Matt Bellassai On Life After His People’s Choice Awards Win And The ‘Nerve-Wracking’ Decision To Leave From Buzzfeed (Interview)


From BuzzFeed breakout to People’s Choice Award winner, comedian Matt Bellassai may be running out of things to whine about.

While you may best know him from his hilarious inebriated musings on life and love, former BuzzFeed writer Matt Bellassai just wrapped up a 30-date nationwide stand-up tour while continuing to host his weekly web series, To Be Honest. With a new scripted web series, book, and product line all in the works, the future appears to be very bright for the breakout star.

Seven months after winning the inaugural “Favorite Social Media Star” award at the People’s Choice Awards, we caught up with Matt to chat about his current projects, what it’s like to be a People’s Choice Award winner, and the importance of learning how to just say no to Netflix.

People’s Choice: You’re the reigning People’s Choice Awards winner for “Favorite Social Media Star,” how would you describe the year that’s followed? Did being this year’s recipient impact your career?

Matt Bellassai: Definitely. I won the award in January of this year, and since then, I’ve embarked on my own and I have gone on tour and now have this new product collection out. I’m working on a whole bunch of other projects that certainly were not happening six months ago. It’s been a pretty great six months so far. It’s been an exciting time.

What was it like attending this year’s show as a nominee? Did you have the opportunity to mingle with any of the other stars in attendance?

I mean I was so starstruck. Just being in that room with everybody was so unbelievable to me. I remember sitting backstage in a corner eating a brownie and Chris Hemsworth was in the other corner standing there being perfect and I was like, ‘I can’t believe I’m in this room right now, stuffing my face with a brownie while Chris Hemsworth is right over there.’

It was just incredible to be there and be surrounded by all those amazing people, and then the fact that I won was really incredible.

And speaking of winning the award, there was obviously a little bit of miscommunication on our part when you were misidentified on screen, which you handled very graciously so thank you for that. Did you get to incorporated that moment into any of your material?

It was a lot of fun that night when that happened. They showed that other guy on camera with my name. In that moment, my plus one who was sitting next to me was like, ‘Calm down. It’s gonna be okay. It’s gonna be okay. You still won. You still have your award.’

And then later everyone was like, ‘This is so hilarious; we’re gonna have so much fun with this.’ And we ended up the next day making this public service announcement about misidentified award winners. Me and Ms. Columbia, although she wasn’t a part of it, but she was a part of it in spirit, I felt. So we had a lot of fun with that. And now after that, I still get to have a nice People’s Choice Award statue in the back of all my videos.

But, actually, the day after the award show the guy that they showed on camera, we ended up tracking one another down. And he called me and was like, ‘Oh my God. I had no idea that that happened.’ And he was really great and kind. We still haven’t gotten drinks yet, but I’m sure we will soon.

Earlier this year, it was announced that you were taking a hiatus from BuzzFeed. At what point did you decide you were ready to leave the website?

It sort of coincided with the award show, unintentionally. I’d been talking about it a little bit before then. I’d been at BuzzFeed for over three years, and it came down to making a decision about staying there and continuing to make videos with them, and  being a part of that structure — which is a great structure, but you’re under a company — or kind of taking a step back, taking a little bit of a risk, and going out on my own and being able to make my own videos and have ownership over them, and being able to write a book, and go on tour, and perform live, and not have to be weighed down by having a full time job, but being able to work on whatever I want whenever I want, and have ownership over that.

So it sort of happened a little bit before the actual award show, and then not long after I ended up making the leap. It’s been about six months now, and it’s been going great.

Congratulations on that, too! Obviously, it’s been working out for you.

Yeah, it was definitely not an easy decision. It was very nerve-wracking. The fact that I did win the award definitely helped and made me feel like, ‘Okay, this might not be a terrifying decision. Some people like me, I guess.’ So it helped a little bit.

Recently, you’ve been traveling the country on your “Drunk and Alone Tour.” What’s it like to have the opportunity to interact with your fans in person?

