Matt Okine is one of Australia’s favourite award-winning comedians, having graced our screens and stages across Australia and the world for the last fifteen years. He had huge success with his semi-autobiographical award-winning stand-up show “The Other Guy”, which went on to be produced for TV. Two seasons are now on streaming services Stan and Hulu.
These days he co-hosts the Matt & Alex All Day Breakfast podcast on the Listnr app, serving a delicious omelette of news, interviews and the occasional talkback with comedy!
He joins Jamila Rizvi on The Briefing podcast to talk about fatherhood, his new book Being Black ‘n Chicken, and Chips and the times he caught The Matrix out.
You are someone who is relentless with both your output and also the scope of the work that you’re doing, you’re working across mediums. Where does that drive come from?
My dad has recently said a couple of times, “do it now while you still can, while you still got the energy”, and I can feel the energy going, you know as I get older (laughs). My back hurts when I sneeze now (laughs). I used to be really scared of releasing something.
Like I released a hip hop album, you know, five tracks. I spent a year working on it and it got to the point where I was like, “is this going to change the world of hip hop? Absolutely not,” but back in the day, I would never have let anyone listen to it because it’s that people are going to be like, “oh, you suck, you’re stupid for even trying.”
The older I get, the more I’m just like “if I die, will I be more grateful that I just put this out there or would I be happy if it just sat on a shelf? Ninety-nine per cent of the time, I think that I’m almost positive that I prefer to have just tried and put it out there. I still see it as a success because it exists over something that doesn’t, that’s when you fail. When you’re creative, if you’re a musician, you don’t make music or you don’t perform, that’s failing.
Is it true that you almost turned down the Triple J Breakfast gig?
There are moments when you catch The Matrix. I remember driving with Urzila Carlson in Perth and we saw a plane in the sky that was not moving. We were both like that, “did you see that plane?!” Now I know that it was flying at a certain angle and whatever…it wasn’t moving! That moment sticks out to me. A glitch in the Matrix.
Right…It’s very silly, but I’ll take it.
The other time is when I got arrested outside a bar one night because my friend was getting evicted from the pub. As I was about to leave, the bouncer tackles me to the ground and decides to make a citizen’s arrest on me. He then starts squashing me on the ground to the point where I couldn’t breathe anymore. I remember thinking that I was going to die. And the little part of me that does believe in the Matrix thinks that I did die. That I got a reset, so that’s a second time.
The third time is when I said yes to Triple J because I don’t remember it. I was driving and I remember thinking vividly crystal clear, “when I get home, I am going to call up Ali Woods who had offered me a job at Triple J and say ‘thanks, but no thanks.'” I’m going to try and make it in the UK. I’d just been nominated for a big award over there at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, I was meeting up with these big agents, I was testing for TV shows.
Next thing I remember I’m doing Triple J. I have no recollection of the decision process that led to that. It’s so strange, but it was the best decision that I’ve ever not made. I said yes because I wanted to stay home to strengthen my relationship. But then it turned out four months later that my partner had been cheating on me with my best friend. We’d all been living together at one point, it was a really sad and unfortunate breakup and the job kind of, I dare say saved my life in a way.
Tell me about Being Black ‘n Chicken, and Chips.
The book is about a 12-year-old boy whose trying to start high school while his mom dies of cancer and that is very much based on events that took place in my life. It’s really just to replicate the human experience on a page and just let people see who I am, which is a really flawed human being. So often there is no right or wrong in the things you do or who you are.
My mum had told me that she had a headache and she sort of just started to be at home sick for a couple of days, you know, she stopped going to work. I was just starting going to school and cooking myself dinner and stuff like that, just cause she was sort of sick. Suddenly two weeks go by and…I’ll never forget, the dishes hadn’t been done. It was just so not like her to just have all these dishes in the sink and it was just before I had, I could ever have any autonomy over the running of the house. Then a couple of days later I find her in the shower and she’s collapsed. We went to the hospital and then she died about three weeks later.
Until I left high school, I kind of just denied it. I just put up a steel wall. I didn’t want anyone to hurt me. I got into fights. I went to parties and drank and I just wanted to prove that nothing could hurt. And that’s not a thing that most people have to deal with in their life. And they don’t usually have to deal with it at 12 years old.
It put a whole new perspective on where my mum was at and what it must be like to die with your kid, just watching you die, you know? And all the things that you must wish that you’d be able to see of their life.
Like it would just gut me so much if I couldn’t see who my daughter became. It’s constantly tough and you know, I’m writing the movie about it now, it’s like, yeah, it’s all there again. It’s the story that I keep wanting to tell, you know, and something that I’m super proud of.