By Jasmine Wallis | @JasSkyee
Describing himself as “match ready”, Matt Okine is fighting fit for his best comedy festival run in years. Following a killer 12-months since handing over his headphones as half of Triple J’s breakfast show and debuting The Other Guy, his semi-autobiographical TV show on Stan, Okine is ready to flex his stand-up guns once more with his latest show The Hat Game.
Catalyst’s Jasmine Wallis got to have a chat with the comedy king before he hits the stage at 2018’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
When did you first decide you wanted to give stand up a shot?
I’ve always loved comedy. Watching the [MICF] gala was just the highlight of my entire year. It was so exciting to know I’d get to see all these amazing comics, so hosting it this year was a dream come true.
When I decided I was actually going to start though – I remember I’d seen lots of info about the RAW comedy program [a national open mic comedy competition] the Comedy Festival run each year that’s supported by Triple J and I thought, “You know what, I’m gonna give it a go.” But when I went to the website the entries had closed!
So, I started my acting degree, which I was studying in Brisbane at QUT [Queensland University of Technology] and I waited until the next year. That came around and I drunkenly entered after a big night out and then a couple of weeks later I got a phone call saying “Your heat’s next week, have five minutes ready.” And I shat myself. I really thought about all the excuses to not ever do it again and then eventually I just swallowed my pride and did it and it all started from there.
What can Melbourne International Comedy Festival audiences expect from your show?
This is the best show I’ve done in a few years without a shadow of a doubt. I feel so excited. I’ve always had these distractions the last 4 years because I was doing radio every morning, or last year I was making a TV show and I could only do four shows during the festival.
This year it’s like I’ve put everything aside. I’ve focused on comedy for the last six months and I just feel match fit and good about what I’m doing. If you’ve seen any of my other shows before you’re still gonna get the same vibe but I’m just pushing things to the limit a bit further than I normally do. I’m taking myself out of my comfort zone and I think taking the audience out of the comfort zone that they may have found themselves in watching my stuff over the years.
You’ve been doing comedy for a number of years; do you still get nervous or is being on stage or behind a microphone second nature to you now?
You have to get nervous because if you’re not nervous undoubtedly it’s a terrible show. Complacency is the biggest enemy to comedy, and to me personally. Any time I’ve thought “I’m gonna kill this one tonight” I always die. People get nervous so that they’re on edge and alert and you need that kind of feeling to make sure that you’re making all the right decisions in the moment.
There’s a lot of things going on in comedy that aren’t just the things that are coming out of your mouth. It has a lot to do with the way you’re holding yourself on stage, your movement, how connected you are with your body, your general energy, your presence, where your eye contact is going; all those things tend to suffer if you are just complacently running through your routine like a robot. Nerves are really good!
As your show suggests, you are a wearer of many hats – from stand up to radio to TV – do you have a favourite?
I like them all equally! When I signed onto Triple J I thought that I was going to do it for six months, and then three years later it was really hard to say goodbye. It felt like the right time but it was still something that I missed daily for quite a while. I caught up with Alex [Dyson, his Triple J co-host] yesterday and had beers and every time I see him I think, “We could easily do this again”. I just don’t want to get stuck doing one thing in particular because I think that’s when you start losing the love for it. I’m making sure that there’s lots of pots on the boil and I’ve got my eye over all of them so they’re cooking at the right speed. It’s a skill that I’m still learning but not one that I want to give up anytime soon.
You started your career by becoming a finalist on Triple J RAW at the age of only 18 – do you have any advice for young people or students wanting to get into the entertainment biz?
I have heaps of advice; I could talk about this forever! My main advice is to just do it. I cannot put enough emphasis on just doing it. Be completely shameless in your approach; make as many mistakes as you can, go out, send emails to everyone you can, slide into people’s DM’s, just do whatever you can to learn how the industry works.
The other thing is to remember that it’s a business, so treat yourself as a business. Make sure you have an email address that isn’t ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ make sure it’s the name that you want to be known as in that industry.
And don’t forget that you’ve got to be in it to win it. All the work you’re putting in now, it will pay off even if sometimes it doesn’t show immediately. Every single little shitty gig you do, every show in front of six people… never ever underestimate who watches what you’re doing and what they think of you. They may just be waiting for when the time’s right to approach you. Being a successful comedian comes down to three things, and that is: be funny, (which sounds obvious but it’s important), return emails (i.e. treat it like a business) and don’t be a dickhead.
What’s been the best experience in your career so far?
Doing the “Five Raves in Five Days” [Matt and Alex travelled around the country throwing parties to farewell their popular Triple J breakfast show] was just insane, that was the craziest week of my life! But at the same time, launching my own TV show. That was the dream since day one. To act in a comedy show that I’ve written, and then release a song coinciding with it… it just makes me super proud that we were able to do that. Everything else from this point on would just be icing on the cake.
After this run of shows around the country, what do you have your sights set on for the rest of 2018?
We are starting to develop the second season of The Other Guy. Nothing is official yet, it doesn’t mean it’s definitely going to be made, it just means that we’ve started. I have a couple of ideas in my head: I want to make a mixtape, a movie and a novel. Those are my three projects and to actually see the end of them all being made; some will take longer than others, but those are my next three personal projects that I’m working towards.
Is there anything else you want to let our readers know?
I’m just really looking forward to the next month! And let your readers know to please not make fun of me if you see me in the back of a noodle house in Melbourne with Hokkien or duck noodle soup dripping down my face because I have an addiction that I need to sort out.
Catch Matt Okine at the 2018 Melbourne International Comedy Festival! Tickets and more info available here.