Australian comedian Matt Okine sat down with Spinoff comedy dunce Calum Henderson to discuss radio, early-90s cricket memories and his unquenchable thirst for cooking and property shows.
Every NZ International Comedy Festival is the same: I pick up the programme, scan the list of names for any of the three to five comedians in the world I know and like, and when I don’t see for example ‘Aziz Ansari’ or ‘Stewart Lee’ on the list I chuck the programme in the recycling.
As a result, I have missed every show Matt Okine has ever done in New Zealand and only found out about the very well-known Australian comedian last week, two hours before this interview.
I realised about 30 seconds into a YouTube clip from three years ago that I had made a huge mistake. This guy seemed funny and smart and very good at talking into a microphone. A triple threat!
I watched a few more just to be sure – this one about being terrorised by a guy called Rat Gillies on Facebook and this one about fucking up in his role as host of the Triple J Breakfast Show – and decided there and then: Matt Okine is a dead set genius.
The good news is that he is returning to Auckland for this year’s festival with his new show We Made You. I scrawled down some absolutely shocking notes and went to meet my new comedy god.
CH: I’ve just got written down here ‘Curtly Ambrose’ and now I can’t remember why.
MO: That’s weird. I want to know why.
[After the interview I went through my history and it was from his profile on the Triple J website, which lists Curtly Ambrose as one of his ‘Evolutionary Influences’.]
Do you like cricket?
I used to love cricket. The West Indies team actually came to my house back in 1989 when they were touring Australia. I was four years old and my dad used to run an African nightclub in Brisbane and they came there one night after the Gabba test.
It was crazy. I just remember Jimmy Adams held me up and I almost hit my head on one of the lights. I was so amazed by how tall he was.
Was Jimmy Adams tall? I remember him as one of the shorter guys.
Exactly. He probably was one of the little guys. I mean I’m probably way taller than him now, but at the time he seemed huge.
Did you talk to Curtly?
No, I didn’t. But Dad kept in touch with a couple of them. We used to get postcards every now and then from one or two of them which was pretty cool.
What was your defining cricket memory growing up?
I’d say ’92-’93, the Benson and Hedges World Series, Australia versus Pakistan and West Indies. I had the official highlights video of that series and I watched it so much. I used to know the commentary basically word-for-word. ‘On your bike, Junior Murray!’ All that stuff. I used to know all the results: ‘Phil Simmons 4 for 3, one of the most economical bowling figures in the history of the game.’ All of that. That year, then the year after – Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand.
That was a classic one. New Zealand was quite shit though.
You had Chris Cairns, Mark Greatbatch –
Mark Greatbatch took an amazing catch off a no ball and he got absolutely furious at the umpire. That’s pretty much the only thing I still remember.
You had Deepak Chopra.
Dipak Patel! Deepak Chopra’s the writer, isn’t he.
I wanted to ask about another cornerstone of my childhood and that is Triple J Hottest 100 compilations. Did you listen to those when you were growing up, before you started doing the breakfast show?
Hell yeah. My next door neighbours got me into the Hottest 100 and to Triple J in general.
What was your first one?
Actually, I remember the very first one when Denis Leary ‘Asshole’ won it. That wasn’t the very first Hottest 100 countdown, but it was when they started doing it yearly and specifically for songs from that year . My sister and I bought that compilation and I just thought Denis Leary’s ‘Asshole’ was the funniest song ever. It was just a huge song. I can’t believe that it got to number 1.
I was thinking about that song the other day…
Why? Was someone driving real slow in the ultra fast lane?
Yeah, it was something like that. So you were on the Hottest 100 train from the start – which one would you say is the all-time greatest?
You know, I think it was number [five], the one that had Radiohead ‘Paranoid Android’ followed by Blink 182 ‘Dammit’ and… Marilyn Manson’s ‘Beautiful People’ maybe?
Shit yeah. There was definitely some Manson on it.
I think that one was won by The Whitlams. Or maybe it was Spiderbait. But yeah that one with ‘Paranoid Android’ was the best.
What kind of person listens to Triple J? Who’s voting on these things?
It’s a national station – it’s kind of weird, as a host you’re talking to people who are drinking almond flat whites in city office buildings at the same time as you’re talking to an opal miner in Coober Pedy who’s been living in a dugout for the last few years.
Has it always been that way?
Yeah, in the 90s it started becoming properly national, and now it covers more than 90% of the whole country. If you don’t want to listen to Triple J, you’ve got to really choose your spots wisely.
That kind of explains a lot about the Hottest 100.
Well they were always quite a weird mix. Which is why they are so good.
That’s it you know. Every year people are like ‘Aw man, it’s too poppy, it’s too this, it’s too that.’ It just catches everyone’s opinion and when you’re hearing five million different people’s opinions on what the best music in a year, yeah not everyone’s going to agree.
