Comedian Matt Harvey Chats Inspiring Comedy, Storytelling and Podcasting

2 years ago
Til Knowles

Melbourne comedian and writer Matt Harvey is back at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, this year with an hour of true stories from his life. It’s described as ‘Like Eat, Pray, Love – if nobody learned anything, and all the “eat” parts happened at McDonald’s.’ I Got Bit By A Monkey Once… does also include the story of Harvey getting bitten by a monkey. We caught up with him before his run starts to discuss his new show.

So, you got bit by a monkey once! Why is that story the centre-piece of your show?

The show is actually a series of vignettes, 5 stories about different events. The titular monkey bite, a long bus trip across America, a fire, an arrest, and a mugging. But as far as from a comedy and interest perspective going with I got bit by a monkey once is more funny and interesting than I rode on a bus for 36 hours once.

Tell us a bit about the style of comedy you perform. 

Well I find my comedy is constantly evolving. This show in particular is a storytelling show. I have been trying out different styles of comedy seeing what I enjoy and what crowds enjoying me doing. So far the storytelling has been really well received and I am enjoying doing it.

You’ve said that this show isn’t political – a bit of a change from your 2017 show. Was there anything in particular that led to the decision to write a story-based hour instead of a political one?

Since last Pop Culture-y last saw my show I have tried a few things, The Face of Gentrification and Other Ideas was a show that explored race, identity, and politics and I followed it up with a show about words and politics. But I do find that when doing shows that are specifically about Australian politics it makes it very hard to travel. I’d love to go overseas with comedy, and plan on doing Edinburgh in 2020 and no matter how good a One Nation joke is Scotland isn’t going to have reference points for that joke. The nature of storytelling means the stories are a little more universal.

Why did you start doing comedy?

It was a complete accident really. My good friend and podcast co-host Marty Atta was a someone very interested in comedy, h won class clowns and was performing a lot. As a show of support he used to bring me along to a lot of his gigs, and I actually started performance in theatre. In an attempt to work on my stage presence in a way that seemed inconsequential, as I wasn’t planning on following through with comedy, I hit the open mic circuit as I could get more stage time. Tuns out I enjoyed it a lot more than I would ever have guessed.

What’s the most inspiring piece of comedy you’ve seen in the past year and why?

I have travelled across Australia a bit in the last year and have seen a lot. I don’t think I could pick a single piece of comedy but here is a small list of great performers/shows I have seen.
Dion Arnold – My grandmothers M.A.I.D. an incredibly funny and truthful story about a 96 years old lady making the choice to die with dignity.
Mc Hammersmith 1,000 rhymes per hour – An hour of improvised rap by an incredibly white English man, like if John Oliver was a battle rapper.
Laura Davis – Anything she does is incredible. She just moved to the UK though so it’s hard to catch her.
Alice Fraser – Ethos. A strong show about comedy, the nature of laughter, and teaching a robot to laugh. Which touches on very everyday ideas and more harder ones like me too.

You also host a comedy podcast – how has that shaped your comedic development?

It forces me to watch a lot of comedy so I get to see what people are doing. The philosophy of the show is ‘People we think you should know’ which means I see as many shows as I can each festival so I can figure out who is someone I think people should know. Plus it means I get to meet people I might not have met at this point in comedy.

Which episode of the podcast would you recommend for new listeners and why?

There are a few strong ones.
Steph Tisdell, we talk identity, indigenous community and Australia.
Liz Meile, a New York based stand up comic who was touring Australia at the time. We talk travel, and stupid things people do when not at home.
And check out the live episodes as it is what you are getting in the festivals. The Adelaide Fringe show (episode 55) is a fun show with great guests including Dion Arnold who I mentioned above.

If you could get any comedian on the podcast, who would it be?

Well landing Liz was a good get for me. In episode 1 she is the first comedian I was keen to get people on board with as her style is so great. But there are many great comedians. Of course there are strong ones that people already know like W. Kamau Bell or Hari Konadabolu, but with the podcast philosophy in mind there are wonderful local acts like Alice Fraser, Laura Davis, Brodi Snook all of which have incredible mindsets and details to comedy that I’d love to explore with them.

I Got Bit By A Monkey Once is on at 6pm at the Tickle Pit at Rozzi’s until 20 April as part of the 2019 Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Tickets are available from the MICF website.

Just For Funny is on at 4:30pm at the Tickle Pit at Rozzi’s on the 13th and 14th of April. Tickets are available from the MICF website.

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