News & Politics

The Excellent Quest to Unite the World’s Matt Cohens in a Single Group Chat

Cohen was the 320th most common last name in the US during the 1990s, a tick behind Sutton and one up on Jennings. Matthew was the third most popular first name for boys during the same time, sandwiched between Christopher and Joshua. It took several more decades for the Matt Cohens in this Venn diagram to begin to find one another—specifically October 2016, when Matt R. Cohen, who works in renewable energy in Philadelphia, looked up people with his name on Instagram and invited them to join a group chat named Matt Cohens of IG.

Now dozens of Matt Cohens are involved, Matt R. Cohen says, and quite a few more have petitioned for membership after Matt D. Cohen, a journalist in DC, posted about the group’s existence last month in a tweet that went viral.

The idea behind the chat, Matt D. Cohen says, is to be “100 percent supportive of Matt Cohens doing whatever it is they do and supporting them unconditionally.” Matt Cohens are encouraged to “post their Ws,” Matt D. Cohen says, and to “boost each other up.”

Screenshots courtesy Matt Cohen.

The chat has gone through “peaks and valleys,” since he started it, Matt R. Cohen says. He was inspired by a friend, who he declined to name, who joined a similar group.

Being a Matt Cohen can sometimes lead to mixups, says Matt S. Cohen, a civil and environmental engineer who lives in Sacramento. Another Matt Cohen nearly received his degree at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, he tells Washingtonian, but the mistake got caught in time. Matt D. Cohen had a similar experience: “One time I got a court summons for underage drinking,” he says. “And I was like, ‘I don’t remember getting arrested.’ ” The group chat has since connected him with the Matt Cohen who was once in hot water. He apologized to Matt D. Cohen for the hassle. 

Stories of Matt Cohen-related antics abound when you start to call Matt Cohens. There was the Matt Cohen who went on double dates with his ex’s best friend and her partner, who was also named Matt Cohen. There was the Matt Cohen who appeared on Jeopardy! in 2017, setting off even more excitement when he joined the group. And then there’s probably the most famous Matt Cohen of them all, who played Dr. Griffin Munro on General Hospital and Young John Winchester in Supernatural, and works as a correspondent for Entertainment Tonight. He signed up after Matt D. Cohen’s tweet went bananas. “That was a pretty big deal,” says Matt R. Cohen. (The famous Matt Cohen, whose middle initial is J., according to IMDB, was on a camping trip when Washingtonian tried to get in touch.)

Matt Cohens use the chat to share life updates like new jobs, marriages, graduations, and Matt S. Cohen says he could imagine it developing into a networking node. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see some people getting jobs,” he says, “though why you’d want to hire another Matt Cohen is a little bit curious.” A Mat with one “t” would likely be approved for membership, says Matt R. Cohen: “We are very accepting.”

One surprise that several Matt Cohens told me they’d had since they joined the group was the revelation that not every Matt Cohen is Jewish (despite the facts that Cohen means priest in Hebrew and that a famous Cohanim hand gesture appears to have inspired the Vulcan salute), though quite a few seem to have a brother or a cousin named Andrew, the seventh-most popular name in the ’90s, which is around the time all of the Matt Cohens I spoke with were born.

There is no discernible pattern for the distribution of Matt Cohens in the US, say Matt Cohens who have glanced at the bios of their fellow members. Lots of Matt Cohens seem to have pretty cool jobs, say Matt Cohens. Matt S. Cohen hopes to run for governor of California one day, and it seems likely that he will receive a lot of donations from people with the same name if he does.

It is possible that the Matt Cohens might meet up in real life one day, perhaps at the Toronto park named for the Matt Cohen who wrote Elizabeth and After. “I think our next logical step is to try out a Zoom call,” Matt R. Cohen says. In the meantime, Matt Cohens can order shirts or hoodies inspired by the group chat. (The entertainment world’s Matt Cohen has reportedly ordered a T-shirt, though several Matt Cohens we spoke with weren’t sure whether they could pull off wearing such a garment themselves.)

All the Matt Cohens I spoke with stressed that the positivity of the group was what kept them checking in. “The internet is often dark and annoying, and I’m just happy that this has remained wholesome and that people are finding it amusing,” says Matt D. Cohen. While the prospect of a virtual or real-life meeting simmers, members of the group chat recently found another way to connect: The Matt Cohen Fantasy Football League launched in time for this year’s NFL season.

Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.