Two-time Billy T nominee Matt Stellingwerf will be bringing us more laughs with his fourth comedy festival show “Bachelor of Arts” from 10 – 14 May 2016. Matt has been steadily climbing the ranks of comedy since March 2012, quickly moving to full-time comedy in just a year, and performing in the New Zealand International Comedy Festivals annually since 2013.
Having studied a wide range of topics at university, Matt’s analyses of those subjects are the source of inspiration for this year’s show. Judging by his gigs at various comedy clubs around Auckland, his references to criminology, politics, and homeopathy are proving to be wildly hilarious and informative.
Breaking down the components of one’s own studies is certainly a great approach to comedy. Matt’s intellectual content is enlightening and opinionated in a way so original that it cannot be recreated by anyone else.
Subsequently, Matt has secured a second nomination for the highly sought after Billy T Award and is pleased he is finally comfortable enough to write comedy about academic subjects.
“I’ve found my voice and found my confidence to start doing that. And I’m really digging it.”
It’s a fairly recent move for him. Matt says comedians develop their content over time as their confidence builds. It goes without saying that a new comic’s worst nightmare is not being funny, and he says this as a reason for having “hack” jokes; debatably uninspired gags that take comedy back to a basic level.
“With experience and confidence comes the ability to say ‘I can get better, more impressive, and more important laughs’.”
He is now at a point where he can make the build-up to a punch line longer, and not worry about the silent thirty seconds or so it takes to get there. His ability at reading an audience is continuously improving, and the entertainment value for both Matt and the crowd is ultimately far better in the end.
“[My favourite part of comedy is] performing… in front of a good audience.”
The addictive sound of the audience laughing is what comedians work hard for, but it’s not always easy to receive. It’s important to note that while laughter may be due to a comedian’s presentation, it can also simply be due to the audience atmosphere.
I’ve seen comedians do the exact same excellent set to different crowds and the response can vary greatly, so I understand when Matt says this and genuinely means it.
“Sometimes performing can be – by far – the worst part of comedy. Performing when it’s going well or when it’s going hard and you win in the end perhaps is the most satisfying. But the best is when it’s going well and it’s fun.”
With a natural penchant for comedic storytelling, his career has hit the ground running. But it’s his hard work ethic and self-awareness in choosing content and writing good material that’s kept the fires burning.
“You’ve got to find out how to be funny and from that you can choose what you want to be funny about… You can make your comedy into anything you want but you’ve got to have the building blocks of level one comedy first.”
He relies on his own gut feeling when it comes to creating comedy rather than “reading the books” on how to be witty, an angle that indicates his natural ability and strive for authentic, original material.
It doesn’t come without challenges though. Matt says writing is difficult unless inspiration spontaneously strikes. He tends to come up with a ten or fifteen minute bit and rework it until it turns in to solid, sharp material.
It means he is able to constantly expand his stories. Vaguely defining his style as a mix between a storyteller and simply making jokes, Matt likes to analyse parts of his anecdotes, go off on tangents, and improvise new gags.
Matt has spent the days up to the festival refining the last few jokes and is excited to get on stage for his one hour show.
“It’s going to be really good… I usually have a classic Kiwi scepticism and mistrust of confidence but no, it’s coming together really well.”
With a passion for intellectual topics and writing original comedy, Matt holds onto his well deserved Billy T nomination and will certainly have his audiences beside themselves with laughter.
Who: Matt Stellingwerf
What: Bachelor of Arts
Dates: Tuesday May 10 – Saturday May 14
Show times: 7:00pm
Venue: Montecristo – Downstairs, 1 hr (no interval)
Ticket price: $16-$20 (booking fees may apply). Book tickets here.