The B/R Interview: Matt Iseman
Matt Iseman is the host of Sports Soup, an original series on VERSUS. The show gives viewers a candid perspective and realistic insight into the sports world.
Pulling material from anywhere and everywhere in the realm of sports—pre- and post-game shows, press conferences, local media, and off-the-wall places—Iseman will call out athletes and coaches, announcers and analysts, anchors and reporters on their comments and actions and make sense of the nonsensical and anything that deserves a closer look.
You can catch Sports Soup Tuesday nights, 10 p.m. ET on the VERSUS channel. To learn more about the show, watch clips, and cast your vote for The Best of Sports Soup, check out www.versus.com/sportssoup.
Here are some excerpts from the interview.
MT: I’ve read about your background and the unique path you took in becoming the host of a sports comedy show. Can you tell that story for us?
MI: I went to Princeton University, where I was a varsity pitcher, which I’m not bragging; I realize that’s like playing chess at the University of Miami.
And when it looked like I wasn’t going to get a multi-million dollar signing bonus, I ended up applying to medical school.
So I went to Columbia Medical School in New York City and got my M.D. While I was there I had a friend doing stand-up comedy, and he started dragging me to open mikes. One night, I decided to go on stage and give it a shot, and I just loved it.
At the time, I didn’t give it too much thought, and from there I went to the University of Colorado for my residency. I was going through my residency, and I just kind of realized that my heart wasn’t in medicine.
I decided to take a year off; I was doing internal medicine and thought about switching to emergency medicine, but I decided I just wanted to clear my brain and do something totally different and re-evaluate where I was headed in life.
So I figured I’d go out to LA and try stand-up comedy because that was the total opposite of anything I was doing at that point.
I didn’t know anyone out there, and I just started doing it. Every night going out to coffee houses, clubs, and bars. Literally anywhere and everywhere; I even did stand-up in a sex shop one night in LA.
But I loved it; I was as happy as I’d been in years. I enjoyed getting on stage and making people laugh, and was fortunate enough to start making a living from it.
At that point the decision was pretty easy not to go back to medicine. It was certainly not the career path I envisioned, but I’m happy with what happened after all the twists and turns.
MT: It’s really a great story; how you were able to trust your gut and reinvent yourself?
MI: I like to think I’m kind of the comedic version of Madonna. That’s something I’ve learned about this business. You have to have the confidence that at the end of the day I’d rather bet on myself than on anything else. I believe I’m funny enough, I believe I’m good enough, and darn it, people like me. It’s like a motivational thing here [laughs].
MT: What brought you to Sports Soup on Versus?
MI: I had hosted some stuff before at E! and had always been a fan of Talk Soup, which is now called The Soup, so when I heard they were doing a show like that but with sports, I just thought that it was a perfect fit given that I had played sports my whole life and was now doing comedy.
What I really like about Sports Soup is that while some of things we cover, like Pacman Jones or Plaxico [Burress], are horrendous, everyone involved with the show still loves sports.
And at the end of the day, as much as we’re making fun of the events that go on in the world of sports, we’re still all watching the games, the pre- and post-game shows; we love guys like Charles Barkley 'cause, my god, he makes my job easy.
MT: Do you ever have trouble finding humor in some of the horrific accidents that are shown in some of your clips?
MI: I absolutely cringe watching them, but it’s not as if we went out and filmed this ourselves. We’re pulling clips that are on a show that they aired, and most of them are looking for a response like, “Whoa man, look at this wicked accident!”
They realize, especially the extreme sports, that this is part of the game. And what is great about so many of the clips is the reactions from the people watching it.
Like there was this kid who broke his wrist skateboarding, and then right after he was put into a cast, he went back out skateboarding and broke his leg the same day! And everyone’s just thinking, “Buddy, you gotta start drinking more milk.”
MT: Do you ever improvise during taping?
MI: Absolutely. Sometimes you’re feeling it and you throw a line out there and sometimes you're gold, and other times you're Domenik Hixon and you drop a touchdown catch. And those are times when you realize tape is cheap, time for a do-over, and you come up with a funnier line.
It’s the most fun I’ve had at work. It’s a great show. I think people have been getting it, including the athletes who we’ve been poking fun at; they get the tone of the show. It’s not mean-spirited, and it really is celebrating the lowlights of sports, but in a good way.
MT: How has Hollywood been treating you now that you’re a bit more established out there?
MI: People have recognized me and have come up to me to tell me how much they love the show. It’s an awesome feeling to know that people are tuning in and enjoy the show and are getting it. So far, I haven’t been invited to the Playboy Mansion, but my fingers are crossed. No paparazzi yet, I haven’t reached that level.
MT: I think that’s a good thing. However, that could change, as word is you’re in the newest Transformers movie coming out in June; any run-ins on set with Megan Fox?
MI: Apparently she was staying in my hotel, and I knocked on about 37 doors and didn’t find her. At that point I gave up.
So no, I didn’t, and my girlfriend would have been a little pissed if I had. I probably would have had an Andy Samberg “jizz in my pants” moment; she’s pretty hot.
MT: What advice could you give to the Bleacher Report Community?
MI: Life is short, so do what makes you happy. And if you find your niche and do it well, people will find you.
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