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Five Minutes With: Rose Matafeo

Salient: Hi Rose, it’s Molly and Stella from Salient here. Thanks for doing the interview with us!

Rose Matafeo: That’s alright, I can’t promise I’ll be a very good interviewee.

S: We can’t promise we’ll be good interviewers.

R: Ok, good, good.

S: To begin with, topical at the moment, did you get any tickets to Beyoncé this morning?

R: No I didn’t, I slept straight through it! I’m pretty glad I did though, cause then I went and checked on Twitter and it was just tweet after tweet of people being like “Argghhhh! No! Fuck you, people who bought their tickets in one minute!” I’m pretty glad I missed that heartbreak. It’s ridiculous though, they must have sold like no tickets at that pre-sale.

S: Well we know that they sold three, because we got some.

R: Oh, fuck you! That’s awesome, though! That’s great. I’ve got to go and get a MasterCard.

S: That’s how they get ya!

R: Yeah, that’s bloody how they get ya. Isn’t she announcing two more shows anyway? I’m going to wait until those shows, ‘cos I think it’ll be chill by then. I’ve never seen so much heartbreak on all of my social medias—I’ve even been getting Snapchats of sad people.

S: How did you get involved in comedy, and how did you go from there to your TV work?

R: So I started when I was 15 ‘cos I did this school-holiday programme that the festival puts on called Class Comedians, which they still do. I did that with my friend Geneva [who later played Nurse Aroha on Shortland Street]. So we did this school-holiday programme, and it was two weeks, and at the end we had to do five minutes of stand-up at one of the shows in the festival. I was quiet throughout that whole thing, because I was the youngest—I was only 15, whereas everyone else was 16 or 17, which is a big age-gap when you’re a teenager. Then I put together a set and I did it and people laughed! It seemed like I did well so I kept on doing open-mic nights at The Classic on Queen St, then did Wednesdays, then started doing Pro Nights, and then started doing my own festival shows after that. I’ve done three one-hour shows now. Then I got the Billy T the second time around trying this year.

S: Congratulations!

R: Thanks! I hate awards, to be honest, ‘cos everyone was so good this year. I wanted to do like a Mean Girls-style, break the tiara and throw it to everyone in the audience, like she does at the prom at the end. But I didn’t get a tiara, I got a towel, so it would have been a bit awkward, trying to rip a towel.

I kept doing stand-up during high school, then when I went to university I kind of stopped doing it as much, cause stand-up kind of sucks sometimes, it’s not actually always fun. I’m stupidly selective with gigs, I just know that some gigs I’ll just die on my arse. I’ve had experiences where I’ve been like, okay I’m not going to do that again… Like doing stand-up for middle-aged parents who live in Devonport. Probably one of the most awkward gigs of my life.

When I was 19, in my second year of university, I got a job at NZU because one of the guys who worked on that, his wife is part of the comedy festival and he kind-of knows comedians all around the place. Basically I went to my audition and wore a cat shirt, and that’s why I got the job. It’s a cat looking at a moon, and I was like “this is probably why I got the job”. So I’ve been doing that for two years now. In between I’ve been doing writing and doing 7 Days. And yeah, I dunno, pretty boring.

S: Would you say that you prefer your stand-up work or your TV work?

R: [Coughs] Sorry, go on. Sorry, it’s like I’m not sick, but I sound sick. You know when you’re not sick, but you sound way more sick than you are? But you’re not sick, but no one believes you. Can you just include the word ‘phlegm’ throughout the interview?

The two are quite different. With TV, in certain situations, there’s less of a risk. With stand-up, pretty much it can go either way every time you do a set. When it goes well, it’s like ten times better than anything you would be doing in TV. But I really love working in television. I’m obsessed with television, and I’ve always loved it, so it’s great being able to be surrounded by it all the time at TVNZ. Probably stand-up is kind of better for me in the fact that I get to control most of it: I write my material that I do; no one’s directing me on how to perform it; no-one’s the boss of me, basically. In saying that, that’s also the stressful thing about it sometimes, in producing your own festival shows and knowing that if you don’t sell tickets to your show then it’ll be your money that’s frittered away. I like both for different reasons, but I would say, at the end of the day that I probably would want to do television for the rest of my life rather than stand-up, because television can be comedy as well, whereas stand-up is quite nerve-racking.

S: If someone offered you a role on Shortland Street would you take it?

R: I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. Not because I’m like “I’m a serious actor I should be on Shortland Street”. I was talking to a friend about how it’s kind-of the only full-time acting role in New Zealand, so that’s why there’s so many people on it. I’m obsessed with Shortland Street, so I would totally do it, but then act like a diva so I got written off in some sort of hilarious death.

I don’t think I’m as good an actor as I think I am, though. Sometimes you have the fleeting belief: “Of course I’m great at acting, how hard can it be?” I feel like I’d be a great actor.

S: Well you know Kimberley Crossman was on it and now she’s best friends with Selena Gomez, so…

R: This is true. And Kimberley Crossman is a role model we should all look up to, and aspire to be like. Hopefully you can put ‘sarcasm’ around that.

