REVIEW: Matt Okine: The Hat Game (NZ International Comedy Festival)

Review by Nathan Joe

[A Fine Balance]

With his laid-back presence and intelligent humour, Matt Okine’s latest show is a highly watchable evening of stand-up. With just the right brand of Australian colloquialism, Okine’s manner translates well to our Kiwi stages without unnecessary pandering.

In between the jokes Okine masterfully weaves something like a rags to riches story into the tapestry of his material. Juggling an elaborate structure, he jumps from his attempts to become an Olympic athlete, make his own TV show and a stressful night at the casino. The various journeys he takes us on is no small feat for an hour of stand-up, yet he does it almost effortlessly, and unnecessary tangents reveal themselves to be intricately plotted. It’s material worthy of its own feature film or Netflix series, filled with genuine suspense and tension.

His set also contains one of the most elaborate and excessive deconstructions of a joke I’ve witnessed on stage, elevating a seemingly crass and crude period joke to new heights. It’s a monumental display of comedic bravura that highlights the attention he pays to the finer details in his writing.

What separates Okine from other standup comedians is his ability to weave multiple stories and comedic asides seamlessly together, a high-wire balancing act that could easily tip over into clumsiness in less adept hands. While not necessarily the funniest hour of the comedy festival, the self-awareness and narrative backbone of the show makes it an impressive feat.

Those who missed his short Auckland season of only two nights will want to keep an eye out for him in next year’s programme.

Matt Okine played The Basement 18-19th May. 

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