The Monday night finale of NBC’s “The New Celebrity Apprentice” crowned doctor-turned-stand-up comedian Matt Iseman ’93 the program's latest winner by host Arnold Schwarzenegger. Iseman beat out singer Boy George.
Iseman, perhaps best-known for his time as host of NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior,” also has a prolific television career, including recent appearances on “Hot in Cleveland,” “Clean House,” and “Sports Soup.” He has also appeared in commercials and on film, most notably in “Transformers 2.”
However, he was not initially drawn to entertainment. A history concentrator born in Colorado, Iseman pitched for the University’s baseball team during each of his four years, winning the 1991 Ivy League Championship. Following graduation, he attended medical school at Columbia University, intending to follow in the footsteps of his father, renowned doctor Michael Iseman ’61.Although he is a licensed doctor, Iseman never completed his medical residency, choosing instead to pursue stand-up comedy.
After a rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis in 2003 at the age of 31, Iseman became a passionate advocate for those with the disease; while on “The New Celebrity Apprentice,” he raised $573,329 for the Arthritis Foundation.
While on the program, Iseman maintained a strong record throughout, winning eight out of the 12 challenges set before the finale. Such challenges included running photoshoots, creating celebrity-branded candy, and selling exercise equipment on QVC. Iseman was particularly lauded for his performance in the episode that aired on Jan. 23, as his passion for the Harry Potter series carried his team to victory in creating a digital brochure for the Universal Studios theme park. In his final task, Iseman threw a lavish fundraiser for his selected charity, featuring baby kangaroos and impressions of “Arnie” in front of Schwarzenegger himself.
In a comment to TV Line Magazine, Iseman remarked that even he did not know whether he had won until the finale episode aired; in order to maintain secrecy, the show’s producers pre-taped both possible outcomes of the finale. A live component of the finale was initially planned, although this was precluded by low ratings at the end of a season marred by controversy, as Schwarzenegger sparred with former host and current President of the United States Donald Trump on social media.
Following his win, Iseman will continue his television and stand-up appearances, as well as his significant charity work with sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis.