Matt McManus, Comedian, on Prank Show - McMayhem, YouTube Success, Writing for Web & Television, & New Show - Swerved on WWE Network.
October 17, 2015
My name is Matt McManus. I’m a weirdo and a fool from Long Island, NY. A little town called East Islip.
I was born completely cross-eyed, and it was only partially fixed when I was a boy, so I still have one lazy eye. It’s not always lazy, but I’m pretty sure I don’t book more commercial work because of it.
Add being an overweight child and it basically groomed me for comedy.
I did school plays and musicals in high school. We had a great Video Production class. I almost got suspended when I made a video called “Lunch Lady Land” and it was being copied and passed around the school; this was on VHS – no YouTube then.
My first paid job in the entertainment industry was in 2001 for a TV show on the History Channel called “History’s Mysteries.”
I was in college in Albany, NY and they were shooting there. They reenacted things like assassinations, conspiracies, and paranormal stuff.
I played a sailor on a warship that was affected by the “Philadelphia Experiment.”
Apparently there was a time traveling war machine back in the fifties that Einstein invented. Once the sailors arrived in the past or future they either melted into the ship, or they would leave the ship and start fights in town. I did both.
I think the street inspires me more than anything. There’s more inspiration waiting for you in the street than anywhere else. The beach is relaxing, it’s not inspiring.
You want inspiration? Walk down Wilshire Blvd as the sun is setting, walk down Macdougal Street in NYC in December.
If you need to think of new characters for your stories or the stage, they are there. If you need to figure out what to say to the person you love, look around you. You’ll find what you’re looking for.
I get most of my inspiration there. The cool part is no one walks that much in LA, so there’s a large canvas that at times, is just yours.
Now, I have an almost 2-year-old son who gives me endless inspiration. His aimlessness and lack of inhibition is guiding me back towards my childhood, a place where there’s a bright fearlessness.
As adults we get trapped in a subconscious dark fear, because that’s how we become wired. Children aren’t wired yet. Their circuit board is being put together slowly, and it’s fun to watch and inspiring to be around.
Basketcase was a sketch comedy troupe that was started at SUNY Albany University.
We created amazing original characters as well as referencing pop culture. The humor got pretty dark here and there.
My mentor and best friend Ricky Roxburgh helmed the group and we eventually graduated and moved down to Brooklyn together.
Basketcase performed in places like the Manhattan Theatre Source and The Laugh Factory. We had a fantastic run, and great friendships were made. I learned that I am able to create characters that I disappear into.
I get to a place sometimes where I evaporate, time no longer exists, and the art is just a live wire on stage.
YouTube lead to my career.
I made a video as my character The Chadduring the infancy of YouTube. I had no idea what a viral video was, no one did.
The video was shot at the American Idol auditions. I was making a fool of myself, eating bagels with strangers, and getting crowds to chant and sing.
I got on the cover of the NY Daily News, the video was featured on RollingStone.com , and it started getting millions of hits on YouTube.
I was amazed that I could affect that many people, so quickly! So I became addicted to it.
YouTube was a gift to me and others. I put my work in on the stage first though. I think that you can’t do one without the other. Many do, and have a plethora of fans, and bright futures.
I think the fact that I trained and honed my characters on stage first, really gave them legs in the street, then on the internet.
Technological advances mean more competition, but there’s always been competition. I’m only competing against myself at the end of the day.
I’m competing with who I was yesterday.
Pranks & Human Graffiti
With Human Graffiti, the street is the canvas and the people are my paint brush.
It’s where I take a preexisting social place, like an intersection, an escalator, a sidewalk and do bits. I’m inserting myself into a person’s life for a moment, and hopefully they come out smiling, or remember that anything can and will happen in this crazy world.
I differ from most because none of what I do is mean or malicious. For the most part I’m just being a fool.
I broke up with hot girls in weird ways, like giving them one actual boot for Christmas, or dumping them over email and sending their dad all the naked pics they sent me.
Me and my team Jon Hill (Director) and Nate Cornett (DP) made three of them, posted them on Funny or Die, and they were on the front page in no time.
Funny or Die was hard to crack back then, and it was an elite thing.
It still is in many ways, but now it makes real money, which changes things.
