30 Apr 2015

Rose Matafeo is finally dead

8:52 am on 30 April 2015

Comedian Rose Matafeo is ridiculously talented, funny, and desperately in need of sleep. Fresh from a stint at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, and having sleep-deprived herself long enough to finish writing her New Zealand International Comedy Festival Show the week it opened, the Billy T Award-winning comedian is so sharp after a 20-minute nap that I’ve got no idea what she’d do if she got a full eight hours.

Considering she came up in comedy going to gigs by night while serving as head girl of Auckland Grammar by day, I’m not sure that she does either.

Listen to even more from Rose Matafeo in On The Dial.

At 23 she already has a TV writing gig that she calls her “dream job,” is on her fourth New Zealand Comedy Festival show, and is sweating out round one of the requisite 20-something quarter-life crisis (for most people, this happens in your late 20s, but Rose is nothing if not an high achiever).  

She’s heading to perform at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year, after which she plans to stay on a little longer in the UK, and see how stand-up pans out over there. She admits to being pretty nervous about this, not least of all because of the range of experiences detailed in The Wireless’ stories about moving overseas (thanks for the dose of realism, team!). If it doesn’t work out before her tourist visa in the UK expires, Rose says: “I’ll be 25. I’ll be like, ‘OK guys, I’m reinventing myself, I work in a shop now and nobody talk to me.’“

I get the feeling that this course of action will not be remotely necessary.

Rose is performing her stand-up show, Finally Dead, in Auckland shows at the Comedy Festival, and you should go in case she becomes so famous overseas that she never comes back.

I spoke to her a couple of days before the show’s run started.


Charlotte: I feel like I should ask you how you are, because I looked on Twitter today, and it was just this series of increasingly concerning tweets where you were like…

Rose: That’s my whole Twitter feed though. Like, over the course of how long I’ve had Twitter, it’s all going downhill. I’ve become more comfortable with sharing my pain... And it’s always just terrible complaints.

But I’m just – during this time [Comedy Festival], my body shuts down, first of all. Like, I’ve just come back from a 20-minute nap at my house with all my family around for a family dinner, that I haven’t seen in ages, and I just slept on the couch for 20 minutes and then went, “Bye!”

I’m having a great time, that’s basically what I’m trying to say. It’s just tired and stressed, and I think I get so nervous doing a new show that it just completely screws me over.

The other day, I was in my car, and I was feeling just so anxious in my body, like something was wriggling in my body, that I just had to just loudly scream, in my car. Like, not even in an angry way, just to emit sound. It was the most bizarre thing I’ve ever done, but I was just in my car being like [yells, while laughing], “HAAAAAAAAAAAA.”

I was like Brick from Anchorman, it was terrible.

Charlotte: Did it help though?

Rose: It did kind of help, but then it also made me laugh, because it seemed so ridiculous and that actually cheered me up.

Charlotte: That’s good. It’s like a lot of those things, if you get to the bottom of them – people recommend meditation or mindfulness or whatever, and there’s a kernel in there of something that’s actually helpful.

Rose: Oh God, mindfulness is the worst thing ever. I try and look into so much of that stuff, but mindfulness is so vague. It’s like, “Just be... present.” And you’re like, “WHAT?” And they’re like, “Just be present in your body.” And you’re like, “I don’t have time! I don’t have time to do that!” It’s just so confusing.

Charlotte: Yeah. You almost need to combine mindfulness with like, Valium.

Rose: Yeah! I wonder if there’s a product like that. It’s just a normal Valium but with a little note being like, “Hang in there!” [Laughs.] “Just think about your surroundings!” “Breathe!”

Charlotte: One thing I was looking at, though, was that today on Twitter, you were saying something about staying up all night writing your show... I was like, “Wow that looks intense, that’s an intense creative process.” What’s been happening?

Rose: I don’t know what’s happening. This happens – funnily enough, you know what? This year, this is the most prepared I’ve ever been for a Comedy Festival show, ever, and I’ve done four now. Isn’t that terribly depressing?

Cos I just came back from Melbourne [International Comedy Festival], and in Melbourne we were doing the improv show with Eli [Matthewson, fellow New Zealand comedian] and a whole host of very talented people, so I did that for two weeks, and then I was doing a double-bill stand-up show with Guy Montgomery, so I did that for another two weeks. I did 22 shows altogether, so I was just exhausted, but also trying to write this show [Finally Dead], and also trying to produce this show from Melbourne. And then I forgot to finish writing the show!

So I got home and was like, it’s fine. Every year before the Festival, when I’m like, horrifically underprepared, I always tell myself, “Well, Sylvester Stallone wrote Rocky in a week.” He wrote Rocky in a week! So I can write a show in three days.

I wrote a bit too much and it’s all filler and not that good. [Note: Rose’s show has since opened to reviews like this one from Metro, which calls it “a genre-transcending comedy theatre masterpiece.” There is no question that it’s good.]

I need a lot of sleep. My eyelids feel sore. I’m getting sick and my eyelids feel strangely cold, and I’m like, “Well this is terrible. This is not right.”

But I always punish myself... The week before a New Zealand Festival’s so stressful; because it’s a new show I’ve never done before, and it doesn’t have a lot of stand-up that I do in normal [shows], it’s like writing a whole new thing. Other performers in the UK or Australia are quite lucky because they premiere their show in Fringe Festivals or they do tonnes of previews, and then they go to another festival overseas, and then they take it to Edinburgh and by the time they’ve got to Edinburgh or the big festival that they’re gearing up for, they’ve done it so many times.

Here’s it’s like, oh, it’s your first night? Everyone’s coming? You’ve given free tickets to all reviewers and stuff? Oh, and it’s the first time you’ve ever done it in front of people? [Laughs.] That sounds like a great idea.

So that’s more where the stress comes from, of like, freaking out about, “Holy crap. No one’s ever heard this, and this is completely untested, and it might actually be disaster. It’s that actually that freaks me out. Up until the moment I start the first show, I’m like, “This could be the worst thing I’ve ever done.” And it’s not until I finish the first night I’m like, “Oh, it might not be. It might be OK.”

Charlotte: I bet your show’s really good. But no pressure. Whatever helps to hear at this point, just hear that.

Rose: That actually really helps, because it’s just a crippling time of self-doubt. Especially stand-up... It’s a thing where it’s like, “Why would someone want to hear me talk for an hour about what I think?”

Charlotte: I think you just need some sleep. You’re going to be fine.

Rose: I need a lot of sleep. My eyelids feel sore. I’m getting sick and my eyelids feel strangely cold, and I’m like, “Well this is terrible. This is not right.”

Charlotte: Do you feed off that? Are you one of those people who are like, “Oh my God, it’s never happening like this again?” Or are you one of those people like, I’m like this with journalism, I almost can only work under insane deadline pressure. But then, I don’t have to make it funny, it just has to be factually accurate and have punctuation. What’s the process for you? Is it something you secretly thrive on?

Rose: I don’t know if I thrive on it exactly. I could definitely do with more time in my life, in general, to work on things like that. But I do thrive - I just think in stand-up in general, I think every stand-up thrives on pressure. If it’s not time, it’s whether or not your joke’s good, or whether you’ve got a good audience or not, or how you’re feeling on that day, or how you feel about your jokes. It’s all pressure. But that’s all the kind of pressure that makes you better. 

Cover image: artfully composed by Paul Williams and Rose Matafeo. 
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