Matt is a 43-year-old deadbeat from Westport, Connecticut who used to think that all he ever wanted to do in life was make and play videogames. He got lucky, landing a job as a game designer in Los Angeles at a young age, and figured he had everything pretty much figured out.
At 23, he moved to Brisbane, Australia, where it’s a pretty typical thing for people to take off and travel the planet for a while before settling down. He thought that sounded amazing, and was also starting to realize that maybe videogames weren’t the only thing that mattered. So in early 2003, he quit his job to go wandering around Southeast Asia until the money ran out. He made this site so he could keep his family and friends updated about where he was.
A few months into his trip, he and his friend, Brad Welch, were taking pictures on the streets of Hanoi when Brad said “Hey, why don’t you stand over there and do your stupid dance. I’ll record it.” Matt did it, and he thought it looked pretty funny, so he kept on doing it everywhere he went.
That turned out to be a very good idea.
He put the video of his dancing adventures on his blog (back then people had things called “blogs”), and then in 2005 he found it on a new site called YouTube, where some kid had uploaded it, pretending to be him, and like a million people had already watched it. The kid was collecting donations and apparently got about $200 out of it. Good for him.
Matt briefly got micro-famous as “That guy who dances on the internet. No, not him. The other guy. No, not him either. I’ll send you the link. It’s funny.”
In the midst of all that, Matt got an email from a chewing gum company called Stride. They asked if he’d be interested in making another dancing video for them. He asked if they’d pay for it. They said, “Yeah.” He asked if he could go wherever he wanted. They said, “Pretty much.” So he said, “Sure!”
That actually happened.
He made the video, and he got to bring his girlfriend, Melissa, with him to film it. It was awesome. And people liked it. The second video made Matt even more micro-famous, transitioning briefly into quasi-famous.
He mostly just danced in front of iconic landmarks, but along the way he went to a country called Rwanda, and since there aren’t any landmarks in Rwanda that you’d want to dance in front of, instead he just went to a small village and danced with a bunch of kids. The kids joined him immediately and without hesitation. That ended up being the best thing that happened to him on the trip. The kids taught him that people are a whole lot more interesting than old landmarks and monuments.
Matt went back to Stride and told them he did it all wrong and they needed to send him around the planet again. They said, “Okay,” and in 2008 he put out another video that showed thousands of people laughing, smiling, and goofing around together. It took him five years and three tries, but he finally got it right that time.
The internet exploded. Matt briefly went from quasi-famous to not-entirely-un-famous. Visa hired him to do his dance in a series of TV ads that air across Asia and the Middle East, which introduced him to a thing called “Business Class,” and meant he didn’t have to worry so much about money anymore. He settled down with Melissa in Seattle, Washington and bought a house.
Eventually Matt decided there was one thing left he wanted to say that the other videos hadn’t quite said. He knew it was the sort of thing that was going to make a sponsor uneasy, and he kind of wanted to own his work anyway, so he decided to take what he’d earned from endorsements and invest it into another video.
In 2010, Matt started traveling again. He had to take a prolonged pit stop the following year when he and Melissa had a son. After that, leaving home for long stretches got even harder. But he hired a small team to help him finish and they eventually got it done.
Matt put his fourth video out in 2012. He’s really proud of it and he hopes you like it too.
Matt thinks travel is important. It helps us learn what we’re capable of, that the path laid in front of us isn’t the only one we can choose, and that we don’t need to be so afraid of each other all the time.
Matt used to think you were either good at something or bad at something and there wasn’t much you could do to change it. He wishes he’d learned sooner that you can get better at most things just by doing them over and over again. It really is that simple.
Matt was a mediocre student and never went to college. When he got older, he was pleased to discover that no one cares.
Matt is left-handed.
Matt plays a lot of Scramble and Words With Friends. His screen name is BadDancer.
Matt has a little piece of extra cartilage sticking out on the rim of one ear and a little hole in the same place on the other ear. He’s been informed that the extra piece of cartilage is called Darwin’s Tubercle. Matt thinks this is pretty much the greatest name for anything ever.
Matt would like to see the Transportation Security Administration disbanded and replaced with a new system that doesn’t train people to mindlessly obey pointless rules. He believes brief conversations with well-trained humans who make direct eye contact would be a better way to keep people safe without sacrificing their dignity and liberty.
Speaking of which, Matt has never lost a staring contest.
Matt tries to keep his inbox down by answering frequently asked questions, but he’s not very good about keeping it up to date.