My Damn Channel
My Damn Channel is an online network that was started by Rob Barnett and Warren Chow almost a decade ago.
It gives both established comedians and new voices a chance to make unique, imaginative, and original micro content.
David Wain from The State, Stella, and Wet Hot American Summer has a channel. Henry Zebrowski, Josh Gad, Harry Shearer, Mark Marron, have channels. Grace Helbig got her start there.
My show and channel McMayhem, had a 24 episode HumanGrafitti/Social Experiment show. My partner Steven Seidel produced it and hosted it with me.
It was a priceless experience, and they operate much like a TV network in regards to notes, edits and such.
It really trained me how to produce on a deadline, how to hire a team.
McMayhem was one of the first shows to be showcased on Mydamnchannel Live, the first live comedy show on the internet. This was also shot and directed with Jon Hill and Nate Cornett.
Be specific. If you’re good at one thing more than anything else, do that. Don’t try and do a million things at once, just because it seems everyone else is.
Make sure the world gets a chance to see the one thing you do best then move on.
Find a director and become good friends. Someone that sees your vision and you love hanging out with is priceless. Write down your thoughts every morning.
There’s too much insane shit that happens in this town that you become numb to it. One day you will want a record of it all. Also, wear a condom. Wear five condoms. Put them on all of your fingers and feet.
That’s solid advice.
Funniest Wins (TBS), was a crazy intense experience. I auditioned for the first time six months before it began shooting. I got a call that I made it past something like 3,600 comics and would be competing for a spot in the final ten.
They put us up in in a hotel for two days and made us all duke it out for a spot on the show. It was stressful.
Comics were just going in and out of rooms, ripping pieces of their souls off and throwing it the powers that be.
I don’t remember everything I did in the room, but I’m pretty sure I talked about the kind of white people that I can’t stand (polo shirt wearing, penny loafer, sailing, dad money guys that grow up to cheat on their wives and get fat and die).
I also acted like a Dolphin in the room jumping all around. I also made them all play a game with me where they closed their eyes and when they opened them I was making face after weird face.
I went crazy in that room, I guess I went crazy enough cause made it on the show.
The guy who won, Sidney Castillo, deserved to win and I was lucky enough to be paired with him and another awesome comic, Key Lewis in the final episode.
We performed two sketches together, and they both killed. Sidney and I were in glittered up tighty whities in front of America, dancing like fools.
I met some of the nicest and most talented comics in town.
After all this time, both in NY and in LA there are two things that you must surrender to.
One, is that no matter who you are and what level you’re at in your career, you’re going to have to wait for answers. If you got the part, if your script is going to sell, if your joke makes it in the scene, ya gotta wait.
Two, you’re always going to have to re-prove yourself. Even Brad Pitt has to re-prove himself with each movie. So, don’t get upset when you have to wait and don’t get sick of telling your story.
All of the pitfalls I’ve had in my career fall into either of those categories, and once you surrender to the certainties you get to start writing your own rulebook.
YouTube changed my life, and I owe a lot of my career to it.
I love Facebook. Mostly so most of my ex girlfriends can see that I have a beautiful family and a budding career.
Also, I use my personal Facebook page as part of my creative process, and my fan page is so great for putting all the crazy shit I do in one place.
Without social media I wouldn’t be making my upcoming podcast called NewDadNoDad which is a contemporary take on fatherhood.
1. I was asked to be on “RuPauls Drag Race” in the third season, on an episode called “Jocks to Frocks.” I was paired with a wonderful Queen, her name is Manilla Luzon.
She named me Fuschia Luzon and trained me in the Queen arts.
We won the episode, and a bunch of fans all over the world. What I do is fearless.
The LGTBQ community are some of the bravest people in the world. They are my favorite fans.
2: I recently was hired as a writer on this new show called "Swerved," on the WWE Network. It’s directed and produced by Jeff Tremaine, the man behind all the Jackass shows/movies, including Bad Grandpa.
Working with him was a dream come true.
I played a regular dude who wanted to be a wrestler called “Muscles Marinara.” I came out in a red Speedo and covered myself in marinara sauce, put spaghetti on my head, and made this pro wrestler throw meatballs at me.
That was pretty gratifying.
