Person of Interest: Matt Siegel
Thirty years on, Matty in the Morning still rules Boston radio. (And he’ll take full credit.)
THE CELL PHONE INTERRUPTS him. Matt Siegel has just left the studio, and, sitting now in his office, he wants to finish a story about Billy Costa, his cohost on Kiss 108’s Matty in the Morning radio show. Siegel is in an expansive mood: celebrating his 30th anniversary at the station this year, still number one in the ratings — always number one in the ratings — his feet on his desk, a cashmere sweater on his back, a $7,000 Panerai watch on his wrist. But the ringing phone — he can’t figure out how to open it or shut it off quickly enough. He grimaces. “Please, in the name of God, don’t let this be my children,” he says. “Oh,” he says, seeing who it is. “Even worse than my children. An ex-wife.” He fumbles with it some more, finally getting it open. “Go away.”
And with that, Matt Siegel, crass as he may be, has endeared himself once more. Who else consistently says publicly what many of us think privately? Really, who doesn’t want an ex-wife to go away?
Siegel is an aberration: a 60-year-old morning-show host who doesn’t know the Top 40 music his station plays; a guy’s guy — a golfer, a football-watcher, and an on-air ménage-à-trois fantasist — whose show is geared toward female listeners. That the program succeeds at all, never mind that it’s succeeded for three decades, or that it’s done so in a media market as brutal as Boston’s, has everything to do with Siegel’s honesty. There is no shtick with the show. Very little about it is prepared; Siegel is in his seat by 6:15 and goes on-air at 6:17. All he does, day after month after year, is reveal his imperfections, his embarrassments, and his wit — until every listener of every age finds something to relate to. And then they listen the next day.
“Yes, it’s about honesty,” Siegel says. But even that sells it a bit short. Because honesty on the radio is only as good as the person shaping it. Earlier this morning, for instance, Siegel talked on-air about this very interview, how he imagined he would give credit to his staff for the show’s success. He let his silence drag on a bit, and Costa picked up on it. “Yeah, but you’d be lying,” Costa said. Siegel agreed. The truth, Siegel said, is that “I am a genius.”