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Mat Best: The Exclusive Interview with the Former Badmuther

Mat Best, the satirist behind the MBest11x YouTube Channel, reveals how he went from Army Ranger to Internet sensation.

Mat Best (not “Matt Best”) is the affably cocky, profanely self-deprecating young man behind the popular MBest11X channel on YouTube.
He is an irreverent, irrepressible smartass who will cut off the filthiest of jokes mid-sentence to hold the door open for an old lady. In short, he is almost impossible not to like.

Best is a former U.S. Army Ranger turned online comedian. Though his initial followers were largely military personnel, his audience has widened considerably into the civilian world. His online videos — which range from satirical tutorials to military-themed rap parodies — have garnered more than 6 million views.

As of press time, his How to Work Out Like an Operator video has more than 800,000 hits, while his Epic Rap Battle: Special Forces vs. MARSOC has received more than 1.2 million views.

Mat's Background

Also, he co-founded and is president of Article 15 Clothing, an apparel company that supports veterans and the Second Amendment. A veteran of five combat deployments, he’s a tattooed, whiskey-swilling master of vulgarity who was a fire-team leader and a platoon master breacher.

He also has a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts, is unfailingly polite to waitresses, and will play acoustic guitar and croon lullabies to his buddy’s toddler until she goes to sleep.

Those are just some of the many complexities of Mat Best. We recently had the chance to chat with him and get inside his head a little bit. He explained how he started up MBest11X, opened up about his time in the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, and told us why the hell he’s so in love with Jameson Irish Whiskey.

Mat Best, Ranger

Mat Best as an Army Ranger. Photography courtesy Jarred Taylor

The Interview

RECOIL: Tell our readers a little bit about your background.
Mat Best: I grew up in Santa Barbara, California, graduated high school, and went straight into the military about three months later. My two brothers are both Marines. They were in the Iraq invasion in the same platoon. They deployed when I was a junior in high school, and it was when they deployed that I got really serious about joining the military. I had a best friend in high school who showed me what the Rangers were, and the second I saw what they were I was like, “Yeah, I’m going to be a Ranger.” I was 17 when I joined, and I turned 18 during basic training.

RECOIL: So you’re Army in a Marine family?
MB: Yes. My two brothers are Marines, my dad was a Marine in Vietnam, and my grandfather was a Marine. I broke the chain. [Laughs.] There’s always been a family rivalry thing since I went in.

RECOIL: What was it like once you were in?
MB: After training I got sent to 2nd Battalion. I showed up and the whole battalion was already deployed. There was hardly anyone there, just a few NCOs [non-commissioned officers] who smoked me. So I was there I think for two weeks. Then they were like, “Here’s your packing list. Here’s your gear. You’re going over.” I flew over with a Stryker and five other privates and met my platoon in Mosul.

RECOIL: How did you get started doing satire and comedy videos?
Mat Best: It started while I was OCONUS for work. The first couple of videos were a joke, but the first one got 30,000 hits, so I said, “Hmm, maybe I can do this!” How To Be an Operator was my first real hit. It was my fifth video. It just sort of took off from there.


RECOIL: Creativity and skit writing — does this stuff just come to you?
MB: I come up with a general idea then brainstorm about different funny aspects of that idea. Like, the community is so obsessed with the term “operator” even when no one really knows what it means, but everybody wants to be a part of it. So I thought, let’s just make fun of the SOF [special operations forces] guys. Civilians view them as these “black ops super serious guys” when, at the end of the day, they’re kind of a bunch of jokesters who professionally are very serious, but don’t look in the mirror and say, “We’re gods of war.”

RECOIL: Though a lot of people respond positively to your videos, you still get a lot of criticism. Have you run into any problems or had any issues with people?
MB: You know, these videos are very personality based. That’s my personality coming through. I’m being who I am, not trying to fake it. There are going to be people who think I’m a douchebag. There are going to be people who hate on my tattoos. Some have said I’m not professional, or maybe they don’t know my background and want to know who I think I am. One person thought I was promoting drinking and guns — understandably, but we use airsoft guns when we’re shooting videos and drinking. And it’s satire. C’mon.

RECOIL: You make fun of SEALs, MARSOC, Special Forces and others in your videos — how does the community respond to that?
MB: I have the utmost reverence for everyone in the SOF community. There’s always a rivalry, but at the end of the day each unit exists for a reason. A lot of my material actually comes from the guys I work with, like the SEAL team comment in How To Work Out Like an Operator. That came from a former SEAL sitting in a vehicle with me once.

As for the SF guys, it was dudes from an ODA [Operational Detachment-Alpha team] who sent me the berets for Epic Rap Battle: Special Forces vs. MARSOC. Most of them get it. Some don’t. You make fun of people because you respect them. I have nothing but love for those guys.

Mat Best on a chopper.

RECOIL:  Why Jameson? Are they a sponsor?
MB: I’m not sponsored by Jameson. [Laughs.] Jameson is my whiskey. Everyone in Ranger Batt drank it, and then I started drinking it and never looked back. I’m perfectly willing to let them sponsor me, though!

RECOIL: What’s the best part of it?
Mat Best: The emails I get from followers. I know, it sounds so cliché, but when some guy says, “I just had the worst day of my life and your videos are something that keeps me smiling” — that shit almost makes me tear up.

RECOIL: What’s the worst part of it?
MB: Expectations. People expect you to be putting out videos consistently and sometimes I feel like I won’t fulfill those expectations. It’s kind of a stressor a little bit. Well, what happens if the next video flops?

RECOIL: Taking out the politics, if you had to do it over again, would you have stayed in Ranger Batt or gone on to do what you’re doing now?
MB: I would have stayed in and beat it to death. If you get out and you’re unsure, you’re going to have regrets forever. If you know you need to get out of the Army, then you won’t look back and say, “Maybe I should have.” I would have reenlisted for about three more years, not had that stint in Los Angeles. I would have gone to snipers and then got out. I’d have been satisfied then. I’m not a career military guy, but I’d have stayed a little longer.

This Mat Best interview originally appeared in RECOIL Issue 14

Corey Graff contributed to this article.

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