Matt McCarthy, Stand-Up Comic
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because TV ads sometimes add to your eventual cultural enrichment.
By Jim Knipfel
I first noticed Matt McCarthy in a series of Verizon TV spots. He played a woebegone cable guy, downtrodden about his string of canceled appointments, who keeps running into a smug Verizon Fios installer. What struck me about the burly, bearded, redhead was not only his sharp comic timing, but the subtlety of his straight-faced performance. There was just something there, a certain quality, a mix of pathos, vulnerability and physical humor reminiscent of both John Candy and Buster Keaton.
Catching his stand-up routine at assorted NYC comedy clubs was, well, a revelation. Gone was the quiet and hapless cable guy. McCarthy onstage is a howling bear of a comedian, brash and crass and confrontational. He is an utter lunatic, the dichotomy only making his low-key cable guy that much more impressive.
Yet despite it all, and despite his obvious talents, McCarthy has remained an unknown quantity to the American public.
“I’m lucky, I guess, that I can play a straight man,” he says. “My favorite movie when I was a kid was, and still is, The Blues Brothers, so in addition to the crazy Bugs Bunny shit, I fell in love with deadpan comedy at an early age.”
After getting a taste of showbiz in the late ’90s as the Fordham University mascot, he moved to New York and began doing stand-up with his friend and roommate Pete Holmes in 2003. The pair also formed a small production company, Front Page Films, and starred in a string of online comedy shorts as well as shooting a number of hilarious, completely outrageous spec commercials for the likes of Doritos, Klondike bars and Crunch Fitness. It was those shorts that led to McCarthy’s appearance in spots for Guinness and Verizon.
After releasing a comedy album, Come Clean, in 2010, McCarthy, a longtime obsessive wrestling fan, worked as a creative writer for the WWE until 2012, when he moved to Los Angeles to take a job as a writer and regular performer on The Pete Holmes Show, the show itself a direct result of those FPF shorts. The show only lasted a season on TBS, but in the meantime McCarthy has done guest spots as various drunks, crazies and bowling buddies on shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm, Louie and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and has been cast in small roles in a few features, including The Normals and the Will Ferrell comedy The Other Guys. These days McCarthy is a regular on CollegeHumor.com and hosts his own podcast, We Watch Wrestling.
Yet despite it all, and despite his obvious talents, McCarthy has remained an unknown quantity to the American public. But I wager all that could change in an instant. “My goal is to be a comedian, whatever that means,” he says. “The way I look at it, I don’t have a problem being someone else on TV or in a movie, saying someone else’s words, because I can do whatever I want at night on the stage. I can be myself.”
- Jim KnipfelContact Jim Knipfel