Image via Matthew McConaughey / YouTube

15 Things I Learned From Matthew McConaughey’s Weird YouTube History

His amateurish personal channel is just the beginning

As you’ve probably heard, the internet has been baffled and delighted by the recently unearthed Matthew McConaughey YouTube account. It’s got a verified checkmark and everything — but until last week, it had only about 240 subscribers. After Redditor S1icedBread shared the “discovery,” that number ballooned to over 75,000.

The channel has probably been overlooked since its creation two years ago because it only hosts six videos. Two of them are trailers for the now-released Kubo and the Two Strings (currently at 96 percent on the Tomatometer) and the upcoming Sing (which looks pretty cool — think American Idol meets Zootopia), both animated features with McConaughey in a voice role. The other four videos are all of the Texan Oscar-winner soliciting support for various charities, including his own just keep livin Foundation (yes, stylized just like that), which “is dedicated to empowering high school students by providing them with the tools to lead active lives and make healthy choices for a better future.”

Lost in all the press around the “found” McConaughey YouTube channel is that there’s actually plenty of McConaughey to go around on YouTube. (Matthew McConaughey is large, he contains multitudes.) To break down solely these four videos and leave it at that would be to deny ourselves the many joys of McConaughey; to understand it all, though, we should start with the hackneyed monstrosities on his own channel…

  1. The oldest video on the official McConaughey channel is from September 2014. McConaughey, scruffy and wearing only a plain white tank top, stares directly into the camera. “Hey, McConaughey comin’ to you from Austin, Texas,” he opens, before extolling the virtues of I Am Waters, a charity dedicated to providing the homeless with clean water. It lasts all of 32 seconds and establishes two things: The man is super charitable (at least on YouTube), and he doesn’t have any clue what the fuck he’s doing. All four videos are filmed in portrait alignment, instead of landscape like any rational person would do. It looks like a kitchen is behind him, possibly? Either way, the house seems very small for where you’d expect an A-lister to be L-I-V-I-N.

2. The second video was posted on December 2, 2014, and I don’t think McConaughey has shaved in the three months since the first one. He’s rocking that scraggly Free State of Jones beard and a knit cap. He’s sitting in more or less the same place as his first YouTube effort, having moved just enough that now the fucking ceiling fan is his backdrop instead of the kitchen. “Hey everybody, McConaughey here, hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving. I know we did.” This one clocks in at 49 seconds, and is basically a thank-you video for donations to the jkl Foundation’s #GivingTuesday campaign. He signs off with a salute, a smile, a tongue click and a “just keep livin.” Not exactly, alright, alright, alright, but it has a certain charm.

3. The third video is shot in the same exact spot as the second one, ceiling fan and all. There’s some sort of electrical buzzing in the background — a light? An A/C unit? — that’s weird and distracting. McConaughey is back to just the scruffy look, now with buzzed hair and (of course) a Texas Longhorns T-shirt. There’s what I think is a vacuum cleaner visible over his shoulder. The video is once again for I Am Waters, and clocks in at 44 seconds. He signs off with the same click, salute and “just keep livin” mantra.

4. In video number four, he’s (shockingly) sitting in the same room as the other videos, but he’s at least rotated himself so the ceiling fan is several feet away. He’s so close to the camera there’s almost a fish-eye effect. He’s still got the buzzed hair, and he’s once again pimping the jkl Foundation’s #GivingTuesday campaign, which he manages to ramble about for 108 seconds.

5. So the McConaughey YouTube channel is somewhat of a bust. Big deal. Like I said, there’s all kinds of other McConaughey greatness to be found on YouTube. For example, the trailer for Frailty, which came out a decade before the McConaissance started. (The whole thing is available to stream via HBO.) From IMDB: “A man confesses to an FBI agent his family’s story of how his religious fanatic father’s visions lead to a series of murders to destroy supposed ‘demons.’” But that just scratches the surface. It’s a fantastic thriller that makes you question what’s real, what justifies murder and what we will do for our family, and McConaughey delivers an incredible performance as the grown son of a serial killer confessing his father’s crimes.

6. There are also some phenomenal McConaughey film scenes entirely contained within the confines of YouTube, like his big dance in Magic Mike. Same for his one major scene in Wolf of Wall Street. You can watch the entire 6-minute scene here. According to IMDB, the chest pounding was ad-libbed by McConaughey and is one of his standard warm-ups. Leo looking to the side was actually him checking with Scorsese to see what the hell was going on.

