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The Surprising Lives of Famous Pitchmen: Verizon's Matt McCarthy

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How the redheaded funnyman landed on Verizon FiOS ads.

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"Don't I know you from somewhere?"

This is the question often posed to Matthew McCarthy, the 30-year-old affable redhead who has been starring in the Verizon FiOS (VZ) cable campaign for the past year and a half, long enough to get noticed by strangers.

The son of a now-retired public school teacher and Rhode Island District Attorney, McCarthy says he recognizes that success can be a double-edged sword. "I'm not interested in making money for the sake of making money," he tells Minyanville. Although he appreciates the income from the job, he says he'd quit if it ever interfered with his true passion: comedy.

Growing up, McCarthy loved comic books and pro wrestling. He was a fan of The Bugs Bunny Show and The Cosby Show on television and he watched countless hours of comedy on cable. Today, he often explores the comic book and pro wrestling themes in his stand-up.

There was a stopgap between inhaling comedy and becoming a comedian himself. McCarthy attended Fordham University in New York, where he served as the school's mascot, a ram, for every home game. It was a thankless job that involved being bullied by a rival team and wearing an ill-fitted, sweat-inducing suit, but McCarthy embraced it and added his signature humor. He would often take Fordham T-shirts and write clever messages on them to get the crowds excited. When Fordham played a rival Catholic school, McCarthy wrote "Our Priests Can Beat Up Your Priests."
















Still, after graduating he felt completely unfulfilled working a desk job. In 2003 he stumbled upon an alternative show at a bar called Sin Sin in the East Village. By day, McCarthy worked in operations at Spike TV (VIA) and he spent his nights performing stand-up and sketch comedy, first at Sin Sin and then throughout backrooms and black box theaters of New York.

McCarthy stumbled into commercials. He randomly auditioned for his first commercial for a Sears (SHLD) car battery and got the job. It was enough to allow him quit his day job to focus on acting and comedy.

With his original point of view, his Monty Python-like talent for physical humor, and his distinct Irish looks -- a mop of red hair on his head, a full beard, pale skin, and a slight belly paunch -- McCarthy's career as an ad pitchman took off from the beginning. In just one year, he has starred in commercials for US Cellular (USM), Guinness (DEO), and McDonald's (MCD).

It was FiOS that gave him the recognition he has today. McCarthy said the commercial was originally meant to be "a one-day thing." But the dynamic between the bumbling, oafish cable operator (McCarthy) and the lanky, blond, wholesome Verizon FiOS representative, personified by comedian Jim Annan, was palpable. The company began a series of ads with the two funnymen.

The exposure has rewarded McCarthy in more ways than one. He has a bit part in The Other Guys, an upcoming film from Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. It's McCarthy's first movie, although he has already successfully bridged television and live comedy. On April 15, he will release his first CD of original stand-up hits called Come Clean, and he's appeared on the Comedy Central stand-up series Live at Gotham and John Oliver's New York Stand-Up Show. In addition to stand-up and sketch, McCarthy also co-hosts the short program Action Pack on AMC, which he describes as a "dream job."

McCarthy has also dabbled in writing and performing in his own ads. With two comedy partners, Pete Holmes and Oren Brimer, he was a finalist in contests creating commercials for Doritos and Crunch Fitness and the trio has a deal with Comedy Central to do branded entertainment.

McCarthy has managed to kill two birds with one comedic stone. He breathed life and laughter into the Verizon empire's mission to further its reign in cable, all while spearheading his own.

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