Serving Up Venti-Sized Laughs

by Oct 22, 2019Art & Culture, North Brunswick

Matthew Coghlan enjoys a double life crafting coffee and comedy.

You might recognize Matthew Coghlan as the guy who makes your morning frappuccino, but he’s also an up-and-coming comedian serving up laughs in downtown Wilmington.

Most people move to Brunswick County for the laidback lifestyle, pristine beaches or short commute to downtown Wilmington. But when his parents moved south, Coghlan came along for one reason: the comedy. His destination? The Dead Crow Comedy Room on Front Street in Wilmington, the only full-time comedy club in eastern North Carolina.

“I moved here from a quaint little town —Hamburg, New Jersey — about three years ago,” says the 23-year-old. “First I became a barista, and I started comedy six months later.”

Outside of his day job at Starbucks in Harris Teeter in Leland, the comedian of two and a half years has performed as an opener (first for Erik Griffin of Workaholics) and headliner at Dead Crow Comedy. In last year’s Port City’s Top Comic Competition, he snagged third place. He’s also performed in surrounding areas, including Raleigh, Greenville and Greensboro.

Comedy wasn’t the plan from the very beginning. As a child, he aspired to become Batman. “Not like him, I wanted to be him,” he says. “Then I got a little more realistic and wanted to be a detective. And then I went right to comedy.”

Coghlan found his calling when he noticed that his Uncle Dave had a talent for making everyone laugh at family functions. He wanted to be that person too. “We all have our own effect on people,” Coghlan says. “I never cared about anything as far as responsibility goes, never took life very seriously. Might as well make a joke of it, right?”

A bit too young for the open mic scene back then, Coghlan practiced in school. “I was seeking validation through humor all the time,” he says with a laugh (his jokes are often on the self-deprecating side). “If there was a class presentation, I knew I wasn’t going to do the project.” Case in point: While Coghlan’s classmates explored dark topics like genocide and World War II for their sociology projects, he talked about the movie Airbud (whose lead is a golden retriever-turned-basketball phenomenon). How did the kids who didn’t make the team feel losing their spot to a dog? he posited. He got a B.

Today Coghlan takes inspiration from  numerous comedians, but Demetri Martin  stands out for his comic philosophy: “There’s  a parallel world right in front of us that’s revealed with a small shift in perspective,” the stand-up comedian once said. Coghlan agrees: “I think that’s so true of comedy. Anything can be funny if just look at it differently. If you look at it from enough angles, there’s a million jokes that can be written.”

Like Martin, Coghlan aims for jokes that aren’t story-centered, but selectively focused on concepts, ideas and the little things. “That’s where I think most of the humor lives, in the little things,” he says. “That’s my favorite way to look at the world. Everything can be funny.”

As Coghlan moves forward, he’s content to keep serving coffee at the Harris Teeter Starbucks, as long as he can keep working on his comedy career. “Plan A is to become a professional comedian very quickly, and Plan B is to take a little longer. Plan Z is farming somewhere.”

Don’t ask your barista to tell you a joke, though — Coghlan prefers a large crowd, the bigger the better. Head over the bridge to see him on stage at Dead Crow Comedy’s weekly improv show for $3 every Wednesday and at the open mic on Thursday for free. He’s also recently linked up with local comedians Mat Millner and Drew Harrison as a member of the Regretful Villains. The comedy group regularly produces shows at venues like Bombers Bev Co. and Lucky Joe Coffee in Wilmington (you can follow them on Facebook).

On the weekend of August 30 through September 1, Coghlan returned to the stage for the 2019 Port City’s Top Comic Competition at Dead Crow Comedy. He didn’t win this time — but he’s not giving up.

Photography by Megan Dietz