On Wine & Whining: A Conversation With Matt Bellassai
For most people, drinking wine on the job is more of a coping mechanism than a requirement. But People's Choice Award-winning comedian Matt Bellassai does some of his best work drunk. The star of his own web series "To Be Honest" and former Buzzfeed writer/video personality has turned drinking and complaining into an eloquent art form with his weekly inebriated rants on everything from airplane etiquette to summertime to babies. He's currently embarking on a standup tour that will see him telling stories and spouting amusing aspersions all over the country. Before hitting the road, Bellassai stopped by the FWx offices to talk with me about wine, whining, and what's next for the Internet's most lovable misanthrope.
ACS: Your current show "To Be Honest" and your Buzzfeed series "Whine About It" both feature you drinking entire bottles of wine. What do you like to drink that's not wine?
MB: My go-to drink is whiskey on the rocks, which I at some point convinced myself was the healthiest option because you don't have to add any mixers to it and it's just straight alcohol, and low calorie, which is absolutely untrue.
I'd always thought it was clear alcohol that had less calories.
Well, I know vodka is made from potatoes so that's basically like drinking French fries.
Good point. Do you actually drink a whole bottle of wine in each video?
Yes. I've gotten comments from some people saying "I hate how you can clearly tell you're fake drunk," and it's so upsetting because I would just fake it then. When we first started I thought about drinking cranberry juice, but you could tell because cranberry juice has bubbles in it in a way that wine doesn't and people notice that. And chugging a whole bottle's worth of cranberry juice is also disgusting. So we went with real wine. By the end of the video, the last few points I make are true, genuine, angry things that I'm screaming about.
What have you learned about binge-drinking?
Binge-drinking is bad, let me start there. Now I'm doing my own series “To Be Honest,” and I'm still finishing a whole bottle but I think it's less apparent. My glass is smaller but I do fill it up between takes. I went to the doctor in December for a check up and I told him "I do this thing where I chug a bottle of wine once a week" and he was shockingly unfazed by it. He said "well, you're young, right? Don't do that forever, and try to be relatively healthy in other ways, but people drink far more than that in a week."
Do you have a routine you go through before or after you drink for the show?
We had to shoot at noon for the best lighting. After we finished I would always go drink a full cup of black coffee and two coconut waters, which was just pouring on more sugar, but it would curb it enough to get through the rest of the day. I would get to that point in the drunk cycle where I'd be depressed, which normally you'd hit at like 4 a.m. when you're asleep and you don't notice it. But when I’m fully awake because I started at noon I would reach it at 7 or 8 p.m., so I'd just watch Masterchef Junior, eat pasta and cry.
Do you or did you get hangovers?
I do now, and it's funny because I always thought it was ridiculous when people would say different liquors make them feel different ways. I just thought liquor makes you feel one way: drunk. But now specifically wine is one of the few drinks that does give me a terrible hangover. Whiskey has yet to turn on me, though.
Related: Best Hangover Cures in the U.S.
Are there specific wines that chug better than others?
Honestly my criteria is pretty much the same as it's always been, which is whatever's cheapest and has the highest alcohol content. If I were going to order a glass at a restaurant I'm a white wine person, but for the show I would always try to pick a red wine because I like that it makes my mouth look purple and if I spill it it's more noticeable. It's a better wine to drink for the comedy of it.
Do people send you wine?
I have been sent a lot of wine from fans and now I drink what I get sent on the show sometimes. People have also sent me a bunch of accessories like wine stoppers.
Wine stoppers seem like the worst gift for someone who chugs entire bottles.
I honestly thought they were butt plugs at first.
You’re going on tour now. Do you get nervous performing live?
I was before the first time, but this past spring I had a bunch of shows in a row and the first one I was super nervous but once I got that over with it was fine. The gratifying thing is that people seem to enjoy themselves for the full show. It genuinely seems like people are having a good time. But also I'm drunk, so who knows? The very first show a woman in the front row projectile vomited halfway through my set. It set the bar pretty low.
When you're performing will people see your "To Be Honest" personality? Or should they expect a different Matt when they come see you?
The name of my tour is "The Drunk & Alone Tour" because my set is basically the reasons I'll be single forever, it's a list of ways I'm a disgusting slob of a person. I'm definitely louder, more animated, more scream-y. Performing on stage instead of just being static in a video allows me to fill the space more. I think I'm also gayer. I tell a lot of stories and, you know, I'm a gay guy talking about gay stuff. So my stage persona is definitely more animated and gay.
Well, either way it's drunk.
It's gonna be drunk, yes. But I'm on stage for a good 70-75 minutes, so I'm able to drink the bottle more slowly.
Do you expect the crowd to be pretty ripped?
Someone from a club asked me on a scale of one to frat party, how rowdy my fan base is, and we landed on my audience being the Chardonnay and Xanax crowd. They can get rowdy until their meds kick in.
Now that you’ve left Buzzfeed, what kind of projects are you working on? What are you interested in exploring other than chugging wine?
That was the scary thing, how much am I actually going to focus on chugging wine? It was important to me to make sure I'm still making videos every week and trying to stick to a schedule now that it's just me motivating myself. I'm writing a book right now. I turned in some stuff and they were like "this isn't what a book looks like." So I’m learning to adapt to the form. I'm starting work on more scripted comedy, a series starring me as the main guy that will be like a medium-form thing. Maybe a TV show as well.
Congratulations on your People's Choice Award. What was that like?
Nobody told me I was nominated. When I first found out, I was in an elevator and some random person tweeted at me "did you know you're nominated for this?" and I was like, well now I do. And then I won and they showed the wrong person on television. They put the camera on the guy in front of me, so I'm there in the background. Any hint of thinking that I had somehow "made it" vanished over the course of the evening. We had fun with it and the next day made a video that was like a public service announcement for people who are misidentified at award shows including me and Miss Columbia. I do have a nice shiny thing I can now put on my shelf, and that's wonderful.
So if you were going to start a winery, what would you call it?
I'm not gonna lie, it could be happening soon. I've also been asked what my motto would be if I was running for president or something and I say it's "who fucking cares?" So I think it would be along those lines. "Who Cares What This Tastes Like?"
"Who Cares What This Tastes Like - Wines for Chugging, by Matt Bellassai."
I like that, I'm going to stick with that. And it will be the best-tasting wine ever.