Interview by Olivia De Zilva
Matt Stewart’s new Adelaide Fringe show, Bone Dry, explores his journey to sobriety.
“I was inspired to stop drinking when one of my best friends got pregnant — I figured, if she could kick the booze for 9 months, then I could as well. Not drinking for nine months affected my life a lot… I saved a bunch of money, lost weight and found out a lot of pubs serve non-alcoholic drinks, who would’ve thought!”
Stewart is nonchalant about the wider effect his show could have on audiences, claiming that he’s “really just trying to make people laugh”.
“…I just talk about things that I find interesting — and I guess over the last year drinking culture and masculinity in Australia are things that have been front of mind… next year could be about something completely different, perhaps I will finally open up and talk about how the Adelaide Crows broke my heart by beating the Saints in the 1997 grand final…”
Stewart claims that people can learn things from comedy, but the laughs are most important.
“…I’m sure there is more to it, but I think the laughs are the main thing. I feel like I’m blocking all your interesting questions about comedy, I feel a little uncomfortable talking about its importance for some reason — I feel like that’s for other people to talk about, people like you maybe…”
Stewart is excited to return to Fringe, saying that the year’s break between shows has allowed him to “improve as a writer and performer”. He is optimistic about this year’s festival and hopes that Adelaide hasn’t changed a lot in the past year.
“…I love the city and the fringe and can’t wait to get back! I think it’s the only arts festival in the world where for one weekend, the shows are interrupted by the sound of V8 engines… I love that kind of contrast.”
Of the perceived rivalry between Adelaide and Melbourne, Stewart notes that there are only subtle differences. “Melbourne is a little bigger, Adelaide is a little hotter, but overall I think the two cities are pretty similar”, he says. Noting that Adelaide and Melbourne are both festival cities, he claims that there really should be no rivalry, “Like Melbourne, I think the Adelaide Fringe audiences are comedy savvy and up for anything… plus Adelaide is the second biggest fringe festival in the world, so it’s a real thrill to be able to perform there!”
While he’s not on the road doing shows, Stewart is busy working on his comedy production house, Stupid Old Studios and podcast Do Go On co-hosted by comedians Jess Perkins and Dave Warneke.
“It’s a comedy podcast about a different topic each week (topics vary — one week we’ll learn about the life of Elton John, the next we’ll hear about the legend of Bigfoot or the Zodiac Killer). We’ve toured the show through the UK, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, and this Fringe we’ll be doing our first live show in Adelaide (March 10 at the National Wine Centre).”
Stewart says that his greatest comedic influence has been Adelaide Uni alumni Shaun Micallef, because he “showed how comedy can take many forms and that subverting tropes and comedy rules can be really fun.” With this in mind, he says that the greatest advice he’s ever received for comedy was from his friend Alasdair-Tremblay Birchall, a writer for Micallef’s ABC show Mad As Hell.
“Comedy is hard, you’re going to suck at the start — but the only way you can improve is to keep doing it…”
Matt Stewart’s Bone Dry will feature at The Adelaide Fringe from the 2nd-17th of March.