Matt McCarthy: Big Man, Bushy Hair, Huge Heart

Comedian and Fordham Alum “Comes Clean” About His Days As the Ram and His New Album


Matt McCarthy released his new comedy album, “Come Clean,” on April 13 and can be seen in the upcoming movie, “The Other Guys.” (Courtesy of Sheila Kenny)

Published: April 15, 2010

Comedian Matt McCarthy, FCRH ’01 and a veteran Ram mascot, is one of the most underrated comics in the industry. His lovable demeanor and frustrating concerns have been highlighted in his hilariously awkward standup routine that has been performed on Comedy Central, and on April 13, he released his first standup comedy album, “Come Clean.” Next, he’ll be appearing in the new cop-comedy movie, “The Other Guys,” and  with his trademark red hair and beard and his physical freak-outs, McCarthy shows no signs of disappearing anytime soon.

Observer: When you perform, I can’t help but notice glimpses of  Chris Farley or Zach Galifianakis. The New York Times has even described you as a “Belushi-like madman.” Do you take that as a compliment or would you prefer to be known for your own originality on stage?

Matt McCarthy: I want to be known as myself. Being compared to someone like John Belushi is an incredible compliment, but I want to be Matt McCarthy. I want to change standup somehow. That would be wild if people could look back and be like, “Ohh, that’s Matt McCarthy’s standup shit” (laughs).

Observer: Did dressing up as the mascot for sporting events while attending Fordham lead you towards pursuing a career in entertainment, or did you know what you wanted to do beforehand?

M.M.: Well, probably both. I knew I wanted to be a comedian when I was little. Being the mascot was the first performing I did, and there were no consequences for my actions. I was able to just do it and go on with it, and it was all funny.

Observer: Is it really true you were beat up by seven to 10 Columbia students while dressed as the Ram?

M.M.: It was the first and only away football game I ever did. We were at Columbia, and the Columbia guys were packed to the rafters. The Fordham side… there were about 25 people (laughs). I see a dozen Columbia guys walking from their side all the way over to our side. This is not good. The guys start shouting, “Hey Ram! Come over here. We just want to talk to you.” I was just like, “Hahaha right, right, fuck you.” Next thing I know, they bum rush me out of nowhere. They just fucking encircled me, and they tried to pick me up and steal me and bring me to the Columbia side. One guy wraps his arms around my chest, and tries to pick me up. And he goes, “UGHHH, HE’S HEAVY!” Next, they try to steal my Ram head. I had a chin strap on and they couldn’t get it off of me. By this point, I’m throwing stiff arms and hay makers. I was so fucking furious, I just wanted to make contact with something. And then I started hearing, “WHOA, WHOA, MCCARTHY! IT’S COOL,” I had been rescued by the male cheerleaders and the band. Later I found out those Columbia guys had a collection of about 10 or 11 mascot heads in their rooms.

Observer: A lot of comedians like to take inspiration from events they’ve experienced. Do you think it’s one of the more effective techniques used in standup comedy today?

M.M.: The best way to define comedy would be to call it a marriage of surprise and truth, whereas magic would be a marriage of surprise and a lie. Comedy always comes back to truth; it always comes back to the reality of the situation, even when you’re being absurd.

Observer: The Verizon Fios commercials were a pretty big deal when it comes to mass exposure. Would you rather be remembered for your other projects or are you glad to be known as the “Cable Guy” from the Verizon commercials?

M.M.: Oh no, I’m a standup comedian, and that’s what I want to be known for. If people can be introduced to me by any other avenue, whether in a commercial or TV show —it could be a fucking podcast—I don’t give a shit (laughs). I mean, if they’re encouraged to find out more, then that’s fabulous. If people are going to walk down the street and shout something, I’d rather they shout “Matt McCarthy” than “Yo! Cable Guy.” But it’s fine, as long as they’re shouting something.

Observer: You have a role alongside Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg in the upcoming cop-comedy, “The Other Guys.” What do you feel you’ve brought to the table in your first movie?

