Photograph: Austin Young
Ross Mathews has come a long way since he was “the intern with the voice” on the Tonight Show. The bubbly correspondent—often seen as a guest on Chelsea Handler’s talk show, or gushing with celebrities on the red carpet for E! Network—just released his first book, Man Up!: Tales of My Delusional Self-Confidence. The memoir includes some embarrassing stories from his childhood in Mount Vernon, Washington, and a few unbelievable tales from his Hollywood career (including the backstory of how he and Gwyneth Paltrow became best friends on the red carpet). Now he’s on the road, promoting the book and his new talk show, Hello Ross!, coming this fall on E!
Mathews swings through town this Tuesday at Park West. He called Chicago to preview the show.
What can people expect from your set?
It’s more than stand-up. It’s interactive, like a one-man show. We talk pop culture in the beginning, then I bring stories from the book to life. I tell stories that aren’t in the book. I do a game show with the audience. I do a Q&A. And I stay after and sign every book. It’s a whole big thing.
How long are you in town?
I think I’m in town for a day. It’s fast. It’s my first time in Chicago. I’ve been everywhere, but for some reason I’ve never been in Chicago. Can you believe that? I was there once for a layover, and I spent the night in an airport hotel.
Welcome! What do you have planned?
What usually happens is I land, I go to the hotel, I go to the venue, I go home, and I leave. But knowing this is my first time I’m in Chicago, I’m definitely doing something. I want to try a deep dish pizza because I’ve never had it. I kind of want to go to Boystown. Wouldn’t that be fun?
You have a lot of options for bars there. Where would you like to go?
I don’t like crazy sloppy dance bars. I’ll be at the cowboy bar. If you haven’t seen me lasso, you haven’t lived.
You just published your first book, Man Up! What’s your favorite story from the book?
I can’t choose one, but I’ll tell you, because it’s so personal, I loved telling the Gwyneth story just because no one ever believes me. I love the Leno internship story, because I get asked about that all the time.
There’s one story in the book about Tiffani Amber Thiessen. You met her while you were in high school and kind of freaked her out. Have you ever talked to her about that?
You know, Giorgio Armani was getting a star on the Fashion Walk of Fame a few years ago, and I saw [Tiffani] on the carpet. I kind of briefly told her the story, and she was like, “Okay…” That was not the place or the time to tell her the story. But my goal on my new talk show is to get her as a guest and reenact that moment again and make it go better.
Let’s talk about the talk show. Who is on your ideal lineup?
Well, Gwyneth said she’ll be one of my first guests. And Rosie O’Donnell, I want her on. I’d love to have Lady Gaga, because I’ve never met her, and this show is all about the fans. I feel like she would like, she has crazy fans, so I feel like it would be a great forum for them. And then Oprah, of course.
So that’s the dream interview?
Well, I’ve interviewed Oprah. But the dream would be for her to say, “You know what? I want to talk longer. Come with me, let’s go dine together.” I want cocktails with Oprah, I want appetizers, and if that goes well, maybe entrees. And if that goes well, maybe after-dinner drinks. That’s what I would like: to interview Oprah, and then to be sucked into the vortex of Oprah’s life.
There’s one story that’s not in the book, and that’s how you met your partner Salvador. Why did you leave that story out?
People ask me, but I think that’s a different book. This book, to me, is about growing up in a farm town with a dream, and being plopped in the middle of that dream, and what happened. Book Two will be about what happened next.