“Be funny, reply to emails, and don’t be a dickhead”: An Interview with Ex-Triple J Host and Comedian Matt Okine

12 March 2018

Matt Okine hosted Triple J’s breakfast show Matt & Alex between 2014 and 2016. In 2017 he wrote and starred in The Other Guy, currently streaming on Stan, and he’s been steadily releasing music through his band Boilermakers. This month, he’s performing at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival with his stand-up show The Hat Game.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Your special is called The Hat Game, can you tell us a bit about what to expect?

So, The Hat Game really comes down to this idea I had way back in 2008 where I suddenly decided I was gonna try and make the Olympics. Now you’ve gotta understand that I am not an athlete. So, I needed to somehow come up with enough money to apply for Ghanaian citizenship, so I could try and make their national swimming team… which is basically non-existent. It all basically revolves around me trying to make the money I needed for that.

And how long is the show going for in Melbourne?

I’m doing the full month for the first time in two years. More importantly, I’m doing the full month for the first time in five years without having to wake up early!

Obviously because of Triple J…

Yeah there was three years there where I was having to get up at 4:30 every morning. Doing the radio, going home at twelve, having a nap for about two hours and then going to the show. Doing that for a month really broke me. You’re living your life in two separate days basically, and there were so many times I would wake up at 5:30 in the afternoon in a complete panic because I thought it was 5:30 in the morning.

Now being able to go up every night and do a show that I’m super excited about without being tired; That’s one of the things I look forward to the most. And just being able to go out and enjoy Melbourne!

And if you are trying to get out more to see Melbourne, will we be seeing you at other gigs during the festival?

Well I’m hosting the Gala in a couple of weeks just before the festival. But other than that, I’ll be doing Comedy Up Late on Fridays – that’s on at the Hifi. And I’m looking into heaps of other gigs, there’s already a couple that are pencilled in at the moment.

On a different note, a lot of students at Melbourne and around Australia would know you through your time on Triple J, and were pretty gutted when you left. Can you run us through what you’ve been up to since then?

I went straight from Triple J to writing and acting in a TV show released last year called The Other Guy. That was such an incredible experience but it was also really full on. I’d never written a TV show before, and its mind boggling how much effort and work you put in to this thing you treasure so deeply, and someone can watch it in three hours.

But I suppose you’d take it as a good sign if people are watching it like that…

Well I’m more than happy for anyone to watch it how they like. Anyone who watches the whole show, I’m super stoked about. The feedback has been amazing. I’ve got all my fingers and toes crossed that we’ll get to do another season of it.

And that was on Stan?

Yeah, it’s on Stan. We’re taking the lead from the rest of the world and moving on to streaming services, they’re definitely the home for comedy and drama now.

And you’ve been doing a lot of music as well through Boilermakers. How’s that been going?

That’s taken a bit of a back seat since the show came out. We released a song with the show, and that was an intense period. We were working on publicity for the show, doing interviews, but also filming a video clip and structuring release dates.

I took a break after that. I really needed it after everything almost broke me. That’s why over the last two or three months I’ve just been focusing on my stand-up. But I do have things in the pipeline. I was literally just listening to a demo for a track I just made and thinking about all the producers I’m going to send it to. So there’s always stuff on the backburner.

If you are releasing stuff soon, we’d love to see you play at Melbourne Uni. We have lunchtime gigs every Tuesday and we’d love to see you there.

Yeah look I’m around all month and gigs are always popping up everywhere. I love performing at unis and I love performing during the day. There’s something different about doing a lunchtime gig as compared to something at night. So yeah, I’m all for it.

You got your start through RAW in 2004, can you run us through how that went down for you?

I actually wanted to apply when I was 17, but I was too late that year. So the next year I entered RAW and I got lucky I guess. I ended up making the national final and it was only my fourth ever gig, the previous ones being the heats and the semis. I was definitely too raw to be doing that national final. I was up against people who’d been open-micing around Sydney and Melbourne for a couple of years. I got smashed out of the water, but I stuck to it and I slowly branched out and started getting noticed.

What would you have to say to Melbourne Uni students who might be in a very similar situation to what you would’ve been at that time?

I would say be fearless in your content. Make sure whatever you’re doing is authentic and your own voice. But the thing a lot of people forget is that this is a business. Treat yourself like a business and a brand. Detach your personal self from your business self and recognise that you’re going to have to do things that might feel awkward at the time—like self-promotion and judging your self-worth as a comic. Hustle, make phone calls, meet people in the business, reply to emails. It sounds like simple stuff, but the number of very funny people who can’t reply to an email is mind-boggling.

I was joking with one of my friends recently that there’s really just three things you need to do to be a successful comic, and that is: be funny, reply to emails, and don’t be a dickhead. That is literally all you need to do.

Thanks a lot Matt, we hope to see you at Melbourne Uni sometime soon!

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