Interview: Matt Riggs of Laughs 4 Smiles

In advance of Jimmy Pardo's legendary Never Not Funny Pardcastathon, Chicago comics Matt Riggs and Dan Friesen joined forces to present a one-night-only benefit show for Smile Train, an international organization that helps fund surgeries with kids with cleft lips and palates. Pardo and company have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years for this charity, which helps change the lives of underpriveledged kids worldwide.

Laughs 4 Smiles is tonight, November 25th at Subterranean, with special guests Stephanie Hasz, Andy Fleming, Tommy McNamara, Goodrich Gevaart, Dan Friensen, and Matt Riggs. Admission is a $10 donation that goes directly to Smile Train. Here's a chat with Matt before tonight's show!

The Steamroller: Can you tell me how you came to learn about Smile Train?
Matt Riggs: I learned of it via the podcast Never Not Funny. Jimmy Pardo, Matt Belknap and Pat Francis do a podcast marathon known as the Pardcast-A-Thon the Friday after Thanksgiving to raise money for Smile Train. It's usually more than 12 hours and they bring in celebrity guests every 20 minutes or so for the entire show. They've been doing it for six years and I want to say they have raised around a quarter million dollars for Smile Train. What's weird is that once I heard about it through them, I started seeing bus and magazine ads... It just started entering my life more.

TS: You're a longtime Never Not Funny listener, right?  What made you decide to put together your own fundraiser?
Matt: I've got to give credit for me being a listener to Dan Friesen. I have been a big supporter of podcasts since around 2008, even having many of them of my own over the years, but I had not heard of NNF until Dan wouldn't stop talking about how great it is. The moment I checked it out, I was hooked. I've even mentioned to folks that the video version of their show is usually my favorite TV program that week.

A few years ago, Dan and I got together to watch the Pardcast-A-Thon, and we've done so every year since, it's a tradition I hope will go on until the end of the Earth. I think in the back of our minds, we both felt bad that we weren't able to donate any money, not only because of the great cause, but we were both podcasters, so we knew the effort it takes to do an hour show, and we couldn't even wrap our brains around doing it for 12+. So, wanting to actively contribute instead of just being a viewer, I tried to figure out what I could do. Since I am a part of a great stand up comedy scene, putting on a show just made sense. I talked to Dan and Tommy McNamara, a more recent NNF convert, and we got the ball rolling.

TS: You got the blessing of the NNF team to do this show, what was that process like? Have you corresponded with them before?
Matt: I contacted them to make sure it didn't look like we were trying to capitalize off of them, I wanted them to know that our intentions were good. I got a response back from Jimmy Pardo that said, "Of course!!! Do your thing, baby!" and so we started from there. I have corresponded before, they were nice enough to read one of my stupid questions on the air. I also met them when I was a part of the Limestone Comedy Festival and I currently contribute comedy interviews to PopCultureBeast.com which is run by Garon Cockrell, NNF intern and part of the ensemble of their show.

TS: What was your approach to booking the lineup? 
Matt: That was pretty simple. When you're a fan of something, it seems that you just come across other people who like it as well. Since my social circle is mostly comedians, over the years, I talked about Never Not Funny with many different comics.

So I just though about who liked the show and who I could get together to put together a great night of comedy. Tommy, Dan and I were in from the get go and then I asked Andy Fleming, Stephanie Hasz and Goodrich Gevaart and they were in, no questions asked.

To be honest, they did ask a few questions, but once I told them when and where, they were in.

TS: If, for whatever reason, people can't make it out to the show, what's the next best way to support?
Matt:
Watch the Pardcast-A-Thon and donate through them. Even if you come to our show, you are doing your life a disservice if you don't check out some of that great show. It's streaming on NeverNotFunny.com and they'll give you all the details you need to donate. You can also donate anytime of the year at SmileTrain.org.

You can change a kid's life for $250 dollars. That is amazing.

Laughs 4 Smiles is tonight, November 25 at 8pm at Subterranean. Tickets are $10 at the door.