Who won the most recent one? Who’s the reigning Hottest 100 champ?
It was Flume.
See, to me that seems… too mainstream.
[Matt rolls his eyes]
But maybe it’s always been that way and it’s me that’s changed, maybe I’m just cynical and old now.
Yeah, you’re getting old. That’s why.
If I was 30 back in 1996 I probably would have been like ‘ugh, Spiderbait’
Exactly. That’s exactly what’s happening.
Is it a really massive thing? I mean in my imagination it’s like, general election big.
It’s pretty huge. I would honestly say I reckon a solid 50% of the entire country listens to that show at that time, literally millions of people are tuned in to listen to that countdown. Everyone has like a barbecue or a party or a lunch and everyone gets around the radio. It’s like solid old school days, you know?
When’s it on? Is it a regular event like Bathurst Sunday or something?
It’s on Australia Day.
Oh really, no way.
Yeah, it’s the thing you do. I mean, Australia Day is a contentious issue in Australia at the moment. You know, questioning whether to change the date and stuff, show more respect to indigenous people in Australia who might not find the celebration of the First Fleet’s arrival that great. But a lot of people would argue that the Triple J countdown has kind of taken over the focus of what Australia Day is, so it’s less about that kind of colonialism and more about people enjoying music.
So you left Triple J at the end of last year and now you’ve got all these different irons in the fire – making TV shows and rapping and everything. You just released a new track this week, what’s the –
Yeah, what’s the vibe.
It’s funny, people can’t wrap their heads around a comedian rapping seriously, you know? They just expect there to be some sort of punchline at the end, but there’s not. It’s just an extension of who I am: sometimes I’m saying some really insightful shit and sometimes I’ve got lines like “Call me a Holden fan because I can never afford.” Sometimes it’s really kind of heavy hitting relationship stuff and other times it’s just rapping about how I drink too much.
And you have a TV series called The Other Guy coming out sometime soon, is that sort of based on your life?
Yeah, it’s funny because when we started developing it was going to be sort of autobiographical, but I mean, that is until you realise that real life isn’t as interesting as a TV show. My biggest fear with the show is that people will think that it’s my actual life, but people within my life will think that it’s somehow a commentary on them, so you know. For example I’ve got a radio co-host on the show who’s a gay Asian dude and I don’t want people to think that that is somehow my projection of who Alex Dyson my actual radio co-host was. Do you know what I mean? Because he wasn’t a gay Asian dude. These are different people, different characters. There are a few things that mirror my life, but the rest of it is just a TV show.
There was another one I saw mentioned somewhere called Matt Okine vs Food. That sounds good.
I’m making that at the moment. It’s about just literally getting the basics down on the simplest recipes. It’s crazy. It’s crazy teaching people how to cook when they’ve never, ever cooked before. Basically the show is just me going into the kitchens of really well-known chefs and learning their favourite kind of basic recipes. You go to one of the best Italian chefs in Australia and you ask him how he makes his spaghetti bolognese. Really basic stuff but along the way you find out a lot of interesting little tips that kind of take a chef’s cooking to the next level over your crappy kitchen efforts.
Do you watch a lot of cooking shows?
Dude, I got into such a bad hole about a year ago where I would literally just watch all cooking shows. From like midday through to 8pm at night I would just be watching cooking shows. I’d watch repeats of cooking shows that I’d already seen. It was pathetic.
That’s funny because when I was googling you before I thought shit, this guy sounds so busy. And now I find out you’re just sitting around binge watching cooking shows –
That was before the show dude. That was before the show. That was before music. Yeah. I need to have more of that time back I think.
It’s important to have that time where you can just watch cooking shows, right?
It sure is. I need to get my recipe repertoire up. That’s just been taken over by watching house shows. Now I just watch real estate shows like Location, Location, Location and Selling Houses Australia. It’s real lame shit. If people actually realised the boring shit that I get up to off stage they’d just be horrified.
I should ask about the new show [We Made You] you’re bringing over for the Comedy Festival…
[Shaking head] What is there to ask about?
Well… what’s it about?
I mean, that’s the thing. It’s just about so many different things. If you actually break it down it just sounds ridiculous. It’s like… it’s about me wearing sticky tape on my nipples and my car wearing one of my socks and it’s about toasters and it’s about … It’s just about the most random stuff that’s sort of happened in the last 12 months, various ridiculous situations I’ve found myself in going ‘what the fuck am I doing? How is this actually my life?’ Like watching a video on YouTube of a guy who has diarrhoea because I wanted to get the perfect poop sound for the radio, you know? That’s the sort of shit that my life has turned into. So when people ask what the show is about, it’s not really easy to explain. You just have to come and watch it and trust that I’m going to be funny. Because I am.