Person

Matt Christman

Occupation:

Podcaster

Co-Founder and Co-Host, Chapo Trap House

Political Ideology:

Socialist

From:

Manitowoc, Wisconsin

Matt Christman is one of three co-founders and regular co-hosts of Chapo Trap House (Chapo), a for-profit socialist podcast. As of March 2019, Chapo reportedly grossed more than $120,000 per month through the website Patreon. [1]

Christman attended Carroll College in Wisconsin and met his wife in Milwaukee, later following her to her career stops in four other states, but never found a career of his own. “I had come to terms with the idea that I was basically unemployable and I was never going to have a job again,” he told an interviewer in 2016. “I was just going to be like a failguy.” [2]

His family was apolitical. Before embracing the socialist left Chapman has said he had a “libertarian instinct” regarding personal autonomy but never accepted the “economic part of it.” [3] He is a former active member of the Democratic Socialists of America and participated in the founding of a DSA local. [4] He is critical of conventional liberal Democrats, saying, “Too many people in whatever the hell the progressive movement is are primarily interested in maintaining a brand or position within it,” and that this “explains both the smug neoliberalism of so many media figures and members of the Democratic policy apparatus.” [5]

Christman has identified as essential reading Karl Marx’s essay “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon” and the first volume of Marx’s Das Kapital. [6] Regarding conventional employment, he believes “jobs suck and work sucks” and that “constant [economic] growth is just an insane system that no one questions.” [7]

General Background

Matt Christman is one of three co-founders and regular co-hosts of Chapo Trap House (Chapo), a for-profit political podcast from a hard-left, anti-capitalist perspective, that includes coarse language and comedic parody. The other co-founders are Will Menaker and Felix Biederman. The three friends met on twitter and began podcasting together as Chapo in March 2016. [8] As of March 2019, Chapo reportedly grossed more than $120,000 per month through the website Patreon. [9]

Christman grew up in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, with what he describes as “basically an apolitical” family that did not discuss politics. He says his father was a Republican “into talk radio,” but not “fixated on it,” and his mother did not express her political views. Before drifting to the hard left, he says he had a “libertarian instinct” regarding personal autonomy, but never accepted the “economic part of it.” [10]

His father died during his junior year in high school. During his senior year he developed an abscess on his spinal cord that left him temporarily in a wheelchair and needing “four/five months” of rehabilitation work before he could walk again. He has never made a full recovery and still walks with a limp. [11]

He has speculated that this physical challenge steered him in the direction of leftist politics, citing another Chapo contributor’s thoughts: “Amber [A’Lee Frost]’s theory is you see white males who are committed Leftists, and if they’re serious about it, there’s something that happened that gave them a sense of real vulnerability. They don’t take for granted their position anymore.” [12]

Elaborating further, Christman has said the spinal illness led to his “hyper-awareness of the happenstance of distribution of resources and abilities” and to him becoming “disabused of the idea that anybody can deserve anything, really, in this life.” [13]

He attended Carroll College in Wisconsin and met his wife in Milwaukee. He followed her to her career stops in four other states, but never found a career of his own. “I had come to terms with the idea that I was basically unemployable and I was never going to have a job again,” he told an interviewer in 2016. “I was just going to be like a failguy.” [14]

Some of this time he spent on Twitter, shooting off one-liners and political observations, which is what led to his connection with Menaker and Biederman. Describing this period of his life, he said: “I basically took a lot of frustration and confusion and dumped it all online.” [15]

Political Ideology

Christman is a former active member of the Democratic Socialists of America and participated in founding a DSA local when he lived in Cincinnati, Ohio. He believes the “United States has no meaningful Left and it hasn’t for a generation” so the DSA has allowed people to relearn “a socialist tradition that has been completely obliterated over the last thirty years.” He told a 2019 interviewer that “activating people has to be the number one goal” because the “insufficiency of the Left right now is the one abiding reality that everyone should be operating off of.” [16]

Regarding conventional employment, Christman has said “jobs suck and work sucks.” Elaborating on his theory for the entire nation, he says “constant [economic] growth is just an insane system that no one questions” and that we “could make it so that people had to work less” because we “have the [expletive deleted] lucre.” [17]

Christman has identified as essential reading Karl Marx’s essay “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon” and the first volume of Marx’s Das Kapital. He believes that a full understanding of Marxist theory allows a reader to accurately analyze modern political and cultural developments and their relationship to one another. [18]

Analyzing mainstream liberal Democrats in July 2016, Christman concluded their objective is too often the attainment of their own personal power and self-aggrandizement:[19] [20]

“Too many people in whatever the hell the progressive movement is are primarily interested in maintaining a brand or position within it. That explains both the smug neoliberalism of so many media figures and members of the Democratic policy apparatus, but it also explains the people who insist on turning every issue and dispute into a language game in which they are the ones who hold the rule book.”

