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my car: matt baram

Their rebuilt Chevy Cobalt suits Matt Baram and partner Naomi Snieckus just fine.Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

Profession: Improv comic, actor

Hometown: Edmonton

  • Canadian Comedy Award winner for Best Male Improviser
  • Winner of three Canadian Comedy Awards with National Theatre of the World for Best Improv Troupe. Their Toronto Fringe Show The Soaps was voted Best of Fringe.
  • Premiere of the National Theatre of the World’s first sketch show at the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival, Nov. 8-13

Matt Baram's acting credits include Murdoch Mysteries, The Border, Little Mosque on the Prairie, and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. But his real art is improv.

He's a veteran of the Second City Comedy troupe in Toronto. Nowadays, the award-winning improv comic performs at gigs across North America. And he doesn't drive anything fancy to get there – just a bare-bones 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt.

Why did you buy a Cobalt?

We needed a car for touring.

We have a theatre company called the National Theatre of the World. It consists of three of us – Naomi Snieckus, Ron Pederson and myself. We all lived together at the time we bought the car. We thought we could use it for the company.

Normally, in Toronto you don't really need a car. We're more into public transportation. We're all cyclists – we get around on our bikes a lot.

Ron was mentioning his dad from Edmonton rebuilds cars – he's an auto body guy. This car was in a minor accident and he was able to rebuild it and make it absolutely brand new. Aside from the difficulty of getting insurance for a rebuilt car, it was great. It was like getting a brand-new car for a fraction of the price. It may have been found at the bottom of a lake somewhere.

We call her 'Car The Car.' It does what we want her to do. It goes from Point A directly to Point B.

It has no frills. It has manual windows and doors. It's really good for us for what we need – to get around the city and we drive to New York to do shows, too.

Any problems with it?

No real problems. There's minor rattles like the fan in the air conditioner makes a little click-click sound. Everybody else in the company tries to convince me that it doesn't exist and I'm going crazy. If you turn the stereo up real loud nobody notices it.

What's your favourite feature on the Cobalt?

There's a big size trunk because when we do gigs we bring costumes, props and a record player. The trunk room has always been a good thing.

The seats fold back – as soon as we found out how to do that it was convenient. It took us a month to realize it did happen.

One time, Ron sat in the back seat for a while – for a good half an hour – to figure out how to get the seats down. Then it occurred to him, you've got to open the trunk and pull the levers in the back.

It's old school. It's a bit of a puzzle. It's like driving a Rubik's cube.

Do you miss the power windows and doors?

Do I need power windows? In improv there's a classic mime thing you do to show that you're driving a car – you manually roll down a window.

No one really manually rolls down a window any more. It's just a button you press.

But that is modest theatrical. We're lucky we physically have to do that every time we want air. We have to lock them and we make the click-click sound. Really you don't want power to take away from all of our creative inspiration.

What does the Cobalt say about you?

It says I'm not pretentious. It says I'll get there eventually. It might take a while and a lot of gas, but when I get there I'll most likely be able to find a parking spot.

I'm not that noticeable. If you're a guy in his mid-30s who just wants to blend in and not stand out in the world – this is your car.

What was your first car?

I bought a Volkswagen van from a woman who worked at a mental institution in Alberta. I spent about $1,000 on it.

It didn't have a camper – it sat nine. And I thought I'm going to fix this thing up and I'm going to drive across the country with it.

I had never driven stick and I taught myself on the road. It was a really long shifter to the floor.

As I was driving back home, I realize I'm going over 90 km/h and I'm accelerating and I can't slow it down. I realize the accelerator pedal was stuck to the floor.

So I had to pop it into neutral, which was a bad idea, because it revved really high and then it conked out on the side of the road and I had to call a tow truck. So, I didn't drive the whole way home.

It leaked oil and there was a problem with many of the features. It didn't have a functioning speedometer. There was a hole in the floor by the gas pedal.

What happened to it?

I lost the keys and it was parked in front of my parent's house for a long time. Ultimately, it was just a place to store things. Then I had the locks remade and I wasn't able to start it.

It wasn't running well. It wasn't the car that was going to get me across the country… So I sold it for a fraction of what I paid for it.

The guy came by in the middle of the winter, turned the key and it started immediately. And he drove off. He just had the touch.

What did you drive after that?

I had a Mazda Protege – that was a good car. There were no incidents with that car other than, you know what I mean? But nothing went wrong with it.

I've been renting in an Auto Share since I've been in Toronto, which isn't that great because I wasn't building my insurance record. So after 10 years my insurance went sky high with this Cobalt.

I think I'm paying as much insurance for this car, which really is worthless, as someone who is driving a Porsche.

The interview has been edited and condensed.