I love it. When you’re just behind the camera, it’s hard to tell if certain jokes are resonating, whether people think this line is funny versus that line. And now that I get to be in front of people live, it’s so much more interactive and present. I really, really enjoy it.

It’s also great to get to meet people directly and hear from them. It makes it more worthwhile to know there’s actually people who are there and it’s not just view counts on a video.

You built such a strong brand at the website with your articles and “Whine About It,” were you at all worried about losing a large swath of your audience?

I think that’s definitely a concern. I think it would be for anybody. BuzzFeed owned the page that everything was posted to, so when I left I had to start from scratch, and I was definitely worried about whether people would find me or like the stuff that I put out.

I assumed I wouldn’t get every single person from the old page, but the fact that it’s been six months and there’s already a pretty good number of people who have come over to the new page and the fact that I’ve been able to do thirty shows this summer on tour and sellout almost all of them is a good indicator that things went pretty well in transition. So I’m happy with it.

Now that you work for yourself, can you run through what a typical day of yours might look like?

Well, I sleep until about 6 p.m. and then I get up and go to the club and that’s my day. [Laughs]. No, I definitely partake in naps far more than I used to. I’m bad at being my own boss; that is the challenge of working for yourself. Having to hold yourself accountable and say no to Netflix every day.

But now that I don’t have a desk job that I go to, I can make my own hours. Most days I’m working on one project or another. Working on a book and working on a scripted web series, so I alternate between writing those things and writing and preparing the weekly videos that I still do.

Are there any specific types of TV/Movie projects you’d like to pursue?

Well I’m definitely a big comedy fan; that’s the space that I’m in. I’m certainly not a movie star person. I don’t think that is in my future. But I’m excited about exploring some different television opportunities.

I’m excited to kinda explore what a longer version of what I’ve been doing already might look like. Taking the personality and the character that people know me by and saying, ‘Okay, what does that look like in a twenty-two minute video,’ or ‘What does that look like if it’s a completely scripted show?’ I’m not quite sure yet. I think we’re still kinda figuring it out.

You also have a new collection of home decor with Fab.Com. Can you tell us a little bit about your line and what makes it so unique?

What we ended up coming with was this collection that features some of my, I say my dumb best tweets, my best dumbest tweets, that kind of capture the personality that people know me by.

Fab does such a great job of making stuff look really cool and something that you’d actually want to hang on your wall or put in your kitchen. So I was super happy to work with them, and I’m so happy with the collection that we ended up coming out with. I think everything looks amazing and people have been super excited about it since we announced it.

(Editor’s Note: You can take a look at Matt Bellassai’s product line over at Fab.com.)

Is there any social media you’ve stayed away from thus far or any platform you won’t join?

No, I think the challenge now is that there are so many. I haven’t explicitly blacklisted any one thing, but I’m trying to get better. Snapchat is the one thing that I feel like I’m bad at, and I need to get better at it. It’s not that I dislike it; it’s just like I’m continually having to remind myself that I have to be posting on Snapchat, so I’m trying. I’m trying to get better. And now Instagram has stories and it’s ruining my… everything. I’m trying to stay on top of it all.

I feel like just posting on social media is almost like a full time job now.

I know, and it’s not conducive to being creative in other ways when it’s like, ‘Oh my God, I have to post on five different things today, and also go write two chapters, and like three pages of a script.’ It’s hard to do everything. It’s the struggle of being on social media in 2016.

Do you know the release date for your upcoming book or is it still too early?

It’s still a little early. I’ll say generally I think the plan is to have it out by fall of next year, but it’s still very early.

And finally, what was it like to go from a writer at BuzzFeed to having your own fans who dress up like you for Halloween? That has to pretty jarring.

[Laughing.] It was so strange. I still feel like it hasn’t completely sunk in that that is a thing that happened. It was exciting and obviously super flattering that I was worthy of someone wearing an ugly plaid shirt and getting drunk.

(This interview has been edited for clarity)

Tagged: BuzzFeed, Matt Bellassai

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