Goals for Chapo

In June 2016, Christman created the page for Chapo on the podcast crowd-funding website Patreon. Chapo offers exclusive subscriber content in exchange for a five-dollar monthly donation. [21] By mid-March 2019, Chapo had grown to Patreon’s second-largest podcast, with more than 27,523 subscribers and $122,928 in revenue for the month. This was $11,996 higher than reported monthly revenue from three months earlier (December 2018). [22]

In a June 2016 interview he described his objectives for the show and how he prepares for each episode: [23] [24]

“I spend the week watching the grinding awfulness of the political discourse play out, seeing crimes great and small get immediately smothered in an obfuscatory avalanche of sanctimony, linguistic gymnastics and prevarication, and by the end of it my main goal on the podcast is to just point out, as lucidly and (ideally) humorously as I can, what the hell is actually going on.”

Of the show’s format he has said the “whole project comes from genuine feelings of anger and frustration and moral horror at what we see around us,” and that he rejects left-wing critics who accuse Chapo of being “nihilistic” or merely a vehicle for irony. “The irony that people are caught pointing to — it’s literally just humor,” he said in a September 2018 interview. “I feel like a lot of critics specifically on the Left are just personally incapable of processing comedy.” [25]

Defining part of the Chapo audience in the same interview, Christman has said it would have been difficult to have the same level of success in Western Europe because “We’re drawing our audience from this pool of people who kind of don’t exist in these softer, market economies of Europe, because Europeans don’t throw their young people to the wolves the way we do.” [26]

Elaborating further, he noted: [27]

“You’re basically dealing with people who are without a sense of a future, period. Even if they could get a job, they’re acutely aware of the systemic breakdown happening all around us. And I think that our show’s value, above all, is to articulate an explanation for why that is — that doesn’t involve scapegoating the most vulnerable people in a society and instead points at the most culpable, which is the capitalist class.”

Election Night 2018 Controversy

During Chapo’s 2018 election night coverage, which included a live video stream, a visibly and profoundly intoxicated Christman launched into a rant against both the Democratic Party and the American two-party system. [28]

“Democrats suck a–! There is no hope … in the modern … party … system,” he shouts at one point. “Kill yourself – And kill everyone around you.” [29]

“No. No, no,” corrected co-host Will Menaker, who was taking a live phone call from a guest. [30]

Later, swaying from side to side, having difficulty holding his head up, and being held in place by a co-host, Christman slurs: “Trump will win in 2020 and be a two term…”[31]

At this point the broadcast appears to cut off and go to a break. [32]

In its coverage of the incident, the far-right website Breitbart News asserted Patreon’s terms of service prohibit “hate speech” and speculated Christman’s behavior may have violated those standards. Breitbart posted two video clips from the evening that had been preserved independently by Twitter viewers. [33]

Hallucinogen Use

Christman has admitted to two instances of using LSD (the illegal hallucinogenic lysergic acid diethylamide) since his work began with Chapo. On the March 9, 2019, Chapo podcast, covering their visit to the 2019 Conservative Political Action Conference, he states that he used “acid” upon entry to the event on the first day. [34] He also notes that he did so during July 2018 at the OZY Fest 2018 event in New York City’s Central Park, which featured a speech by Hillary Clinton. A Rolling Stone reporter attending the New York City event with the Chapo team corroborated that both Christman and Chapo co-host Will Menaker used the drug that day. [35]

