Over 12 years ago, Ross Mathews was fetching coffee as a “Tonight Show” intern when he was approached with an opportunity that would prove to be the biggest break in his career: producers asked him to cover the red carpet for the premiere of “Oceans 11” when another comedian couldn’t make it. Despite his self-doubts, Mathews went in to the project with a plan.
“I’m self-aware. I know that when I open my mouth and start talking on this national television show, that the audience was gonna start laughing at me,” Mathews told me in studio on “The Ralphie Show.” “I decided… just make sure you get them laughing with you by the end.”
Jay Leno’s audience laughed as Mathews befriended some of the biggest names in Hollywood at star-studded events, and soon Mathews grew an audience of his own. He now is set to debut a new talk-show on E!, and is making the media rounds to promote his new book, “Man Up! Tales of My Delusional Self-Confidence.” His success can be attributed to not just Leno’s confidence in him, but also that of comedian Chelsea Handler.
“Most comics are kind of insecure,” explained Mathews. “So I’ve been luck with not only Jay Leno of course, but now people are seeing with Chelsea like, everyone can win. That’s something she says all the time. There’s room for everybody. When she’s gone, she lets me guest host her show.”
But the entertainer said that while Handler has a sweet side, she ultimately isn’t that different from what her audience sees on TV nightly.
“She’s exactly the same,” he said. “She is biting, and hilarious.”
Handler recognized Mathews rising star by offering him both the opportunity to write this book and shoot a pilot for the aforementioned talk show. His program will debut this fall.
“’Man Up!’ I define as this: yunno you are what you are what you are, and you have to celebrate what makes you different,” he said. “I think you have to use what makes you different to stand out… because that’s when things really happen.”
Mathews cautions that while his tale is one of a small-town boy who grew up on a farm and is gay, the moral of the story doesn’t concern your sexual orientation. But, when you look back at where entertainment was 12 years ago when Mathews first entered our TV sets, it is almost unfathomable.
“This is before ‘Will and Grace,’ before ‘Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,’” recalls Mathews. “I remember being a kid and not knowing what a happy, successful, grown-up, gay person looked like.”
Now, all someone has to do is look at Mathews to see how one fits that description.