M.M.: I have a very small part. My official name is Therapy Cop #2. Even if I’ll be on screen for only a couple seconds and there’s no real opportunity to steal the movie, goddamn it, why not try?

Observer: Do you feel there’s more substance to an individual when they’re able to “poke fun” at themselves?

M.M.: Oh my God, absolutely. I think it was Freud who basically said some things are so awful, you can’t help but laugh at them. Whether something is good or bad, there’s a tendency to laugh at it. One would be more ready to laugh at something that was horrible than they would laugh at something that worked out fine. I read somewhere once, there are more Holocaust and Jewish jokes in Israel than anywhere else.

Observer: Really?

M.M.: Sure! The Jewish people are a very good example of that. I think it’s part of human nature to do everything we can to make things better, and I don’t think anything makes things better than laughter. People say laughter is the best medicine. Half of Mel Brooks’s movies make fun of Nazis and Hitler. He strips them of all their power. George Carlin said when someone’s laughing, it’s like a crack in a window. And then you can slip into the house and start doing whatever you want. When you got somebody laughing, they’ll listen to anything you say and they’ll believe you.

Observer: Your comedy group, Front Page Films, has put out some of the funniest viral videos on Web sites such as and Funny or Die. How does the group decide what is funny?

M.M.: That’s why the three of us started a group—because we realized we thought the same way. Pete [Holmes] and I knew each other from doing stand-up. We booked a commercial together, and in between takes, we were bullshitting back and forth and then it got to the point where we were making each other laugh so much that we were dying for them to say “cut” just so we could go back and start talking to each other again. Oren [Brimer] showed videos at his other show, and we said, “That guy’s really funny.” I think Joe Strummer from The Clash said that when you find something that works, don’t fuck with it. Just let it work. The three of us work so well.

Observer: Having had your start in many of the small comedy venues in New York, do you feel you possess a sense of humbleness as you’re breaking into the entertainment community?

M.M.: Playing Carnegie Hall in front of a packed house would be easy, as opposed to playing in some bar having a comedy night to people who weren’t even aware there was going to be a show.  I’ll never forget the feeling of 5:30 p.m. ending, and everybody I worked with going home to watch TV and have a few drinks and fucking sit on the couch while my day was just starting. There were nights where I was just like, “Fuck it, I’m not doing anything” [when] I should’ve been out there performing or just going to a show. Because all you have to do to be anything is to just do it. I’ll always do shit in a small room. I’ve run into Lewis Black in these comedy clubs where it’s a room in a basement with a microphone. It’s not the fucking Metropolitan Opera House, but he’ll play those places. What really keeps small artists going is that insatiable, every-single-night, “I-gotta-try-this-I-gotta-do-something-better” attitude. What you see on TV is the finished product. The rest of the time, it’s covered in grease and oil.

Observer: So do you see yourself doing this well into, let’s say, George Carlin’s age? He was 71 and he was still going.

M.M.: I’m going to do this until I drop dead. Even if I got a tracheotomy and I lost my fucking throat and couldn’t speak, I would become a hardcore mime or something. “Check out Matt McCarthy, the punk rock mime.” If I lost my eyesight, I would go onstage with my seeing eye dog. I feel like I’m a standup comedian first and a human being second.

Observer: Your new comedy album, “Come Clean,” was released on April 13. So why the title, “Come Clean?”

M.M.: That is my motto. Actually, that’s more than my motto—that’s my life philosophy. It’s an expression you hear all the time. But my roommate and I just started realizing that we were using it a lot and we realized it was applicable in any situation. I thought, “Well I’ll just come clean with everything.” That’s what everybody needs to do.

Observer: But it’s not always easy for everybody. That’s the trick.

M.M.: It’s so easy. It gets harder and harder to come clean the more you don’t come clean. Once you come clean, everything is fabulous. Even simple things like, “You want to go see this movie?” “Umm, all right lets go.” You don’t want to sit through this whole fucking movie, eating shitty popcorn. You don’t want to be with this person. You should’ve just come clean. How many relationships have lasted years longer than they needed to because somebody didn’t come clean? That’s the way I see it.