Chemistry to comedy: how this 24-year-old Torontonian found the formula for success

Synthetic organic chem vs. standup: the choice was clear for this comic

Matthew Puzhitsky doing stand-up comedy live on stage at Free Times Cafe at 320 College Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada on the night of May 18th, 2024 at an event with several other comedians (Mohit Sharma/Toronto Observer) 

When someone changes career tracks, they don’t usually switch from a pursuing a master’s in chemistry to being a master of comedy.

And yet, 24-year-old Matthew Puzhitsky from Toronto did just that. He started out conducting scientific research, but has gone on to amass 132,000 followers on TikTok and almost 86,000 followers on Instagram in five years.

When Puzhitsky decided to switch his focus from synthetic organic chemistry to a career in standup comedy, he had always known he was making the right choice by following the dream he’s had since he was eight years old.

“I mean If anybody offered me even when I started chemistry, ‘Hey you can be a comedian and make a living,’ I’d take that right away,” Puzhitsky said. “I just was lucky enough to find some success in comedy and through the content had a few opportunities to support myself financially.”

He began to delve into making online comedy content during the pandemic years, but made the full switch in 2024 after completing his degree. 

“I started pretty close to the pandemic so 2019, that’s when I started comedy and the content to go with it.”

Puzhitsky began by uploading videos to Instagram and TikTok that often emphasized elements of his life, such as his academic career and his experiences growing up in a traditional Slavic household. He also started doing live standup shows.

“And then the pandemic happened and I was in Toronto throughout that whole time, so I didn’t really get up on stage … when shows were running again I got right back into it,” he said.

Matthew Puzhitsky poses outside Distinction Condos in Toronto on May 28, 2024, during an interview about the changes in his life. (Mohit Sharma/Toronto Observer)

What surprised Puzhitsky the most about his career shift is the level of labour and time involved in his new path as a comedian, with his job and daily life becoming inexorably linked as, in his own words, he tries to find the joke in everything.

“What surprised me the most is how much hard work it really is, and meeting other comedians that are more successful than myself and people that I look up to and how hard they work and what they do.”

“It’s twenty-four hours a day — you don’t clock in and clock out,” he said. “Because I love what I do, I’m kind of never working. It’s always kind of like play to me, but also, I’m always working.”

Canadians are ready for a change

While Puzhitsky’s change may seem a bit more drastic than many would make, the desire to switch career paths has become commonplace among Canadians.

A 2024 article from DailyHive stated that according to the recruitment firm Hays, more than 70 per cent of Canadians are looking to change jobs within the next twelve months.

The main drive for most Canadians looking to switch is financial according to Hays, but Puzhitsky cites his chafing against authority as a main draw of his career shift.

“I would say I’m much more independent, much more willing to take risks and bet on myself, and it’s more exciting for me to wake up and to say, ‘OK, I’m building something, building my own career; I’m not going to work for somebody else,’” he said.

Netflix festival is no joke

One person who’s seen Puzhitsky grow as a comedian as he’s continued down his new path is Kivork Kidanian, known by his stage name, “Key Epic,” who owns Keys Standup Comedy Club Toronto Improv Bar and Grill on Bloor Street West.

When Puzhitsky got back on stage post-pandemic, he began performing at Key’s Comedy Club and the two have been working together ever since.

“I did see a change after he came back from his Netflix Is a Joke festival he did. When he came back from there, he brought a different energy. You’re around legendary comedians over there so you’re gonna come back at a higher level,” said Kidanian, 34.

Puzhitsky attended the Netflix Is a Joke Festival 2024, which happened in May in Los Angeles and featured more than 400 live comedy shows.

“Over here we have local legendary comedians, but if you’re at a Netflix Is a Joke taping, they’re obviously picking the best out of each city around the world,” Kidanian said.

10 years from now Puzhitsky sees himself still doing comedy despite the level he finds himself at, be it still doing open mics or selling out entire arenas.

He hopes to move to Austin, Tx. where many other great comedians are working, making a living doing what he loves and supporting his family at the same time.

With all this in mind, Puzhitsky’s advice to anyone seeking to follow in his footsteps is simple.

“Don’t,” he said, citing how hard it really is and stating that were he a completely rational person, he’d not be a comedian.

“To do this, you have to be a little crazy.”

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Posted: Jun 20 2024 12:00 pm
Filed under: Entertainment Features Profiles