Jason Matheson knows what some of you nontolerant folk are saying now that he’s left the Fox 9 “Buzz,” where he modestly predicts the ratings will only climb.
Last week the personality, who has done so much for tolerance in the Twin Cities by being hysterically open, but not over the top, about his sexuality, left Fox 9 to begin working exclusively at MyTalk FM107.1. His TV bosses let him start working at the radio station weekday afternoons four years ago, after his Saturday radio show did so well. And a personality that was already very much in bud on TV went into full bloom. Now Matheson and co-host Alexis Thompson are doing the morning show at MyTalk FM107.1, while he waits out the noncompete in his TV contract.
He’s definitely coming back to a TV station. What was remarkable during his time on Fox 9 is that he never forgot where he was, as there are things you can’t say on TV, while you can say just about anything on the radio. Because I’ve worked with Jason and know people to whom he talks, I was a little like his mom, Dar, in this Q&A. You know how moms have a knack for asking questions the answers to which they already know? But Matheson had a few surprises for me. A huge “Dallas” fan who’s had the opportunity to befriend stars such as the late Larry Hagman and Linda Gray, Matheson is contemplating building his own South Fork in Minnesota. He’s also thinking he’ll marry his boyfriend of seven months, Collin Haas, who works at the U. Humm, I assume Collin knows Jason is an only child?
I interviewed Matheson the day he and Haas were moving into their new residence. For the interview, I wore a jacket I bought in Asia which never failed to get a wry comment from Matheson at the TV station. I baited him on air, even dared him to share with viewers the funny offbeat comments he made to me about my beautiful jacket. He never would (because on TV these cracks would get him in trouble) — until now. It’s on my startribune.com/video.
Q Now that you’ve left Fox 9, can you share any thoughts about your relationships with GM Carol Rueppel and ND Bill Dallman, who helped pave the way for your current success?
A Yeah! I was talking to a friend today who has had a lot of people come up to her and say “Why did he leave?” I’ve said it on the air several times. The proof that there’s no drama with Carol or Bill is the fact that [had there been], I would have been pulled from the air. I remained on the air for the duration of my contract. It was just the deal didn’t work out. Bill and Carol tried their best. I worked my butt off for them while I could.
Q Did you feel any pangs of disloyalty with your departure?
A No, no. Thirteen years. I loved Fox 9. My previous news director [Ted Canova] kept me on the payroll. Then when Fox bought us, Bill changed the trajectory of my career. He was the one who went to bat for me and said, “Hey, we’re going to do this 9 a.m. show. They’re going to let us do something different. Let’s see what Jason can do.” They listened to my radio show [which they allowed him to break out and do] and kind of developed the “Buzz” around parts of that. So no, I don’t feel disloyal at all. I worked my butt off for them. There’s no ill will.
Q You get to wait out your noncompete when you can’t be on TV by being on FM107.1, a great luxury for you. So why play around with this? Today, why don’t you look into my camera and give me the exclusive. You’ll return to TV in a year to take over “Almanac” on TPT2?
A [Laughter] I’m way too dumb. They need a smart person in there. If I’m going to go on a game show, instead of “Jeopardy,” I’d go on “Wheel of Fortune.”
Q Do you think you get better service around the Twin Cities because companies know you can go on the radio and whine for days if you don’t?
A Noooo. I think they know, because I worked at Red Lobster, that I have servers’ backs. I yelled at that woman who asked me for grape jelly with the cheddar garlic biscuits. I told her, “This ain’t Cracker Barrel.”
Q I was thinking about Comcast?
A [Burst of laughter] All Comcast needs to do is put OWN in HD and I’ll be happy.
Q You eat out constantly; what are your favorite five current dishes?
A Can I give you places? Bar La Grassa, their lobster scramble eggs. Borough, it’s also in the warehouse district. I love Zen Box because Lina [Goh] and her husband [John Ng] moved from San Francisco specifically to start the business. It exploded. I am a sucker for beer and ballpark pretzels at Rock Bottom. And Rosa Mexicano’s guac.
Q Can you cook anything, or are you only good at making reservations?
A We make a lot of reservations in this house. My dad’s family was from the South, and I’m from Indiana. [My grandfather] Papaw used to make biscuits and gravy. When he died, my idiot uncles — not all of them; there are two I’m thinking of; one lives here; I love my Uncle Ed — didn’t want Papaw’s cookware, so I took [it]. So I can make a really mean Southern breakfast.