3: They were going to bring back "In Living Color," a couple years ago and I got a chance to audition. My heroes were on that show, and they were looking for the new “Jim Carrey” so to speak. The show never moved forward but my agent at the time told me she got great feedback….small successes.
4: I did a Dr. Pepper commercial in 2008 with Eric Andre’. We drove across the country in a convertible with a Dr. Pepper machine in the back.
5: I rapped in a parody video with the super talented Justin Hires. I played Mackelmore.
It was called “BET Hip Hop Awards Cypher.” It got over a million views and was so much fun to work on.
Writing & Creative Process
I usually come up with a character or a voice and a situation.
Once I have those three things, I improvise by myself in the street for hours on end, over and over.
I’ve lost girlfriends because of this.
Once I’m brave enough, I start interacting with people as these characters. Once I have three jokes or sentences synonymous with that character I quote them on Facebook.
If I get a good response I call all my friends and try to make them laugh. If three of them do, I go with the idea. I either write a sketch, a story, or a TV show around that character.
I love storytelling, so I’m not just trying to be absurd and funny.
Something about your career that people might not know?
I used to weigh 300 LBS, but I can’t get rid of my love handles.
I know how hard it is to be a kid, a young adult. My purpose on the Earth is to elevate some of that strife for the youth of America.
That’s why I do this.
WWE & Swerved
“Swerved,” is a show where WWE Stars prank each other backstage.
Wrestling is as big now as it’s ever been. The new stars are epic and fun to work with. I was brought on as a writer.
I got a chance to write with Jeff Tremaine and I couldn’t believe it! Then they asked me to be in the cast!
I went on the road, and helped execute bits I had written. That was the heat! I’ll tell you what, there was no better feeling. Pranking wrestlers is scary but it was so awesome.
That crew of people is top notch, hard working, and fun. It was a blessing and I hope to do it again.
Writing for Comedy Central & GSN
I’ve written for Comedy Central and a web series for GSN. I wrote a sketch for Comedy Central and that was awesome.
They gave notes. I sent it back until it was perfect. Another dream come true.
For GSN it was my own series with my partner Billy Tangradi. We had an ambush game show called “Bum Rush” where we got people to do crazy shit for money.
We did things like set up bowling pins in front of bathroom stalls while people were pooping and gave them a bowling ball.
It was epic, Check it out on the YouTube channel Door 3.
The only advice I could give is write often. Find out what you write specifically well at. It doesn’t only have to be a story or jokes. You could write pranks, or, taglines.
We all are good at writing something, find your talent.
The Importance of Creating Material
It is super important to produce your own work; but be open to creating with other people. Don’t be a dick. It will limit you.
Find the gap that the world needs and fill it.
Whether that means YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Periscope or whatever is next. People are people, you have to find the best way to connect with them.
I would not do anything differently today. I think my path has been a very nonlinear somewhat success story.
Stay humble, stay modest, and stay hungry.
When I was 12 I went to a Usdan Center for the Creative and Performing Arts summer camp. I was always a clown, but those summers training in acting, were the true start for me.
I took acting classes in college, and got my degree in theatre, but most of what I’ve learned is from trying out my ideas on the stage with sketch groups like Basketcase or The Straightjacket Society, or in the street.
Testing my limits on the unsuspecting public was really important.
You need to know the basics in anything you do, but the key is to tackle fear. Once you do that, you’re unstoppable. My training is fear based, every day.
I was born scared of the world and I fight that fear by facing it head on. I’ve embraced reality, and it’s beginning to embrace me.
Many people have helped me, and I’m so grateful. My partner Steve Siedel in McMayhem is the ying to my yang. My buddy Ricky Roxburgh taught me how to write.
I have to thank Ian Martinez, the godfather of my son, who gave me the role of “Hyperbole Guy” in his play “Thesaurus Boy” when I was 17.
My father was a magician of the absurd, and without him making me believe the world was a cartoon, I would not be dancing in this moonbeam.
Most of all I have to shout out the street. Embrace our streets, and you will embrace yourself.
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Spend some time with nature. Call your parents as frequently as you can.
Do as many sit-ups as you can. If you love someone, tell them, and remember, the hottest girls you know still go number two at least twice a day.