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Ross Mathews (The Tonight Show's Ross the Intern) to Man Up in South Beach at the Colony Theatre

BY STEVE ROTHAUS, [email protected]

Ross the Intern has gone from unpaid Tonight Show outsider to star author and show-biz insider. Tuesday night he arrives at the Colony Theatre in South Beach.

“It’s a one-man show — lights, sound effects, images, a game show with the audience,” says Ross Mathews, who’s on tour promoting his new book, Man Up! Tales of My Delusional Self-Confidence. “We do some pop culture stuff at the top. Then I bring some stories to life and tell some stories that are not in the book. We get a little blue, so if you bring your grandma, get her a little drunk.”

Following each performance, Mathews meets his public. “I stay afterward and sign every book and take every picture.”

Mathews says that the last time he and partner Salvador Camarena were in Miami “we had the most amazing time,” going to Washington Avenue gay bar Twist every night and dining with Gloria and Emilio Estefan.

“Could it get any better?” he says.

Mathews “grew up as a big gay cartoon kid” in rural Mount Vernon, Wash.

“There weren’t a lot of people like me growing up, but I had and have a wonderful family behind me,” he says.

Quips and snappy comebacks were Mathews’ “defense mechanism.”

“If someone picked on me, I could outsmart them, in one sentence cut them down to size. I was this choir-band-drama kid. It was my weapon to get me friends, keep bullies at bay. It was my tool. Humor always helps.”

He wrote Man Up! for boys and girls like him. “I could have written a trashy, red carpet tell-all book. I didn’t want to, of course,” he says. “I wanted to put something out that was, of course, funny, but also had a message. So little farm kids around the country could say ‘I can be happy, have a relationship and be successful.’”

Mathews describes himself as “33, but with the skin of a 19-year-old.”

“I remember being a kid, knowing I was gay and thinking what does that mean to me? I didn’t have anything to compare to that. I didn’t have an example. It was before Queer Eye, before Will & Grace. Perhaps that’s why when I got this platform I didn’t want to use it without planting a seed,” said Mathews, who was mentored by Jay Leno, Rosie O’Donnell and Chelsea Handler.

Mathews and Camarena are together almost five years. “We met like the pilgrims did, at a bar,” Mathews says. “I could never do online dating.”

They currently are dads to a maltipoo and a Chihuahua. “We’re going to have children, we’re going to get married. I’m very traditional. Let’s get married first, then have children.”

Ross Mathews appears 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Colony Theatre, 1040 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach; $38.50; 800-745-3000 or ticketmaster.com.

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