspective in my bedroom and is actually a bit dangerous to make because, in order to create the illusion, I have to stand on my radiator. There’s a playlist on my YouTube channel that will have all of the episodes.
PW: You teamed up with fellow Philly comedians Jillian Markowitz, Megan Goetz and Chip Chantry to write the series. Pandemic aside, what’s Philly like as a comedy town? Are there great clubs and audiences? Are there a lot of funny comedians roaming our streets and stages?
JM: These days with COVID restrictions, they’re mostly just roaming the internet. Some of the best comedians in the country live in Philadelphia. Every time I watch a special, I am constantly comparing it to my favorite comics in Philly and I can’t wrap my head around why some of the famous comics are famous and the obscure comics are obscure (of course there are great famous comedians as well). There are some really wonderful comedy rooms in Philly and they are scattered throughout the city. It’s close enough to NYC, D.C., and Boston that we’re able to bring down just about anybody and the audiences really appreciate that they can see the best comedy in the world without leaving their neighborhoods.
As a scene, Philly is big enough that you can find the entire gamut of styles, but it’s small enough that none of those styles get their own space, so everybody is performing in the same rooms. It is the perfect size to cause all sorts of drama. You could see the alt-iest of the alt comics followed by the edgiest of the edgy comics on the same show. For the most part, the smorgasbord of styles existing within close quarters is a great thing and it’s thrilling for the audience and comedians alike.
PW: You have a few gigs planned, including Bearded Ladies Cabaret’s traveling medicine show-style performances coming in April and May. What else is coming up for you?
JM: I’m working on an augmented reality experience with Pig Iron Theater Company and Rosie Langabeer. It will take users through an alternate universe of Philadelphia history around Old City and will be live in late spring.
I released a music single recently called “Murakami’s Ghost” on all of the streaming platforms. It’s trancy, groovy, and psychedelic. The piece is kind of in the vein of Steve Reich, Ligeti, and Animal Collective. It’s based on a Murakami short story called the Mirror.
A ballet that I was on the writing team for called “Sunset o639 Hours” is being remounted by BalletX this summer. It’s one of my favorite projects I’ve ever been a part of so I’m stoked that it gets to live again! So far, we’re scheduled to perform at the Vail International Dance Festival and Sun Valley, Idaho. I’m really excited that these big festivals are coming back this summer, and I hope it’s a sign that the art world is going to return to normal soon!
You mentioned the Bearded Ladies, and I just want to add that they literally bought a truck and turned into this beautiful traveling stage that’s going to be all around the city in April and May!
PW: What are the best ways for your fans to stay current with what you’re doing?
Also, just come see something and talk to me in person when shows come back! You’ve been cooped up in your home for a year! After we all get the vaccine, of course.