References

  1. “Top Patreon Creators.” graphtreon.com. Accessed March 13, 2019. https://graphtreon.com/top-patreon-creators
  2. Shade, Colette. “THE RADICAL CHEEK OF ‘CHAPO TRAP HOUSE.’” Pacific Standard. November 4, 2016. Accessed March 13, 2019. https://psmag.com/news/the-radical-cheek-of-chapo-trap-house 
  3. Schiller, Lucy. “Forward Left: An Interview with Matt Christman of Chapo Trap House.” Counterpunch. February 8, 2019. Accessed March 19, 2019. https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/02/08/forward-left-an-interview-with-matt-christman-of-chap-trap-house/
  4. Schiller, Lucy. “Forward Left: An Interview with Matt Christman of Chapo Trap House.” Counterpunch. February 8, 2019. Accessed March 19, 2019. https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/02/08/forward-left-an-interview-with-matt-christman-of-chap-trap-house/
  5. Rhode, Jason. “Chapo Trap House are the Vulgar, Brilliant Demigods of the New Progressive Left.” Paste Magazine. July 29, 2016. Accessed March 14, 2019. https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2016/07/chapo-trap-house-are-the-vulgar-brilliant-demigods.html
  6. Shade, Colette. “THE RADICAL CHEEK OF ‘CHAPO TRAP HOUSE.’” Pacific Standard. November 4, 2016. Accessed March 13, 2019. https://psmag.com/news/the-radical-cheek-of-chapo-trap-house 
  7. Shade, Colette. “THE RADICAL CHEEK OF ‘CHAPO TRAP HOUSE.’” Pacific Standard. November 4, 2016. Accessed March 13, 2019. https://psmag.com/news/the-radical-cheek-of-chapo-trap-house 
  8. Shade, Colette. “THE RADICAL CHEEK OF ‘CHAPO TRAP HOUSE.’” Pacific Standard. November 4, 2016. Accessed March 13, 2019. https://psmag.com/news/the-radical-cheek-of-chapo-trap-house
  9. “Top Patreon Creators.” graphtreon.com. Accessed March 13, 2019. https://graphtreon.com/top-patreon-creators
  10. Schiller, Lucy. “Forward Left: An Interview with Matt Christman of Chapo Trap House.” Counterpunch. February 8, 2019. Accessed March 19, 2019. https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/02/08/forward-left-an-interview-with-matt-christman-of-chap-trap-house/
  11. Schiller, Lucy. “Forward Left: An Interview with Matt Christman of Chapo Trap House.” Counterpunch. February 8, 2019. Accessed March 19, 2019. https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/02/08/forward-left-an-interview-with-matt-christman-of-chap-trap-house/
  12. Schiller, Lucy. “Forward Left: An Interview with Matt Christman of Chapo Trap House.” Counterpunch. February 8, 2019. Accessed March 19, 2019. https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/02/08/forward-left-an-interview-with-matt-christman-of-chap-trap-house/
  13. Schiller, Lucy. “Forward Left: An Interview with Matt Christman of Chapo Trap House.” Counterpunch. February 8, 2019. Accessed March 19, 2019. https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/02/08/forward-left-an-interview-with-matt-christman-of-chap-trap-house/
  14. Shade, Colette. “THE RADICAL CHEEK OF ‘CHAPO TRAP HOUSE.’” Pacific Standard. November 4, 2016. Accessed March 13, 2019. https://psmag.com/news/the-radical-cheek-of-chapo-trap-house 
  15. Shade, Colette. “THE RADICAL CHEEK OF ‘CHAPO TRAP HOUSE.’” Pacific Standard. November 4, 2016. Accessed March 13, 2019. https://psmag.com/news/the-radical-cheek-of-chapo-trap-house 
  16. Schiller, Lucy. “Forward Left: An Interview with Matt Christman of Chapo Trap House.” Counterpunch. February 8, 2019. Accessed March 19, 2019. https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/02/08/forward-left-an-interview-with-matt-christman-of-chap-trap-house/
  17. Shade, Colette. “THE RADICAL CHEEK OF ‘CHAPO TRAP HOUSE.’” Pacific Standard. November 4, 2016. Accessed March 13, 2019. https://psmag.com/news/the-radical-cheek-of-chapo-trap-house 
  18. Shade, Colette. “THE RADICAL CHEEK OF ‘CHAPO TRAP HOUSE.’” Pacific Standard. November 4, 2016. Accessed March 13, 2019. https://psmag.com/news/the-radical-cheek-of-chapo-trap-house 
  19. Rhode, Jason. “Chapo Trap House are the Vulgar, Brilliant Demigods of the New Progressive Left.” Paste Magazine. July 29, 2016. Accessed March 14, 2019. https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2016/07/chapo-trap-house-are-the-vulgar-brilliant-demigods.html
