Richard Hay: Where the Hell is Matt Harding?




Matt Harding records people dancing that dance they do — all over the world. Above: A still from a recent YouTube episode.

Okay, you got me.  I admit it.  Guilty as charged.  I am an unapologetic fan of Matt Harding. Shoot me. Ha.

Harding is the brain, brawn and star of Where the Hell is Matt, a YouTube series he’s been posting since 2006.  Now Matt is back with a new video.

Matt, a self-described “marginally talented games developer,” travels and shoots video with a passion. In this video, check out scuba dancing on the Great Barrier Reef, hanging on the Blue Boise State football Field and with the Penn State Cheerleaders, trolling Pyongyang, North Korea, playing with a seal at SeaWorld and a clip on the Gaza Strip.

There are also outtakes I love. Find Matt whirling a hulu hoop on his wrist while the adjacent baby elephant whirls one around on his trunk in Ayutthaya, Thailand. There is also a classic bit “starting the lawn mower” in Cleveland.

What’s it like to be a YouTube Star? Check out this talk he gave at Google on August 18, 2008.  Love the avuncular Buddhist festival in Bhutan story.

Matt claims he now is actually able to make a living for his family in Seattle solely via his YouTube work. That’s amazing. I can’t believe he’s able to cover his travel expenses. So how does he do it?

Good old fashioned marketing. He sells books, shorts, stickers — and advertising and sponsorships. Stride Gum is a former sponsor. Visa is a sponsor now — in return for its cash, Matt creates Visa ads in the exotic locales he visits. Clever.

He explains all this in the video “Matt Harding on Where the Hell is Matt? (2012)”

I challenge you to watch Matt’s videos and not smile.  He does such a good job of tapping into a core theme of humanity. Dancing is a universal.  All cultures can appreciate it.  There is joy in it.  It is visible and a driving theme that really makes his videos work.

Here’s Matt’s first mega YouTube video, circa 2006. Watch Matt dance solo.

Later in 2008 he took the dancing theme to a crazy new level. Check this out.

Remember The Illiad? There’s a moment when Priam, King of Troy, and Achilles, Greek warrior, come face to face after Achilles has killed King Priam’s son, Hector.  Priam wants the body of his son. He disguises himself as a beggar and goes into the Greek camp to plead with Achilles.  And then a bridge is crossed. Suddenly Achilles no longer sees Prium as the enemy king, but as a father grieving for his son.

He goes from looking at the world as “I and the other” to “we are all the same.” He gives Prium the body and lets him leave the camp unmolested. That’s the main message behind Matt Harding’s travel dance video series.

For aNewDomain.net, I’m +Richard Hay.

His latest video emphasizes the universal theme that we are all one in that he intentionally seeks out places that are hard to visit. North Korea.  Syria.  The Gaza strip.  Beirut.  Iraq.  Afghanistan.  And man, he meets lots and lots of people.  Matt might never get a security clearance airspace-wise, but he obviously isn’t focusing on that. For more on Matt, here’s his site at Matt’s website is at http://www.wherethehellismatt.com/

DISCLOSURE: Richard Hay, a senior contributor here at aNewDomain.net, has a day job at Google, where he is a network test engineer at the main Googleplex campus in Mountain View, CA. His views are his own and don’t necessarily reflect that of aNewDomain.net or Google.

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  • Julie Blaustein

    I love seeing where the Hell Matt is – the music alone makes me smile let alone seeing all the places he has experiences and shared his joy of dance. Thanks Richard for your post! Now I know so much more about how Matt came to be the YouTube star he has become and why!

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