Q Who’s the most annoying personality on Twin Cities TV?
A [Outburst of laughter] In print it’s going to come out funny because I’m joking; I want to torque him. I want to say DeRusha [WCCO’s Jason DeRusha], because I love giving him a hard time.
Q That’s not the one.
A Which one do you want? Oh, you know who’s annoying because I’ll never be that tan or as fit? Sven [Sundgaard of KARE11] It’s pure jealousy, and in print that’s going to come out wrong. Read the words: It’s laughter.
Q On Feb. 8 on the radio with Alexis, you were talking about Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift having a feud. And you said, “There are people on my job I don’t like and I speak to them anyhow …” May I have the names of these people, because I know you were talking about Fox 9?
A [Laughter while beating a pillow] I love everybody there. I do. Look ...
Q Let’s move on?
A Let’s move on. I think everyone is great.
Q I hear you’ve started working on a one-man show — or is it a book?
A I do want to do a book. But I’m toward the end of an outline for a one-man show. It’s on my bucket list. I’ve wanted to do stand-up comedy, and I want to do a one-man show. I loved Billy Crystal’s one-man show, and Gilda Radner’s.
Q That makes me want to know who you think should host the Oscars?
A Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, because they are just snarky enough to play to that room well, but not mean enough where they lose the audience at home or the thin-skinned Hollywood people. I heard this the other day: Billy Crystal told one of the hosts coming up it’s a tough job because after the first 15 minutes you’re talking to the losers, people who haven’t won anything, and they are angry and are not going to be very happy anyway. That’s a really tough room. My favorite host isn’t Billy Crystal — it’s probably Johnny Carson.
Q This is someone who’ll probably never get an Oscar unless it’s for directing: Can you ever forgive Josh Hartnett for being such a slug during that interview you did with him? This came up again the other day when you were saying your goodbyes on Fox.
A For 12 years, I’ve done nothing but rag on him. But he’s a good friend, a longtime friend of Colleen Lindstrom from MyTalk, and she said he’s the nicest guy. I think I just caught Josh on a bad day, because I’ve seen subsequent interviews where he’s much nicer. He still did only say 47 words in that interview.
Q How often do you e-mail Katie Couric and Linda Gray?
A I e-mail Katie maybe once every couple months, just to say hi. Linda Gray I’ve never e-mailed, but I’ve been lucky enough lately because I’ve seen her a couple of times last year, and I just saw her in January.
Q One of my great regrets is that I wasn’t rolling with a video the day you met Linda Gray. Boy, can you cry!
A Oh, God.
Q For an only child, you are not very good by yourself?
A Col and I just went to Target, and I’d just had it [as in enough with the togetherness]. There are moments — and they are getting much more spread out than like 10 years ago, five years ago — that I definitely need my alone time. Tomorrow I may need to take a drive. I still have the tendencies of an only child.
Q Is it too early to say whether you and Collin will get married?
A No. We will.
Q Is it true that Collin’s fussier than you are when it comes to tidiness?
Q Do people call you “Rain Man” because you have a eidetic (I-DET-ICK) memory, like Sheldon Cooper on “The Big Bang Theory”?
A I remember really dumb things.
Q Here’s my magic wand. Name five social ills you’d abolish if my wand was really magic.
A 1) People who drive slow in the left lane. 2) Homophobia, obviously. I’ve received a lot of really nice messages on Facebook. But I joked to Jeff [Orcutt, the Fox 9 executive producer], that come Monday, all the nontolerant folk, all the people who are afraid of the gays, will call to say — this is my imitation — Aw, I’m sure glad that homo’s gone. There haven’t been too many, but I’m waiting for that to pop up on Facebook. 3) Abuse against children. Do they have to be social ills?
Q … No, I’m nothing if not famously flexible. …
A … I’ll be selfish: 4) I’d like to bring Larry Hagman back. 5) I would like for my Mom to be able to retire right now. Once I build South Fork, she can live in a ranch house out back. 6) I’d like lipo. Collin is looking at me.
Q You guys don’t need lipo.
A We’re getting it.
Interviews are edited for clarity and space. Reach C.J. at email@example.com and see her on Fox 9, where she’s going to miss fighting on and off the air with Jason.