Matt Goldman Q&A

January 3, 2022
Matt Goldman was one of the original writers for "Seinfeld."

“I always loved the writing part of stand-up. Not the performance, as much. I think the first joke that killed was about me having to wear Toughskin jeans from Sears. There were several parts to the joke, but when I talked about how the knees were so reinforced you couldn’t bend your knees, and goose-stepped around the stage, that got a good laugh.”

You’ve written four Nils Shapiro books, who is one of the great private investigators in literature. Had you always wanted to write crime fiction?

I came to crime fiction late. I’ve always been a big reader, but for some reason never read much crime fiction. When I decided to move from writing TV comedy to TV drama, I started reading crime fiction as a way to educate myself about those kinds of stories. I had no idea I’d fall in love with it. After reading it for a few years, I wrote Gone to Dust. I’d always wanted to write novels. Crime fiction inspired me. Raymond Chandler is a huge influence on me. I did not read Chandler as a kid, but when I finally found him, he became a huge influence on me. Philip Marlowe and Nils Shapiro are different from each other, but they share a comedic voice, full of social commentary, narrating a serious story.

You’ve written for Seinfeld and many other shows. Do you miss the group dynamics of a writing room? Or do you find your creativity best in a quiet room?

I miss being around funny, smart people so often, but I do prefer to write alone. One is not better than the other, but solitary writing suits my personality and process best.

You started out as a stand-up comedian. Do you ever perform these days? Do you remember your first joke that killed?

I don’t get on stage anymore, at least as a stand-up. But I do frequent personal appearances as an author, and if I have ideas for jokes, I usually slip them into those appearances. I also put quite a few jokes in the books. I always loved the writing part of stand-up. Not the performance, as much. I think the first joke that killed was about me having to wear Toughskin jeans from Sears. There were several parts to the joke, but when I talked about how the knees were so reinforced you couldn’t bend your knees, and goose-stepped around the stage, that got a good laugh.

I loved Dead West and couldn’t help make projections on the MN characters out in Hollywood. Do you find MN a never-subsiding well of inspiration?

Glad you enjoyed Dead West. I didn’t have anyone specific in mind when I wrote Ebben or Jameson, but I do find Minneapolis an inspiration. That’s why I moved away from Los Angeles and live here now. The place just feels like a blank page and I can’t wait to fill it.

Can you share any writing tips Larry David may have given you?

Larry never gave me a writing tip. He is brilliant. On the page and on camera. When I worked with him, which was a long time ago, he didn’t take the time to teach. That wasn’t his responsibility. And I don’t know if he’s outside of his process enough to teach. That said, I learned a hell of a lot from him by watching him work.

You have the non-Shapiro book Carolina, Moonset dropping in May. Might there be another Shapiro book after that?

I don’t know. The 2023 book called An Impossible Affair is also not a Nils book. But I sure hope to write another one.

Who is your favorite humor writer working today?

David Sedaris. Hands down. He’s not only my favorite humor writer, he’s one of my favorite writers period.