He doesn’t sing and he doesn’t dance. He doesn’t do magic tricks and he’s not a stand-up comic (although he is funny). Yet Matt Siegel, host of the popular “Matty in the Morning” radio show on KISS 108, has sold out 10 shows in the past year — each in a matter of minutes — at the 1,093-seat Wilbur Theatre.
While he was confident he could pull off a live stage show, he never predicted they’d be so popular.
“I went and saw Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen where they talked in front of a live audience and I thought: I can do that,” Siegel says during a recent interview after his 6-10 a.m. show wrapped up at the iHeartMedia studios in Medford. “I had also seen a couple of TED Talks, so I incorporated some things I liked from those and took the summer [of 2018] to write it. We did our first one that fall, and it sold out in less than five minutes.”
He’ll be presenting his 10th “An Evening With Matty in the Morning” Thursday at the Wilbur, and tickets are now on sale for the next one, in November. The solo show is essentially an extension of what Siegel, 69, does on the air, only more in-depth and personal. A large video screen — the only item on stage besides a tall stool where he occasionally rests his 6-foot, 3-inch frame — shows pictures of him as a child, pictures of his family (which includes Maryann, his wife of 20 years, and his four adult daughters, on whom he clearly dotes), and other visuals that add to his stories. He also interacts with audience members in a segment called “Right Now” — reacting to what they say is going on at that moment in their lives — that is also popular on his radio show.
“I think that’s people’s favorite part. It’s like a Q&A,” says Andrew Mather, who books Siegel’s shows at the Wilbur. “People really relate to him. What he says and who he is just resonates with the audience. They love Matty being Matty.”
There’s also a more serious, sentimental element to the show, Siegel admits, like when he tells the story of meeting Roseann Sdoia, who lost her leg in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. “After I met her, she told me this beautiful story about the fireman [Michael Materia] who saved her life. He went to visit her and they ended up falling in love and were married,” he says. “I officiated the wedding.”
“It was very sweet,” he adds, as the intensity in his piercing blue eyes softens. “Everybody sees me as the wise guy, but I can sneakily be very sweet when called upon.”
Mather says that when Siegel approached him last year about doing a show at the Wilbur, he thought it could work, given the radio personality’s popularity — “Matty in the Morning” is almost always ranked as the No. 1 morning show in the Boston market — but he wasn’t convinced. “I figured it would have some traction, but I don’t think anyone ever thought we would end up selling 10,000 tickets over the course of this run,” he says. “It’s astonishing.”
Not everyone is surprised though.
“Look at his longevity — close to four decades [at WXKS-FM] that spans across generations,” says Scott Fybush, who publishes the Northeast Radio Watch newsletter. “A lot of these guys who have been around for a while have retired or have gone into syndication. Matty is a rare breed and that’s why he’s so respected in the industry. You don’t get to do this job at the same station for as long as he has unless you’re really good at it.”
Born in Spring Valley, N.Y., less than an hour north of Manhattan, Siegel — who now calls Newton home — went to college at the State University of New York at Oneonta with plans of becoming an English teacher. After teaching a class at the end of his senior year, he approached the professor who was grading his performance.
“I asked him how I did and he asked me how I thought I did. I told him I thought I did well — that the kids were laughing and really into it. He said, ‘Yeah, you’re very entertaining, but you didn’t teach a thing,’ ” he recalls, laughing. “So he basically said, ‘You suck as a teacher’ — although I don’t think he said those words back in 1969.”
When the professor found out Siegel worked at the college radio station, he suggested he try it professionally.
And that is just what he did, landing his first job at a rock station in Tucson, Ariz., where he worked for several years before securing a few other jobs that brought him to New York and then Boston, at rock station WBCN FM. In 1981, he was hired at KISS 108, where he’s been ever since.
‘I went and saw Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen where they talked in front of a live audience and I thought: I can do that.’
“I’m extremely lucky,” says Siegel. “The Wilbur shows are fun, but this show is what I do. And I couldn’t do it without my team. Without them, there is no ‘Matty in the Morning.’ ”
Chief among his crew is “best friend” Billy Costa, who’s been on air with Siegel for nearly 30 years. Rounding out the group are Lisa Donovan, Rebekah “Bex” Maroun, Justin Aguirre, and Winnie Akoury. It’s a team that spans several generations, which helps the show appeal to a wider audience — and provides amusing discourse, especially when it comes to their differing musical tastes.
“I don’t even hear the music. It’s background noise,” Siegel admits.
“What I find so incredible is that you have moms who were listening to him in their cars with their kids, and now those kids are listening to him in their own cars. He transcends generations,” says Maroun, the show’s executive producer and cohost. “He’s that friend in the car who’s making you laugh and the guy you want to be around. He’s home to people here in Boston; they’re invested in him.”
Siegel has no explanation for his staying power. “It really is a mystery to me,” he says. “I’m confident in my work. I know I have the ability to turn a phrase and say something funny at the same time. I’m just very grateful.”
As for the Wilbur shows, Siegel says he enjoys doing them so much that they will “continue as long as they keep selling out.”
“What did I say before? I’m an extremely lucky guy, and if this were the end, I’d be proud of my life,” he says, before adding: “Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want it to be the end. I have a really good life.”Juliet Pennington can be reached at [email protected].