Comic Matt Iseman, ‘Ninja Warrior’ host and ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ winner, performs Naples
Most people quit their jobs to pursue a career in law or medicine.
But Matt Iseman did it the other way around.
A licensed physician, Iseman decided 20 years ago to become a comedian instead, picking up many other “hats” along the way.
Now, his standup tour will bring him to Off the Hook Comedy Club, 2500 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Suite 1100, this weekend in North Naples. He’ll perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and at 7 and 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Iseman has hosted eight seasons of the NBC hit series “American Ninja Warrior.” He admits he’s tried the course once and ended up dislocating a bone in his foot and needing surgery.
Iseman, 46, competed on the latest season of “The New Celebrity Apprentice,” this one rebranded with Arnold Schwarzenegger as host. Iseman won the competition, collecting $978,000 for his selected charity, the Arthritis Foundation; he lives with Rheumatoid arthritis.
He’s kept his roots in medicine, appearing each week on Hallmark’s “Home & Family” to offer his medical expertise and lifestyle tips. “Laughter is the best medicine,” is Iseman’s mantra.
He’s an actor, too, with roles in “General Hospital” (he didn’t play a doctor), “The League” and “Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen.”
His first love, though, was comedy.
Iseman has recurred on “Comics Unleashed” and performs at comedy clubs nationwide. He has traveled to Afghanistan to perform for U.S. troops, and his audio special, “I Want a Happy Ending,” has become an iTunes sensation. You can also hear his comedy on SiriusXM, Pandora and countless radio stations around the nation.
Ahead of his performances in Naples this weekend, he answered five questions.
Q: You’re coming off a win on “The New Celebrity Apprentice.” What was your favorite moment from the show?
Getting to meet everyone was awesome, but meeting Arnold Schwarzenegger. This was a guy I grew up watching all his movies. This was a guy larger than life. Getting a chance to work with him and having him pick me to win was pretty awesome.
Q: What are your thoughts on the show’s low ratings and the feud between Schwarzenegger and President Donald Trump, the former host?
It was weird because (Trump) had nothing to do with the show. We shot it in February of ’16 when he was just one of 16 people looking for nomination. In our minds he had nothing to do with it. When it came out and got political, it was a disappointment. This is a show that a lot of people think is mindless entertainment, but it does a lot for charity.
Q: “American Ninja Warrior” continues to be a huge success. Why are people so enthralled with the show?
I really say it’s the stories. People love watching athletes do all these physical feats on the course but the reason we care about them are the stories … the obstacles off the course.
The stories we get to tell and the impact that these athletes sharing these stories and struggles, it’s easy to cheer for these people because they really are everyday people. Most of our people have full-time jobs. … It’s kind of that American dream encapsulated. If you’re willing to work hard enough you’re able to get on “American Ninja Warrior.”
Q: You gave up a career in medicine to pursue comedy. What’s your advice for someone who thinks they’ve picked the wrong career?
For me, I didn’t have a family, I didn’t have kids. So it was a little easier for me to take a chance. The thing I’ve realized it’s the advice my dad gave me — life is short and do what makes you happy. If it’s possible I always think you have to at least take a shot at doing something you love. If you’re really passionate about something, that comes through and you’ll find a way. I know a lot of people who said ‘My parents would kill me.’ I’m lucky, my parents were supportive of it. At a certain extent you have to forge your own path. Sometimes you’re going to make mistakes and do something that may seem crazy to other people. I don’t regret going to medical school, but I’m so glad that I left and I get to do something that I love. When I go do “American Ninja Warrior” or do stand-up comedy, I’m having a blast. It’s crazy to think how my life has shifted because I really followed my heart and took a shot.
Q: What should people expect from your show?
I’ve been doing (comedy) for 20 years. I always feel like I’m throwing a party. I tell stories about “Celebrity Apprentice” and my love of sports. My interesting point of view — romantic moves, having kids, because I don’t have them, and the struggles of that. Basically if you want to have fun or if you’re at all nostalgic for the ’80s. Come hear from someone who’s left medicine and lived to tell the tale.
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