The Fringe is currently tripping head over heels for a young and fabulous darling from New Zealand
Hello Eli, first things first, where are you both from & where are you both at now, geographically speaking?
I am from Christchurch New Zealand and now I live in Auckland – both of which, for reference, are cities where flying to the UK is a wild thing to do … especially to perform a show that’s meant to be about saving the planet.
When did you first realise you were funny?
I wrote a play of Bridge to Terabithia to perform at lunch time at school and played the main girl (who dies, sorry for spoiling) and pretty much did drag. It was a pretty out there thing for an eight-year old to do, but luckily the jokes were sharp, and the performance was golden so I didn’t get bullied and some of the popular kids even invited me to their laser tag birthday party celebrations. I think it fully clicked in that I was a good performer when I successfully convinced my teacher I was Muslim, so that during Bible study in schools I was allowed to go to the library and play Commander Keen with my friend Nadeem. My Christian parents found out months later, and it did not go down well at home.
How did you get into stand-up?
My dear friend James Roque got me into it. I had been watching the same Sarah Silverman clip over and over for years, and James and I were at acting school together, and he pushed me into it. I started stand-up, all about being single and wanting a girlfriend desperately, then came out to my friends a month later, but still took another six months to stop talking about Pokemon and let the audience know I was gay (they probably knew…)
Can you tell us about the comedy scene in New Zealand?
I’m part of an amazing crew called Snort – and we are doing our improv show together in Edinburgh for the first time this year! It’s a cult hit which has been selling out a weekly show for five years now, with almost no money put into advertising it. Being part of Snort is one of the greatest things that’s ever happened to me, and we all make each other better at what we do. Come and see that show at Pleasance this festival and you’ll get to see seven of the comedians who are truly dominating the New Zealand scene. Our country is so small that everyone in comedy knows each other, you get to work with everyone, and in the last fiveish years there’s been an amazing influx of diverse, fresh new voices. Straight white men aren’t dominating our line-ups so hugely anymore, which has been a cool change.
What are the creative processes behind writing your material?
I write down notes, which truly make no sense, and then I try and speak them out as jokes, literally while in the shower or the car. I bullet point them, try them on stage, record those performances, write down what I said, then edit. It’s a messy process, but I’m a big hot mess! The thing I am most scared of is my headphone jack pulling out of my phone whilst I’m at the supermarket or the gym, and everyone around me suddenly finding out I’ve been listening to myself talk for an hour.
What is it about being funny in front of other people that makes you tick?
Getting laughs is truly like a drug, and to me speaking through comedy feels so much more truthful than other forms of performance (cue deep seated issues that will manifest in about fifteen years all because of me thinking this).
What does Eli Matthewson like to do when he’s not being, well, funny?
Eat an egg-based breakfast meal out with friends and drink bottomless coffee until it causes serious problems inside my body. I love a board game, though but they do often lead to me and my boyfriend’s only real arguments. I go running a lot, is usually super late at night after a gig to clear my head -I look like a serial killer, but it’s ok! I’m just wired at night. I’m also obsessive about pop music and will spend many nights with a facemask on listening to Carly Rae Jepsen and getting mad at the world for not appreciating her enough.
You’re bringing a show to this year’s Edinburgh Fringe; can you tell us about it?
It’s called An Inconvenient Poof, and it’s about my quest to save the world. It’s been ten years since I was Head of Environment (a real job at my school), and this show is sort of a test to see how I’ve done since then… It’s about the constant struggle of being a well-intentioned millennial, trying to better the planet but being too caught up in the small things that get in the way. It’s about the burnout of trying to keep up with all the things we are meant to do as millennials -raise indoor plants, live plastic-free, watch all the important TV, but also Love Island, drink no alcohol but also actually drink one glass of red wine a day cause it’s good for your heart, reject homophobic brands unless they make the only moisturiser that works for your skin type – all that fun stuff!
Where, when & why the hell did you conceive An Inconvenient Poof?
I was at the supermarket, I’d forgotten to bring my reusable for the seventy-eighth time… I had to do something about it! Also, for all the time since I was given that Environment Prefect job I’ve wanted to make a positive difference in the world, and I thought signing up to do this show would make me do that… I don’t know if I have made the world a better place yet, but I have got a lot of funny stories in the process.
We do live in quite challenging times; austerity, climate change, etc -is your show satire or are you actually trying to get a message through?
I think I have messages but, ultimately, I just hope it’s something people can relate to -the frustrating experience of being alive in these times, where is that we can see all the things going wrong around us, but we don’t know how to start. We get called a lazy generation, but I think what is seen as laziness is our inability to move out from under the incredible mounting pressures put on us by society and by older generations -those who had affordable housing, free tertiary education and were living without the weight of knowing the planet is dying. This is a show all about that millennial struggle, and I think a lot of people would relate.
You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the show to somebody in the streets of Edinburgh, what would you say?
I’d say look, I flew all the way from the literal other-side of the world so please at least give me points for effort and come to my fun, gay show. Then I’d play them a YouTube video – not of my stand-up, but of this kiwi Shakespeare student falling off a chair;
Underbelly Bristo Square
Aug 1-25 (21:20)