Local media personality Jason Matheson is gaining superfans—and for good reason. His Fox 9 program The Jason Show has over 50,000 followers and his myTalk 107.1 radio show Jason & Alexis has been live for over a decade. On top of all that, the Chicago native records a Disney World-themed podcast with his husband, Collin Matheson, called Two Fairy Godfathers. His grueling schedule begs the question, “Does this man have a clone?” Matheson is definitely becoming the Ryan Seacrest of Minneapolis. We sat down with him to learn just how he does it all.
You have so many gigs. How did you become such a mover and shaker?
It’s one of those clichés, but I really was that kid that always knew what I wanted to do. I used to watch Johnny Carson with my grandpa, who lived in the country. There was a giant rock outside their house and I used to go outside and perform shows on it.
I was severely bullied as a kid. I remember a particular moment where bullies had cornered me and one was pounding me on the chest. A sense of calm came over me. I’m not an overly religious person, but I just got this feeling that everything was going to be OK and my life was going to be bigger than that moment.
How did that lead you here?
One of my college professors had worked at WCCO and said Minneapolis was a good TV market. I got up one morning, turned on the television, and there was an Explore Minnesota commercial on. I called my friend that day and said, “We’re driving to Minneapolis.” I applied for an overnight dispatcher position at WCCO, started listening to scanners from midnight until 8 a.m. and worked my way up from there. I am a walking success story for the Minneapolis tourism board.
What makes Minneapolis such an ideal TV city?
It’s the quality of the journalists here. A lot of correspondents came out of Minneapolis. The networks look at Minneapolis as a great TV and TV journalism market.
How did being bullied as a kid shape your approach to storytelling?
I’m very grateful, because all those experiences gave me empathy for those who are different, those who feel left out. I wouldn’t have that, had I not been bullied. I know what it’s like to have no friends, to be picked last in PE class. We don’t cover a lot of weighty topics on the talk show or radio show, but when we do, I can relate, and it’s not BS. I’m not sure who said it, but “My haters are my motivators.” It’s cheesy, but I think excellence is the best deterrent to prejudice of any kind.
Why do you think people love talk shows?
I think they air at a really personal time in the morning when we’re vulnerable. You’re in pajamas, in your bathrobe, eating breakfast. You want to watch someone you’re comfortable with. You have to like the person.
Speaking of mornings, what’s your daily schedule like?
I get up at 3:40. I peruse the internet for 10 minutes to make sure the world hasn’t exploded. I get ready, make a little smoothie, and try to be out the door by 4:20. I get to Fox, because I do both the radio show and TV show from Fox. I go on air at 5:30 for the radio show. In the commercial breaks, I have two TV show meetings. At 10, I do The Jason Show and an audience Q&A from 11-11:30. [After other tasks], I go home, nap for an hour, and the process starts all over again. I call it “feeding the monster.”
How do you work your Disney World podcast with your husband Collin into your schedule?
We go into the studio usually Thursday or Friday in the afternoon and knock out two to three episodes. They’re only a half hour each. Those are released every single Monday. There’s a special pride I have in Two Fairy Godfathers because it’s something we built from nothing. It makes it better because I’m doing it with Collin.
How do you stay sane and healthy with such a grueling schedule?
The last few years, I really wasn’t taking care of myself. I had the worst February of my life…and realized I had to take control. Over the last month, I went back to working out with my trainer and eating like I used to—and going to therapy, for heaven’s sake. Running is my favorite exercise. I live in the North Loop, so I run down by the river, by the Stone Arch. It’s cleansing—it gets me ready for the next day’s craziness.
What do you love about radio versus TV?
There are few joys like making my co-host Alexis [Thompson] laugh. Our show is so light and goofy, and also, because it’s a morning show, you have the opportunity to start somebody’s day off on a good note. My god, what a gift. That makes me feel really happy. I never take it for granted. I think, there’s some guy on I-35W stuck in traffic, and I have a chance to take their mind off things.
Do you have any superfans?
There was a young lady in our audience, a teenager in the early days of chemo. She said, “I was driving with my mom to go to the first appointment…[We] were listening to your show, and you played this goofy soundbite of this goat singing Miley Cyrus.” She looked at me and teared up and said, “In that instant, you made me forget how horrible my day was going to be.” I cry almost every time I think about that.
About a year ago, I went through the roughest patch of my career. There was a substantial rise in horribly homophobic emails sent to the show. I joked, “I’m not any gayer than I was last year. I don’t know where this is coming from.” I literally had a meeting scheduled to tell the station I wanted to leave. That girl readjusted how I felt about social media and the negativity coming in via Twitter. I was putting so much power into people that really don’t matter instead of keeping people like her in focus. I still get the occasional email, but it changed my trajectory of how I go about my day in a public job.
What a touching story. You clearly have a dedicated fanbase here. Do you plan to stay in the Twin Cities for the long haul?
I do. I love it here. The people have been very good to me. I feel like a Minnesotan now. I love Chicago. It will always be capital-H home. But I can’t imagine leaving.
Where are your favorite places to go in the Twin Cities?
Every weekend in the fall and winter, you’ll find me at the Mall of America. It’s very zen to me. I should have my mail sent there, I’m there so much. [Collin and I] go to the same restaurant, Masu, and then we walk around.
Our favorite restaurant is Bar La Grassa. I’ve never had a bad meal there. In the North Loop, the Freehouse and Smack Shack are like my Cheers.
What political causes do you want to raise awareness for?
All LGBTQ causes are important to me, as is anti-bullying. I love PACER—it’s a special organization [for children with disabilities]. One of my favorite organizations is GiGi’s Playhouse. It’s a great center for the Down syndrome community.
On a final note, I wanted to touch on the fact that you were once let go from the Disney Store for not being perky enough. I don’t see how that’s possible.
Yes, I was fired from the Disney Store in 1995. I was pulled into the back by a horrible manager who told me, “This isn’t working,” and I wasn’t perky enough to be a Disney cast member. I had to turn in my powder blue cardigan and my name tag. Also, I wasn’t fired, but I quit Red Lobster when a woman asked me for grape jelly for her cheddar garlic biscuits. She called me a name and I called her a name and quit before they could fire me. I went out in a blaze of glory from the Roseville Red Lobster.
Your hero Oprah also famously got fired as she was coming up. What would you say to people with big ambitions who are picking themselves up from something like that?
I’m not an overly religious person, but I have 50 examples [like that] in my life. Life happens the way it’s supposed to. As cliché as it is, had I not been fired from Red Lobster, I probably would have relied on that paycheck, and it wouldn’t have forced me to get a second job, which was how I got the WCCO job. Everything works out the way it’s supposed to.
Jason’s State Fair Favs
“I basically live there,” Matheson says of the Minnesota State Fair, where he spends time for both his TV and radio shows. “I’m literally there every day, short of three days. I know it well and I love it big.”
What’s your tip for navigating dense crowds?
Be like a shark. You just keep moving. That’s the secret. If you stop, you die.
What is your favorite thing to do at the Fair that’s not food-related?
I will absolutely go to the craft [Creative Activities] building. I love to see what people make out of yarn.
What’s your favorite food?
Easy. The Gizmo sandwich in Machinery Hill. Most days, I end my day with a caramel sundae at the Dairy Building. I don’t know what they do, but it’s magic. It’s better than any soft serve in the world.
What food is your least favorite?
They’re not overrated, because most people like them, but I don’t like the deep-fried olives. Collin doesn’t like them either. The turkey sandwich to-go is his favorite.
What do you drink at the fair?
We’re very simple. All we need to make us happy is a vodka soda. You give us that and we’re happy boys for hours.