A Conversation with Matt Stewart
Interview by Austin Frape
I had the chance to talk with Melbourne comedian Matt Stewart, who is performing at the Adelaide Fringe with his touring stand up performance DRY GINGER MALE (how could you pass up seeing him based on that pun?). Matt Stewart is the 2014 RAW comedy award winner, co-owner of the production company Stupid Old Studios and co-host of the factual comedy podcast, Do Go On.
We discussed his beginnings in the Melbourne comedy scene, his process of making jokes and what makes stand-up a unique experience. On an unrelated note, he also brought up famous University of Adelaide alumni including another comedian Shaun Micallef, and we discovered facts about William Lawrence Braggs. Matt was a great guy to talk with and a really fun interviewee.
To begin with, how did you get involved in the comedy scene and how did that lead towards stand up and your other mediums like Stupid Old Studios or Do Go On?
MS: Comedy has always been something I’ve enjoyed ever since I was younger when I would go to Melbourne International Comedy Festival, but it never seemed like something that I could actually do. It seemed like a different breed of skill sets was needed, even with people in my life telling me that I should give it a go.
I became a part of a youth radio station called SYN (Student Youth Network) because I wanted to get involved in radio or television. I eventually met Andy Mathews, Evan Munro-Smith, Bec Petraitis, and Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall, where we made sketches and posted them on YouTube. We formed Stupid Old Studios, which is a production company for comedy-based content.
With Do Go On, one of the hosts, Dave Warneke, had an office at Stupid Old Studios. He had an idea for a podcast where each week one person would have a topic and discuss it with their co-host and it would rotate between the hosts. We recorded a few episodes and it was so much fun and was something that we wanted to continue. We decided to also bring in a comedian friend of ours, Jess Perkins, who was interested in the idea and now, three years later, we’re up to 110+ episodes. We’ve done some live shows at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and we’re also looking to go overseas soon.
Al and Andy started doing stand-up soon after we founded Stupid Old Studios. I was still hesitant on doing it, but I was kind of forced into doing a performance when one night, I was told that I was booked to do a show at the end of the week, which was fun (laughs). But that eventually led me to doing all these shows and winning RAW in 2014. And that’s my boring comedy background (laughs).
Describe the process of what type of jokes you want to include in your shows; do you prefer planning punch lines beforehand, do you prefer improvising, or a bit of both?
MS: DRY GINGER MALE is based around different current topics that I thought were worth putting a comedic spin on. Masculinity and politics are sort of a key themes that are integrated into the show and I kind of go from there with finding what I think are good jokes.
It makes it easier to have jokes planned beforehand, even if they don’t always land. I think audiences also like a good humorous life story that ties into the theme without necessarily describing every single detail. It kind of goes “here is the story and I’ll emphasise on the funnier parts”.
Improvisation requires a lot of quick thinking and it can be pretty fun at times. Improv moments are great if you have someone with you on stage or interactions with audiences. But when doing a show, you do need to have something in mind beforehand otherwise the crowd is just watching a moron trying to be funny.
Lastly, what do you think makes stand up comedy a unique experience for both the comedian and the audience?
MS: It’s definitely an experience that can’t be captured when watching a comedy at the movies or on TV. Both the comedian and the audience are sharing kind of an intimate moment where one person is trying desperately hard to engage a large group of people while that group is responding to the idiot standing on a stage, in a both positive and negative way. Whether it’s the funniest joke that captures everyone’s sense of humour or the biggest crash and burn imaginable, you pretty much need to be prepared for whatever can happen.
Matt Stewart’s show DRY GINGER MALE will be playing from February 15th to March 2nd at The Cranny at The Producers. Don’t miss out!