Ryan Matjeraie’s all-or-nothing climb to becoming the voice of Malaysia
By Jude Toyat
RADIO PRESENTER RYAN MATJERAIE never expected to become a household name across Malaysia.
Ryan, who has been working at hitz.fm for four years now, was a former host of the 8TV Quickie and 1 minute short variety show aired every night on 8TV, alongside his peers Marion Caunter, Hunny Madu, Aishah Sinclair, and Henry Golding.
He talks to The Borneo Post SEEDS about his rise to fame, and how he wants to be a voice for Malaysia.
“Like many Sarawakians, I very much grew up listening to hitz.fm, but never genuinely thought I’d work for the station. But when it happened, it felt right, almost right away,” he said through a recent email interview.
Describing himself as having pale pasty skin, lanky legs, with a novelty collection of Tintin comic books, this 29-year-old of mixed Iban and Irish parentage was born in Ireland and grew up in Sarawak.
“It was late 2010, where Jake (Jakeman), Brian (hitz program manager) and Moots (Pop Shuvit) picked me from what felt like obscurity – with no radio or TV experience, to start training behind the microphone. I worked as a hitz fm cruiser at the time.”
He doesn’t remember feeling nervous, only that he wanted the job really badly before all his wishes came true in the space of a month.
“From training alone in a glass window studio every morning, I started doing weekend shifts with Jin (Jinnyboy TV), then a Christmas Day shift, then a New Years Eve shift and then finally a breakfast shift to cover on the hitz fm Morning Crew for a week. And by the end of that month, they offered me my first contract, and the rest as they say, is history,” Ryan said of his early experience being a radio announcer.
Ryan has a blast as a radio announcer, and that he’s incredibly lucky for finding something that suits him, “and that I found it in my twenties. It feels almost like I won one of the biggest gambles of my life – which was to forgo a career and life in Australia to pursue a real-all-or-none scenario back in KL where I didn’t know anyone.”
“I came back for 14 weeks to try and find a job in a competitive industry (which involved dozens of auditions and rejections) until hitz.fm came along. In hindsight, it definitely paid off – though it doesn’t change the fact that it was pretty ballsy move!” he added.
Prior to becoming a radio announcer, Ryan was a university student in Australia who also played music on the side.
“The music thing I took pretty seriously for a few years, even working a bunch of odd jobs to fuel that expensive passion from being a waiter, catering attendant, Telco call centre provider, door-to-door salesman, customer service rep, factory worker and a freelance graphic designer,” he said.
During his free time, Ryan runs a satire comedy channel on YouTube called ‘Two And A Half Beards’.
“We do street stunts and skits and inevitably ridicule ourselves in the process. Some celebrities have gotten involved in the channel: Emma Stone, Steve Aoki, John Cena, Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones),” Ryan added.
Ryan regards Harun Sharudin Sufian, more famously known as Rudy, from the hitz fm Morning Crew as his favourite radio announcer.
“Not just because we’re Kuching boys, or that we both work (or in his case, “worked”) at hitz, or that our Dads are like total BFFs (or somewhere close to that), or even that my parents now own and live in the exact house that his family grew up in. Or maybe all of the above! – I don’t even know anymore.
“I just remember how funny, reckless and unpredictable he was on radio at the time – and how unlike any other radio announcer at the time, he just didn’t take himself too seriously,” he said of Rudy, adding that he also loves meeting people who have that ‘to heck with it’ approach of just having fun. “Probably because I need that sorta company to keep me less serious.”
Other people who inspire him are Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Conan O’Brien and John Oliver. “They are the most talented, funny, visionaries who inspire me every week to want to be more myself, because they’re all true originals.”
On his proudest achievement, Ryan recalls a trip he made to New York for work in 2011.
“On my day off I visited Rockefella Plaza (home to NBC’s The Tonight Show, Saturday Night Live, Today Show, 30 Rock etc) purely for sightseeing reasons.
“But after an hour tour of the building, I somehow stumbled across two interns who worked for ‘The Late Night Show with Jimmy Fallon’ outside a gift shop on the ground floor. They were quietly handing out tickets to see Jimmy Fallon practice his ‘show monologue’ before the show taped (talk about being at the right place at the right time!).”
An hour later, he found himself in a small crowd queuing up on the 6th floor before being ushered into studio 6B where Fallon was sitting at his desk with two or three producers.
“I remember him being incredibly warm and inviting to the crowd, and read out his show monologue to us joke by joke, and based on our laughs, would either tick or cross out the joke on the sheet of paper.
“To say I was ‘star-struck’ would be understatement – I was happy enough just staring at him creepily from across the room, but too much excitement he came up to each and every one single one of us before we left, shook each of our hands and thanked us for coming. I went back outside, manually released my butt cheeks and indulged in a small ‘fan-boy-moment-squeal’. Surreal!”
Meanwhile, on his greatest challenge on being a radio announcer, Ryan said: “Being yourself. Getting rid of that insecurity and embracing your quirkiness. The faster you conquer that, the better.
“People love a person they can relate to, someone they feel is real and themselves. If you’re being someone you’re not half the time, people might call your bluff and hold back from engaging with you.”
If he could interview one person for his show, dead or alive, Ryan said that his choice would be Conan O’Brien.
“I grew up watching him throughout my adolescence, and seeing as he’s one of the most talented comedians in the world. I think he’d be fascinating to talk to. He’s had his fair share of ups and downs and I think he’s dusted himself off well,” Ryan explained.
When asked on his quality or personal traits he thinks matters most in his career, Ryan said, “I guess most would say, the voice, the ability to be quick on your feet or even the look.
“But for me, I’d probably pin point personality as the big one! It’s what ultimately sets you apart from anyone else – which when you’re a teenager (or even an adult), may seem like a burden or a liability (to be quirky or different), but really it’s not. A lot of time it is what makes you great.
“Dr. Seuss once said, ‘You have to be odd to be number one’. So, embrace your inner black sheep, I say!”
On what his hopes are for himself five to ten years from now, Ryan says he’s checked off some great items on his list of great moments, but still feels like he’s nowhere near to where he wants to be.
“I hope I keep evolving, I hope I keep having fun and I hope I keep surprising everyone else as much as myself. And I secretly hope I become a sought-out interviewer, first in Malaysia then…*pause for effect*…the world.”
Ryan also advises aspiring radio announcers to take any help that’s offered.
“I’m lucky enough to be able to enriched in an environment where knowledge and experience is everywhere in abundance. Smile lots, don’t take yourself too seriously and jump at any opportunity that arises.
“Make an early start on YouTube or Vine videos, get out, meet people, and make plenty of mistakes! If you’re original and relate well with people, you’ll get noticed.
“If you’re a young creative person, I feel there’s never been a better time to get your voice heard,” he added.
And in the words of Conan O’Brien, “If you work really hard, and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.”
For those who wish to get connected with Ryan Matjeraie, he is available on almost every social media platform.