Loose Canons: Eli Matthewson
Loose Canons is a series where we invite artists we love to share five things that have informed their work. Meet the rest of our Loose Canons here.
Eli Matthewson does acting, stand-up comedy and writing, and is a pleasure to have in class. His work on Funny Girls, Jono and Ben and 7 Days has impressed the staff and his drama projects, including Velcro City, Prehistoria and Square Eye Pair, were attacked with real gusto. Motor skills, however, are still developing.
His latest show Wow! You Won't Believe This Disney Prince Reimagined as an Absolute Comedy Legend! is a part of the New Zealand International Comedy Festival this year.
The reality TV show Living the Dream
Sometimes I feel like maybe I’m the only one who remembers this show. Living the Dream was a fake reality show where all the contestants were actors, fulfilling stereotypical Big Brother-style characters, except for one poor guy who was playing the game for real. My favourite part of the show was the fact that when contestants were eliminated, the host Mark Ferguson threw a plate with their face on it into the fireplace.
The show was a remake of an American show called The Joe Schmo Show but something amazing happened in our version. While the American version (which Kristen Wiig was in!) basically paid the guy out and made him look like a douche bag, our version found a genuinely nice guy called Sam, which switched the game up a bit. As the show went through various set-ups taken from the American version that were designed to embarrass Sam and put him in sticky situations, he kept defeating them by being a genuinely nice guy. Comedy and heart.
After that I think he ended up hosting Tux Wonder Dogs. Legend.
Claudia O’Doherty: The Telescope
In 2011 I made my first show at The Basement with Hamish Parkinson for the Auckland Fringe. We only got to put it on because someone else dropped out, and we did this weird three-show season that went Thursday, Sunday, Thursday. Then a crazy thing happened where Rhys Darby and Rosie Carnahan saw it and liked it and helped us take the show to Edinburgh. What a month! One show we performed to three women in their 70s and a reviewer. The reviewer walked out and slammed the door. Really hard, and really loud - it was crushing. But life is a rollercoaster baby, you just gotta ride it!
The Edinburgh Fringe still feels like a crazy dream, but in the month that we were there I saw almost 50 shows. I had barely started doing stand-up but I got to see stand-up hours by people at all different stages of their careers, and just as I was starting to feel like I understood how comedy worked, I saw a show that flipped all those ideas on their head. Claudia O'Doherty's The Telescope is a show I still think about all the time.
Claudia O’Doherty is now the highlight of that pretty-okay-but-not-amazing Judd Apatow series Love - but before that she was making some weird as hell and strangely perfect shows. The premise of The Telescope is that Claudia is trying to put on a one-woman show about a love story that happens through a time travelling telescope. A little bit like that weird movie The Lake House but with more bad cockney accents. But she starts forgetting her lines, and ends up rambling into what ends up being amazing stand-up material, all while the sound and light cues for the play she's abandoned keep going on around her.
There are so many parts of this show I can remember vividly - and I do not usually have a good memory. I can be crying-laughing all the way through a stand-up show and then immediately afterwards not be able to recall of any of it. But I remember a lot of The Telescope.
It was easily the most ambitious comedy show I’ve ever seen. I watched it wanting to know every part of the process that led to making the show, to know how every decision was made because it all came together so perfectly. I’ve never tried to make a show that’s even close to what The Telescope is, but I always have it in mind when I am writing. Someday I would love to make an audience feel how I felt when I watched this show.
Olly Alexander is the lead singer of the Years & Years, who make pretty great electronic pop. They’ve made some really cool songs. I’d especially recommend the track 'Memo' and their cover of 'Don’t Save Me' by Haim. I think they're still a few years off making some truly great pop, but Olly has definitely already become a star, and a really exciting example of what a celebrity in 2016 can look like.
He’s a really good performer - if you watch that Haim cover he has a genuine way of pouring his whole self into a song while not coming across over-earnest. Last Halloween he performed a show dressed as Zombie Geri Halliwell.
He also dresses really well, but in a way that not many people could pull off. He performs quite often in basketball shorts, a singlet and big white sneakers. It’s a style I wish I could pull off but I know I would end up looking like Kevin Federline.
But I guess what I think is most cool about him is the way he has presented himself to the media.. He gives a lot of great interviews despite the fact that people always ask him the same questions (1. Whether it’s hard to be gay in pop music and 2. Whether he regrets using male pronouns in some of his songs (*vomits*)). He’s able to be totally open and honest in his answers though, and it's exciting to watch the rise of a pop star that is, if anything, being aided by his openness about his sexuality, and also mental illness, rather than hindered by it.
His band has achieved pretty massive success in the UK and are building elsewhere, and a lot of their songs are about sex - gay sex. His most recent video, 'Desire', is filled with all sorts of sexy interactions. When asked if he has any trepidation about including such vivid sexual imagery, he’s said: “I like having sex. Being able to assert myself and talk about my sexuality is an empowering thing for me.”
I had a pretty great upbringing but I was taught through church to be a bit ashamed of sexuality. Sex positivity is still a fresh thing for me, so I’m really inspired by artists that can talk/sing/express it in their work. I think it’s so important for sex to be openly talked about and celebrated. So much so that I almost put porn star Jake Bass on this list, but I was worried my mum would read it.
I was ten when Bowfinger came out, and it was a comedic revelation for me. The premise for the movie - which follows a covert operation where Steve Martin tries to make a movie with superstar Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy, in one of two roles) as the lead role, without him realising he’s in the film - appeals to my comedy sensibilities so much. I love seeing people try to achieve unreachable dreams.
It also features underrated comedy legend Heather Graham, a dog in high heels and an amazing bit where a cop starts oozing alien sludge. The movie they make is called Chubby Rain. It’s comedy perfection.
Live from New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live
I like comedy and I like gossip so this is the perfect book for me. The book is made up of verbatim interviews with almost every cast member, plus writers and producers, cut-up and pasted into a semi-chronological history of the show.
Being an SNL fan is not really about loving everything the show produces. It’s about the excitement that it sometimes produces absolute garbage, and sometimes produces absolute gold. The excitement of a celebrity guest host who might not seem like a natural fit slaying it, or one who should be able to crack it stumbling. It’s also about the cast's evolution - who emerges as the stars and who falls by the wayside. I have a regular click around every time SNL is in its off-season to see if there’s any news on who’s been fired/hired.
This book is just filled with awesome little details, lots of big emotions and the constant struggle of rejuvenating a show that’s stuck around for so many years. It’s pretty incredible to read just how much the cast hated Chevy Chase in its early years, and also how unsure the producers were about Bill Murray.
I think being part of a comedy collective like Snort and reading this book makes me long for one day having enough history and stories to tell from within our company that we could have a book about us. Our stories so far probably aren’t exciting enough, we all like each other too much. Maybe I need to stir some shit up. Maybe I need to become the Chevy Chase.
is on at Basement Theatre
3 - 7 May