S: If you were offered a book deal like she was, would you take it?

R: Did you come to my show?

S: Yes I did, I was the one drinking Tui.

R: Yeah! Good. I found those bottles afterwards.

In my show I do kind-of rip her book apart… But then I’m the one who went to Whitcoulls and spent ten minutes reading it, and then bought it, with my own money. I totally would, but mostly to write an anti-that book for young women of New Zealand, in that I don’t believe that if you follow your dreams you will achieve them, and that’s fine ‘cos that’s just life, and sometimes life sucks, and sometimes life’s good. I hate teaching every kid to be aspirational past their abilities or talents. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, I just hate her ceaseless optimism. I totally accept that that doesn’t make me sound like a good person. I don’t really like it when people are so happy about the world, when really it’s a terrible place [laughs]. So basically my message to young girls of New Zealand would be “hey, the world sucks, but it’s all good, let’s party”.

S: Speaking of partying, who’s better to party with: comedians or actors?

R: Oh god, comedians! I don’t think I’ve ever partied with actors, though.

S: Do you get to go to much of the Auckland celebrity freebie scenes?

R: I did go to the Shortland Street 20th-Anniversary thing and got really drunk. I took around a disposable camera and demanded photos with like all of the stars of Shortland Street. I’ve got at least two photos of a semi-intoxicated Robbie Magasiva kissing me on the cheek.

S: Oh my God!

R: The interesting thing about working in TV is you get invited to all this stuff, like launches for things. I don’t go to any of them ‘cos I can’t stand the idea of talking to people, let alone in that weird context. “Yeah, let’s drink some more free wine and talk about this shitty book”, or something. I’m invited to so many things now. I’ve actually found recently that I’m such an antisocial person these days, it’s really terrible. I’ve got a group of friends…

S: And a Twitter account.

R: Yeah, and a Twitter account! I don’t make much effort to put myself out there and talk to people because usually it just disappoints me and I just want to go home.

S: Do you read through all the tweets that people do at you? ‘Cos obviously you’re quite popular on the Twitter scene.

R: I’m not very popular, I don’t have many followers.

S: Compared to us, but you’re no Kimberley Crossman.

R: No, I’m no Kimberley Crossman, and I’m no JJ Feeney.

S: Speaking of JJ Feeney, how’s the feud with Dom Harvey going?

R: It’s not really a feud; it’s so weird, he’s so weird. He likes to bring it up a lot as well. I guess he thinks it’s funny, but he’s just an idiot really, and you can’t really argue with an idiot. I just hate when people on Twitter, and in a position of having a lot of followers and having a lot of people listen to what you say, when you clearly say something that is offensive to a big amount of people, don’t have the kind of modesty, or aren’t humble enough to say, “Hey, that was really stupid, what I said, I’m really sorry if I offended anyone.” But his kind of strategy is to be like, “Well, you’re offended—sorry mate, but that’s just what I think.” And you’re like: “Well no, that’s not an apology at all!” I don’t know if he considers himself a comedian, but I wouldn’t consider him a comedian. With most comedians, there’s a big thought process when you’re joking about a really controversial topic. There’s a moment where you go, “Is this funny, and should I put it out there? And is it funny because it’s offensive or is it funny because of how I’m talking about it?” And yeah… he’s just not funny. I’ve written jokes that have been really offensive, but the difference is—and a lot of other people would be the same—that I would be like, “That was really shit, and I am so sorry. I’m gonna not do that again.” With no buts to it. Anyway, he’s a dick, so that’s all right.

S: Do you find that female comedians are treated differently to male comedians?

R: Oh no, not at all, we’re all equal, and it’s totally fine… No, I’m kidding. In New Zealand, the most obvious way female comedians are treated, or responded to differently, is that there are only five full-time professional comedians in the country. That’s ridiculous. The number of how many female comedians there are in New Zealand. They’re all funny, it’s just a combination of not many women feeling like they would get up at open mic and do stand-up. Stand-up’s very different to, you know, being a comedian on Twitter or being a writer of comedy. It’s kind-of a different beast. So there’s less women willing to do it, which is a shame, because it really needs it. And just the same old, in a lot of creative industries in general, women are pitted against each other, ‘cos they’re categorised as female comedians. To have a female comedian on the bill is as much of a feature as having a magician on the bill, you know? You can only have one magician on the setlist tonight, and only one female comedian as well. I think it’s changing, but often it’s unfathomable to have two females on in the same night. It’s a combination of a lot of shit things, but also I think just girls being less encouraged to be funny in life.

S: It sounds like you do need to write this inspirational book, Rose.

R: I know! I had this interview with Creme magazine, and the poor reporter, I’m just spieling all this shit to her and telling her she needed to read this really good book about female comedians and she was just like “Okay”. And then the article was just like, “Rose had a How Embarrassment moment once!” It was so funny.

S: Do you think one possible solution to getting more female comedians out there is a man-ban?

