One of the best things about interviewing Ross Mathews is there are no surprises since the guy we’ve seen on Chelsea Lately or The Tonight Show is exactly who he is in person – jovial, kind, chatty, hilarious and genuinely happy with where his career has taken him over the past decade. Case in point, last week, instead of the usual correspondent duties on The Tonight Show, Mathews sat in the guest chair with host Jay Leno and all this week he’s guest-hosting for Chelsea Handler on Chelsea Lately. Not bad for a guy who started out as an intern, right?
Following a busy press lunch with stars from E! like Handler, Joan Rivers, Giuliana Rancic and Kelly Osbourne at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour in Pasadena, Mathews sat down with AfterElton.com to chat about the multitude of things he’s juggling at the moment.
AfterElton.com: You have more than a few things going on…
Ross Mathews: I’m so grateful. Let me tell you what I’ve been doing. I’m traveling the country and speaking at colleges. The thing I am speaking about, I pulled out of the book that I’m writing. By the way, who knew that writing a book was so hard? It is. It is the most difficult thing and the largest undertaking I’ve ever challenged myself with but I think that it’s going to be the best thing I have ever done.
It’s so funny, so funny, but it has such an incredible message that I think is going to be a part of my legacy. I’m so excited for my children to read it when they’re older and read it to their grandkids. It just is so great about loving yourself, about making mistakes, about learning from them, about always trying to be good. It’s hilarious. I am proud of it.
AE: The working title is Man Up, right?
RM: Tentatively right now. There’s some potential other name. I’m going to get it exactly right. By the way, Chelsea has a publishing deal to imprint Chelsea Handler Presents, and she picked me first to be the first book out of the gate and it’s incredible. It’s an incredible honor. I’m not going to put it out there with her name on it, without it being worthy and I think it is.
AE: Who knew that this relationship you’ve had with her would lead to all this. Did it just start with you appearing on her show? Or is there more of a backstory?
RM: We met a couple of years before she got her show and just liked each other so much. She’s had this like meteoric rise that is just unparalleled, it’s incredible. The thing about Chelsea is people know that she’s cutting and she’s funny, but she has this heart that is just amazing.
She has met people along the way that she thought had unique voices and something to say and a point of view that she thought was unique or funny, and she’s brought us along with her. I got two breaks in my life when it came to my career, one being propelled on The Tonight Show as an intern, in front of millions of people. The other was meeting Chelsea Handler.
AE: Chelsea is now doing some sitcom stuff and has her books and other projects. Would you love to follow that same path? I mean, you’re doing a book. The talk show is coming.
RM: The talk show is coming, by the way, that is Chelsea Handler-produced as well. Listen, I always say, who would have thought I would have done this? I was Ross the Intern ten years ago on The Tonight Show. I was the only one who thought, ‘I could do this.’ I always say every Oprah has her Color Purple. So, watch out. Who knows? Remember, she was Oscar nominated for that. You never know what you’re capable of.
AE: So, the talk show…you’re shooting the pilot in March?
RM: In March we’re shooting the pilot.
AE: Since you are going to have guests from this, do you have a dream list? I’m sure it’s long.
RM: Haven’t even thought of it. I have thought about format, I’ve thought about tone, but I haven’t even thought about guests, who I would have.
AE: What is format? What is tone? Is it kind of Chelsea-like?
RM: I think that with a talk show you don’t invent the wheel necessarily. But totally, I would say my comedy, there’s not a victim at the end of my joke. Always fun. It comes from a point of view that’s like the super fan. An unapologetic, unabashed super fan that’s not too cool for the room, happy to be there. I want to create a show in a half an hour that will just make people forget the crappiest part of their day. Do you know what I mean? Then, when I have a guest sit down with me, get a little nugget, a moment that nobody else got with them, which is how I try to interview people.
AE: And now you’re co-hosting for Chelsea on Chelsea Lately!
RM: When Chelsea first asked me to guest host, that was such a game changing moment for me. It was, finally someone was giving me a chance to show what I would do if I could steer the ship for a second. I guest hosted three or four times. Now to guest host a whole week?! Listen, nobody is better than her at it. Nobody is better than her. I’m so grateful for her to give me this platform that she built, to let me rent it for just a little bit, to tell people, ‘Yoo-hoo, this is what I would do if I ever got a platform of my own,’ is an amazing honor and I don’t take it lightly.
Ross interviews Joey Lawrence on Chelsea Lately
AE: Yeah. Was it harder than you thought when you have guest-hosted in the past?
RM: It’s the one thing in the world that I’m good at. I have no other life skills. I’m not good at anything. I don’t know how to fix a car. I can barley change the garbage sack in our garbage can, but this is the thing that I’m good at. When I’m doing it, it goes into auto pilot mode. It feels right. I love it. It’s not an easy thing to do and Chelsea does it better than anybody. There’s a lot going on that you are piloting. Especially with and unscripted, impromptu show like that. Then to do an interview at the end, you’re prepped in all the topics, you’re prepped in your point of view on them all and you’re prepped on a six, seven, eight minute interview that you have to do when the roundtable is over. There’s a lot that goes into it, but it’s the most fun I’ve ever had.
AE: And you were just a guest on Jay’s show.
RM: After 10 years…I have been on the show hundreds of times, only once before as a guest. Now I get to sit with Jay and really talk about…I don’t know if I can articulate what that means. To go from this kid they gave a shot, I feel a responsibility to always deliver for them. To work so hard for ten years and then earn a seat next to him, even though it‘s five minutes, I’m so proud of that. I’m so proud to earn that.
AE: Yeah. How did that come up? Was it something that you were kind of putting out there? Did they come to you and say, “Hey we have an idea, let’s put you in the chair.”
RM: That’s how you get in the chair. You work hard and you get promotable; something that’s worth talking about and you get to sit there. They just called and said, ‘Hey would you be a guest and talk about it?’ I was like, ‘OMG.’
Ross on Jay Leno
AE: That’s so great that that audience, which you don’t typically think of as an audience that would respond to a gay comic or a comic that happens to be gay. I don’t want to label you as a gay comic, but…
RM: You can label me…I am a gay comic. I’m proud to be both, but my comedy isn’t only about being gay. I talk about everything; anything and everything. I would never shy away from being called a gay comic.