7. Occasionally, though, the best McConaughey performance comes from films he wasn’t in at all, such as this Force Awakens casting parody.

8. And sometimes the best McConaughey isn’t even McConaughey — it’s other celebrities doing McConaughey impressions. Here are 10 of them doing so (Kate Hudson and Channing Tatum chief among them). Spoilers: Matt Damon appears twice and he’s twice as good at it as everyone else.

9. The only person who comes close to Damon — though nothing beats his “We’d probably get more chicks if we took our shirts off” line — is Jim Carrey. His SNL spoofs of McConaughey’s never-ending run of Lincoln commercials are spot-on and contain the best, most honest booger joke in decades.

10. Speaking of impressions, have you ever wondered where “Alright, alright, alright” — McConaughey’s battle cry and the line almost everyone parrots whenever his name is mentioned — comes from? If so, McConaughey explains the origins in detail in this CBC clip: “So I’m thinking, ‘Who is Wooderson [McConaughey’s character from Dazed and Confused]? Who is my man? You know, what’s he about?’ And I tell myself, ‘Wooderson’s about four things: he’s about cars, weed, rock ’n’ roll, and chicks.’ In that scene he’s got 3 of the 4, and that 4th is on the horizon. Alright, alright, alright.” BONUS YOUTUBE COVERAGE: Proto-Wooderson from Baby McConaughey’s Dazed and Confused audition.

11. Need even more words of wisdom from McConaughey? Try the 13 Life Lessons he offered up as the graduate speaker for the Class of 2015 at the University of Houston, where his father played football. The entire 45-minute speech is on YouTube here in its entirety. My favorite lesson is a stoner’s fever dream on the word “unbelievable”:

“Unbelievable” is the stupidest word in the dictionary. It shouldn’t ever come out of our mouths. To say, “What an unbelievable play!” It was an unbelievable book, film, act of courage… really? It may be spectacular, phenomenal, most excellent and outstanding… but unbelievable? NO. Give others and yourself more credit. It just happened, you witnessed it, you just did it, believe it. How about the other side of unbelievable? When we humans “under perform” or act OUT of character? “Man flies a suicide jet into the World Trade Center; millions die from diseases that we have cures for; Bob the Builder swears he’ll have your house built by Thanksgiving and you can’t move in till Christmas, THE NEXT YEAR…” Our best friend lies to us, and WE lie to OURSELVES all the time… unbelievable? I don’t think so… Again, it just happened, and it happens every day… NOTHING we homo sapien earthlings do is unbelievable. One thing you can depend on people being… is people… Acknowledge acts of greatness as real, and do NOT be naive about mankind’s capacity for evil nor be in denial of our own shortcomings. NOTHING we do is unbelievable. Stupid word. Un-be-lievably stupid word.”

12. Of course, life lessons are always most profound when from the mouth of Rust Cohle, McConaughey’s character in the first season of HBO’s True Detective.

13. Or you can go for the more introspective version: a fan’s supercut of one of those godforsaken Lincoln commercials that results in a full hour of McConaughey watching the rain and drinking coffee. Which is fine because McConaughey is most likely immortal, so he’s got plenty of time to think.

14. A thinking man, however, needs money to find the time for all that thinking. And some fuel. Hence this 6-minute short film/documentary he made as the new creative director for Wild Turkey Bourbon. You get to witness McConaughey’s connection with the family behind Wild Turkey, whose patriarch, 81-year-old Jimmy, even bestows McConaughey with a pour from a pre-Prohibition batch of the family’s famous nectar. As McConaughey says at the end, “If this doesn’t work out we’ll be stuck with a whole bunch of bourbon … There are a lot of worse things to be stuck with.”

15. Finally, who can forget McConaughey’s Oscar speech? He, of course, evoked God and his family, including his late father, “…I know he’s up there right now with a big pot of gumbo. He’s got a lemon meringue pie over there. He’s probably in his underwear, and he’s got a cold can of Miller Lite and he’s dancing right now.” McConaughey has said that “just keep livin” became something he said to keep going after his father died and McConaughey’s own career took off (with 1993’s Dazed and Confused). McConaughey may be a goofy, ageing stoner-bro who can’t make a decent-looking YouTube video, but he’s a hard guy not to like.