With five minutes to curtain, stragglers shuffled into Commonwealth Auditorium searching for a free seat while the soft mumble of incoherent conversations and the occasional seat adjustment filled the air. The atmosphere was one of anticipation and uncertainty. But as soon as Matteo Lane burst through the curtain with the line “Hi, I’m obviously gay,” all anxieties about the performance to come were quelled. There was a collective understanding that it was Lane’s world and for the next hour, we were his willing and captive audience.
AMP invited Lane to perform for the College of William and Mary Friday, Feb. 11 in celebration of the College’s 329th Charter Day.
Coming into the performance, I had a vague notion of who Lane was, though his list of accomplishments runs a mile long. The New York-based comedian has appeared on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” HBO’s “Crashing,” “Will & Grace” and Netflix’s “The Comedy Lineup.” In addition to stand-up, you can find Lane performing in a live cabaret at the Bon Soir in Greenwich Village. Lane speaks five languages fluently, spent two years in Italy as an oil painter and began classically training as an opera singer at the age of 15, resulting in his impressive six-octave vocal range. Lane’s impressive CV makes him the type of person you want to take out to coffee and pick his brain for three hours. After witnessing Lane’s comedy in person, it was made clear he was born to be a performer. Lane’s charisma and comedic genius are innate, and it is only a matter of time until his name is known by the entire world.
The event kicked off with an opening set by comedian Evan Williams who discussed the unsexy reality of making a sex tape while in lockdown, becoming an unlikely co-parent to a boa constrictor while under the influence of cocaine, and bombing a gig at a Citibank corporate conference. While only 15 minutes long, Williams’s masterful storytelling abilities and dark humor set the momentum for the rest of the evening’s festivities. His energy and excitement were palpable and served as the perfect liaison for Lane’s headlining act.
Lane entered the stage with swagger, confidence and a mustache rivaled only by Freddie Mercury. He began his set by admiring the beauty of the College’s campus, then proceeded to acknowledge its obvious hauntedness. He equated the campus’s general historic creepiness to settings shown in the television program “Ghost Adventures.” Right off the bat, Lane’s method of delivering dialogue felt conversational, like speaking with an old friend. He played into the banter provided by audience members which showcased his quick-wit and gave the show a personal touch.
Lane’s sparse use of pandemic humor was also a welcome change. The topic was touched upon, but more often than not was used for context to set up a separate punchline. For example, Lane discussed his budding obsession with “Call of Duty” and the “Great British Bake Off,” manifesting as a result of lockdown. The mention of the “Great British Bake Off” resonated with audience members and was met with enthusiastic cheers and applause. Lane described the premise of the show as, “British people in their early 100’s baking a meal,” which could not be more accurate. Lane went on to highlight the stark contrast between the politeness of British reality cooking shows and the anxiety-fueled, high-stakes American cooking competitions.
Lane spent time chronicling his adventures with friends Nick, Jamie and Dylan. In one instance, Lane described his adventure with all three friends to Six Flags. He described the nearly magical “white trashification” of all those who pass through the park gates. Each anecdote left the impression that Lane is part of a friend group that is equally enviable and terrifying.
One of the highlights of the show was Lane’s description of his friend Nick. It is easy to assume that Lane’s impression offered an over-the-top caricature of his friend, however, that was not the case. To prove his lack of exaggeration, Lane proceeded to call Nick mid-show. After dialing a second time, Nick answered in a lackluster tone and stated, “I am in the middle of watching Drag Race.” The auditorium roared with laughter. “Do you want me to let you go?” Lane asked. “Well no, I want you to keep interrupting Drag Race,” Nick sarcastically quipped. The entire interaction left my stomach aching due to laughing so hard.
After an hour of laughter, Lane’s performance came to an end. However, rather than immediately exiting the stage, Lane stayed to answer questions from the audience. I thought that he might stick around for two or three questions, but he did not leave the stage until every hand was called on. Some questions were more serious like, “What is your hottest take?” to which he answered, “Whitney Houston is the best singer of all time.” One audience member asked about his time spent in Italy as an oil painter and illustrator. Other questions were more lighthearted like, “What’s your star sign?” or, “Would you smash or pass “Great British Bake Off” judge Paul Hollywood?” (Answer: Lane is a Cancer and he would smash Paul Hollywood just for the handshake at the end).
One of the most commendable aspects of Lane’s set was his spontaneity and apparent enthusiasm for performing. Lane remained engaged with the audience for the duration of his time on stage. He never came across as someone simply going through the motions of a comedy set. I also loved that Lane never shied away from displaying his other talents on stage. While discussing his Italian heritage, Lane seamlessly transitioned from speaking in English to ranting in Italian. In a similar fashion, Lane would stop mid-joke to suddenly show off his superhuman vocal range.
Excited chatter filled the room following Lane’s performance. Students such as Katie Layton ’24 reflected on the show with friends while exiting the auditorium.
“With all of the controversy with Governor Youngkin coming to campus, it was nice to have a space for LGBTQ+ representation,” Layton said.
Overall, this was the perfect way to spend a Friday evening. I am so excited to see Lane and Williams’ stars continue to rise. If you missed Friday’s performance and want to experience Lane’s comedy firsthand, you can check out his TikTok @matteolane or watch his set on Netflix’s “The Comedy Lineup.”