R: A man-ban on male comedians? Yeah! I cannot think of a show I’ve done ever with three female comedians on the setlist, isn’t that crazy? It’s nuts. I’m totally for a man-ban in stand-up comedy. Fantastic.

S: With your work on U live, do you ever get fan mail or get recognised in the street?

R: I was in a sushi shop and there were two girls next to me and then the one who wasn’t next to me looked at me, smacked her friend on the arm, pointed at me, literally like 60 cm away from me, and then she just whispered, in a really loud stage whisper, “That’s that girl from U TV!” And I was standing there, looking directly into her eyes, and I was like, “What are you… I can hear you. Just say hello. This is so awkward.” Then I was just like “Hi” and she just totally broke eye contact and just looked down, and didn’t talk to me. And I was like, “Oh my God, I’m on a Freeview channel! I’m like the Z-grade celebrity in New Zealand.” I do get recognised sometimes, but mostly it’s just a stare and a point, which is pretty funny. I do get fan mail. I have this one fan who sent me a cat package: cat stickers, cat calendar, cat diary, and then a soft-toy cat; that was good. Also, I have one called Sam from Dunedin; she sent me a lolly lei of my favourite flavour of MacIntosh.

S: What’s your favourite?

R: Egg and cream.

S: Good choice.

R: Toss-up between egg and cream and mint. I get some pretty cool people who send me stuff. One guy was actually real cute, he was an au pair from America and he used to watch U, and then he went back, but he knitted a jumper for us, with the ‘U’ on it. He was a real crafty guy. I stalked him out on Facebook; I found a picture of him kayaking so he must be normal.

S: Kayaking and knitting are good hobbies.

R: Yeah. It’s really cool ‘cos we form this really weird sort of friendship with all the people who regularly watch the show because we basically hang out with them every afternoon, so we know things about them, and we just feel like we know them as a person, which is really funny. It’s quite cool.

S: Have you found that there’s a different sense of humour between Auckland and Wellington?

R: Probably. We did a bit of a tour around the country at the end of last year and I think the one difference… I notice Christchurch being a bit different. I did a joke about me being from Auckland and saying like “Auckland sucks, eh”, and everyone else would be like “Oh, yeah…” But in Wellington and Christchurch, when I mentioned Auckland they would be like “BOOOOOOOOOO!” They’d just be so angry about it, it was so funny, the hate towards Auckland. And then I’d be like, “Auckland’s a great place, actually, you guys are kind of mean.”

S: We’re just jealous that we’re not getting a rail loop.

R: Exactly. It’s rooted in jealousy, I think. I think Wellington crowds are probably a bit more savvy when it comes to pop-culture references, and kind-of weirder material. I did my first two very unpolished shows in Wellington, but it was so good doing it there because everyone was so into it. They’re very on the mark; a lot of my material is stupid references to stupid TV or whatever and everyone in Wellington kind-of just gets it. Wellington crowds are fun, and then Auckland crowds are mainly just made up of my family and friends. Usually it’s all the same; New Zealand’s a pretty small place.

S: Have you met any real famous celebrities?

R: Celebrities? Not really…

S: There probably really aren’t many that we can classify as really famous celebrities—apart from you.

R: I’m interviewing Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright and Nick Frost this weekend. I’m super-nervous about it. I don’t know what to ask them.

S: That’s how we felt before this!

R: You shouldn’t have. Most of the people I’ve met have been doing stand-up or comedy though. I met Simon Amstell, and I was so super-nervous, I was like “Hi.” I haven’t met anyone famous, really.

S: Do people always ask you to tell them a joke?

R: Yeah all the time.

S: Okay, we won’t ask that then.

R: Good. Good, please don’t! That is the one question that everyone thinks that comedians love. It would be good if I had a go-to joke to tell people. I thought of one before, but I’ve forgotten it actually. It’s funny though, how people cannot see the disconnect between standing up on a stage with a microphone, elevated, with lights on, in front of you, and telling you jokes, and then just like telling a joke next to you, in public. It’s so different. It’s almost like you need that crutch of being on stage with a microphone, it’s weird. My jokes aren’t even jokes, I don’t even have punchlines. I don’t even think I’m a real comedian, to be honest. Don’t tell anyone.

S: Can Salient be a member of your Robbie Magasiva Fan Club?

R: Yes! That brings us up to… three. This is good, this is great. I’m Treasurer and President. But you guys could probably be something like Events Coordinator or something.

S: We could be like Wellington liaison?

R: Yep! Wellington branch, you guys can set up a Wellington branch. And keep that Robbie Magasiva signed picture at the Wellywood Backpackers. God knows it needs updating. No, but you’re more than welcome – your introduction pack will be in the mail.

S: Have you got any shows coming up in Wellington?

R: Crap no! No, I don’t. I was going to come down and maybe do my show again, now that it’s kind-of not that terrible, but I don’t know when that’s happening. But I’ll come down to Wellington before the end of the year and do something. Follow me on Twitter, I’ll probably tweet about it.

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About the Author ()

Molly McCarthy and Stella Blake-Kelly are Salient Co-Editors for 2013, AKA Salient Babes.

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