It's whine o' clock somewhere and gay comedian/writer Matt Bellassai is ready with a tall glass in hand.
After gaining success with the Buzzfeed video series Whine About It, he was awarded the People's Choice Award for Favorite Social Media Star in 2016.
He now headlines sold out comedy shows all over the world and has launched his own podcast called UnHappy Hour with Matt Bellassai in partnership with Lena Dunham's Pineapple FM.
Bellassai has a weekly web series called To Be Honest and his first novel, Everything Is Awful: and Other Observations, was released Oct. 24.
He was the Pride ambassador last June in New York City and brought his gay parade to Chicago recently to talk about his life full of wine.
Windy City Times: Where are you from originally?
Matt Bellassai: I am from Alsip, Illinois. It is right by Burr Oak Cemetery.
I went to Northwestern and studied journalism. After I graduated, I applied at a bunch of places, but BuzzFeed is the one that stood out. I got a job offer there and had three weeks to move to Manhattan. I had never been to New York before and only been on a plane twice.
I started doing comedy writing and some camera stuff.
WCT: Did the wine bit start from drinking at the office?
MB: Basically. I was being a low-key alcoholic on the side. I like doing stunt writing. I did a post where I only ate pumpkin things for a week. I did a donut crawl where I went to 12 donut shops in one morning.
There was one post where I was going to get drunk and review a One Direction album. Once I got the okay to drink at work I wanted to see how far I could push it.
If you watch the first couple of videos I did they are super awkward. It was just setting up a camera and trying something. It was not thought out.
WCT: And this led to going on tour?
MB: Well, a year and a half ago I left Buzzfeed to do my own thing. I started doing live stuff, because it translates well. I am essentially doing a monologue on camera. I wrote a whole show to see what would happen.
They put me in a couple of clubs in Long Island to test it out. I walked in with eight pages of my show written down. I just went for it and everyone loved it. None of my career is planned out. I am just trying things out.
It turned into a tour and I did 30 shows last year in 20 cities.
WCT: Why are you in town?
MB: I am just here to visit my family. I come in a few times a year. I will be releasing my book soon and will tour with that.
WCT: What will the book be about?
MB: It is mainly autobiographical essays. It's a collection of my most embarrassing moments. I am just the most awkward person and have always been that way. I embrace it and love it. I think that is what the book is about. I love these awkward stories. They make me the grounded person that I am now.
WCT: Well, readers can identify with that.
MB: It is totally universal. I think everyone deep down feels like they don't fit in. I try to present the most depraved version of myself so people feel better about themselves. Then when people meet me I am more put together than they expected!
WCT: When did you come out of the closet?
MB: I was older. I was about 19 or 20. When I was in high school I wasn't out. I was a nerd so I embraced that identity. I went in hard! I was in the math league and president of the science club. I loved Lord of the Rings.
I went to Northwestern and got more comfortable with myself later. Before that I went to Sheperd High School on the South Side and there was maybe one other gay person. She was annoying as hell so I stayed in the closet! [Laughs]
WCT: Do you have a favorite wine varietal?
MB: I usually drink red on camera just because it is more wine-y. It turns my mouth all red. If I go out for wine I usually like rose or chardonnay. I am basic. I will drink whatever someone puts in front of me!
WCT: Do people send you expensive wine?
MB: I was out a restaurant and the maitre d' brought over a nice bottle. It tasted exactly the cheap wine. They shushed me and told me not to say that out loud!
On camera I chug wine so I should not be a good judge of what fine wine is. Wine is my work drink. When I go out with friends I drink bourbon. It is the only hard drink I can drink by itself.
WCT: Do you regret anything you have said on camera?
MB: Now I have been doing it long enough that I have forgotten things I have said on camera. Sometimes I will go back and laugh at myself.
WCT: Marry, shag, kill which of your favorite menJustin Bieber, Harry Styles and Nick Jonas?
MB: Kill Justin Bieber because he's asking for it at this point, shag Nick Jonas because that's all he's good for, and marry Harry Styles because we have a bond!
Bellassai performs at the Park West, 322 W. Armitage Ave., on Thursday, Oct. 26, at 7 p.m.; visit MattBellassai.com .