University alumnus explores Internet comedy world

Courtesy photo

Courtesy photo

By James VandeBerg

Making comedy videos for a living sounds like every college student’s dream. Matthew Gill, a 2001 graduate of the University’s College of Communications, now College of Media, has managed to turn that dream into a reality. After graduating with a degree in advertising and working as a TV executive at CBS, Gill realized making people laugh was his true passion.

Making comedy videos for a living sounds like every college student’s dream. Matthew Gill, a 2001 graduate of the University’s College of Communications, now College of Media, has managed to turn that dream into a reality.

After graduating with a degree in advertising and working as a TV executive at CBS, Gill realized making people laugh was his true passion.

“We want to blow people’s minds for a few minutes by getting on screen, getting ridiculous and making them laugh,” Gill said. “People are watching us at work or when they need a break from studying.”

Having taken writing and improvisation courses at Chicago’s Second City comedy club, Gill put his skills to work. Two years ago he founded Burn the Boats Productions, which has made commercials for several auto companies as well as Air New Zealand, he said.

However, one of the company’s biggest endeavors in recent months has been its online video series, Def and Dum. The videos, produced by Gill and his writing partner, Jeff Cowan, debuted on their Web site three months ago. Six episodes of the show, each about two minutes long, have been filmed so far, and a new one is released each week.

Gill has a distribution deal with bullz-eye.com, a men’s Web site featuring various comedy videos and unique articles. Launching the show online, Gill feels, will enable Def and Dum to reach a larger audience than it could otherwise.

“There’s an enormous shift to digital right now. In five years, all of our TV and entertainment programming will probably be coming through the Internet,” he said.

Gill said the advertising classes he took while at the University have greatly helped him understand the changes the media industry is undergoing and what it takes to be successful in the industry.”This information is critical because any network or show runs on advertising dollars,” Gill said, adding that knowing how to communicate with advertising executives and understanding their goals has helped make his comedic ideas a reality.

Although only six episodes of Def and Dum have been produced so far, Gill is hopeful that more will be made in the future. He and Cowan are also working on a new project, “Baby Boss,” which will spoof white-collar, 9-to-5 jobs.

Gill’s years spent in such jobs helped him realize how important it is to do what he really loves – make people laugh.

“The crazy decisions you make at 3 a.m. can end up being the best ones. I can work for 14 hours a day sometimes, but it never feels like work. It isn’t work when you’re having fun,” Gill said.

With the economy being in the shape it is right now, Gill sees this as the perfect time to get out and explore options.

“If you aren’t going to get paid a lot anywhere, you may as well get out there and do what you love,” he said.

His wife’s support has also been critical, Gill said. The two met in an advertising class at the University, and since then, Gill said her support has been the most important part of actually doing what he loves.

“Owning and running a business is a lot of work,” he said. “You need a good support system, and she’s always been there.”