  20. Rhode, Jason. “Chapo Trap House are the Vulgar, Brilliant Demigods of the New Progressive Left.” Paste Magazine. July 29, 2016. Accessed March 14, 2019. https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2016/07/chapo-trap-house-are-the-vulgar-brilliant-demigods.html
  21. Tolentino, Jia. “What Will Become of the Dirtbag Left?” The New Yorker. November 18, 2016. Accessed March 13, 2019. https://www.newyorker.com/culture/persons-of-interest/what-will-become-of-the-dirtbag-left
  22. “Top Patreon Creators.” graphtreon.com. Accessed March 19, 2019. https://graphtreon.com/top-patreon-creators
  23. Rhode, Jason. “Chapo Trap House are the Vulgar, Brilliant Demigods of the New Progressive Left.” Paste Magazine. July 29, 2016. Accessed March 14, 2019. https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2016/07/chapo-trap-house-are-the-vulgar-brilliant-demigods.html
  24. Rhode, Jason. “Chapo Trap House are the Vulgar, Brilliant Demigods of the New Progressive Left.” Paste Magazine. July 29, 2016. Accessed March 14, 2019. https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2016/07/chapo-trap-house-are-the-vulgar-brilliant-demigods.html
  25. Uetricht, Micah; and Matt Christman. “Chapo Trap House, Between Hope and Nihilism.” Jacobin. September 7, 2018. Accessed March 19, 2019. https://www.jacobinmag.com/2018/09/chapo-trap-house-guide-to-revolution
  26. Uetricht, Micah; and Matt Christman. “Chapo Trap House, Between Hope and Nihilism.” Jacobin. September 7, 2018. Accessed March 19, 2019. https://www.jacobinmag.com/2018/09/chapo-trap-house-guide-to-revolution
  27. Uetricht, Micah; and Matt Christman. “Chapo Trap House, Between Hope and Nihilism.” Jacobin. September 7, 2018. Accessed March 19, 2019. https://www.jacobinmag.com/2018/09/chapo-trap-house-guide-to-revolution
  28. Caplan, Joshua. “‘Chapo Trap House’ Host Matt Christman: ‘Kill Yourself and Kill Everyone Around You.’” Breitbart. November 6, 2018. Accessed March 19, 2019.  https://www.breitbart.com/tech/2018/11/06/chapo-trap-house-host-matt-christman-kill-yourself-and-kill-everyone-around-you/
  29. Caplan, Joshua. “‘Chapo Trap House’ Host Matt Christman: ‘Kill Yourself and Kill Everyone Around You.’” Breitbart. November 6, 2018. Accessed March 19, 2019.  https://www.breitbart.com/tech/2018/11/06/chapo-trap-house-host-matt-christman-kill-yourself-and-kill-everyone-around-you/
  30. Caplan, Joshua. “‘Chapo Trap House’ Host Matt Christman: ‘Kill Yourself and Kill Everyone Around You.’” Breitbart. November 6, 2018. Accessed March 19, 2019.  https://www.breitbart.com/tech/2018/11/06/chapo-trap-house-host-matt-christman-kill-yourself-and-kill-everyone-around-you/
  31. Caplan, Joshua. “‘Chapo Trap House’ Host Matt Christman: ‘Kill Yourself and Kill Everyone Around You.’” Breitbart. November 6, 2018. Accessed March 19, 2019.  https://www.breitbart.com/tech/2018/11/06/chapo-trap-house-host-matt-christman-kill-yourself-and-kill-everyone-around-you/
  32. Caplan, Joshua. “‘Chapo Trap House’ Host Matt Christman: ‘Kill Yourself and Kill Everyone Around You.’” Breitbart. November 6, 2018. Accessed March 19, 2019.  https://www.breitbart.com/tech/2018/11/06/chapo-trap-house-host-matt-christman-kill-yourself-and-kill-everyone-around-you/
  33. Caplan, Joshua. “‘Chapo Trap House’ Host Matt Christman: ‘Kill Yourself and Kill Everyone Around You.’” Breitbart. November 6, 2018. Accessed March 19, 2019.  https://www.breitbart.com/tech/2018/11/06/chapo-trap-house-host-matt-christman-kill-yourself-and-kill-everyone-around-you/
  34. Grey Wolf YouTube channel. “Chapo Trap House – CPAC: Judgment Days (3/4/19).” YouTube. Accessed March 20, 2019. https://youtu.be/7HJuk-dhPcU?t=718
  35. Peck, Jamie. “A Neoliberal Nightmare at OZY Fest 2018.” Rolling Stone. July 23, 2018. Accessed March 20, 2019. https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-features/a-neoliberal-nightmare-at-ozy-fest-2018-702600/

Connected Organizations

  1. Chapo Trap House (For-profit)
    Co-Host
  2. Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) (Non-profit)
    Former Member and Cincinnati, OH Chapter Founder
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