Matt Okine: Happiness Not Included | Melbourne International Comedy Festival review by Steve Bennett

Matt Okine: Happiness Not Included

Note: This review is from 2014

Melbourne International Comedy Festival review by Steve Bennett

When he bursts on to the stage, Matt Okine speaks with a gushing enthusiasm that would make a neuro-linguistic programmer happy. If he doesn’t ‘love’ something, it’s ‘exciting’ – sometimes both at once, all reinforcing the idea that a good time is ahead.

But his body language doesn’t match that. He delivers to the floor, to the side of the stage, distractedly looking around the room as he umms and aahs his way between routines, seemingly a little lost as to what comes next. ‘What else is going on Mel-bour-ne?’ seems more of a Alzheimer’s moment than a rallying cry.

Perhaps it’s an aspect of his shtick, that’s part casual chattiness, part upbeat bonhomie; perhaps it’s because he does the 6am breakfast show on Triple J radio now, so this is well past his bedtime; or perhaps it’s because he isn’t quite committed to the first part of Happiness Not Included, which would be understandable given that it’s rather a lightweight collection of workaday observational comedy and anecdotes from his past.

He mocks the uselessness of his bachelor fine arts degree in acting, describes the difficulty in quitting smoking, and speaks of minor irritations such as his girlfriend using too many cups around the house. They’re all fairly inconsequential routines, even if it subsequently transpires that some of them are laying seeds for the second half of the show. However, the value of others – such as re-living a trivial argument with the wardrobe department over his shirt when he made a cameo appearance on Neighbours – remain questionable. They seem like filler.

But in the home straight, Okine comes into his own, with a cracking story of hubris when his first paycheck – earned from appearing in a McDonald’s advert – goes to his head. He acts like a dick while out on the town, and justly gets his comeuppance. It’s frank, funny and with a riveting narrative that takes him through a succession of ever deepening lows and structurally calls back to some of the earlier ideas.

The honesty and humiliation endear him to an audience already wooed by the breezy charm that did, eventually, return to him. Okine has an instinctive light touch and a vocabulary littered with upbeat slang, which makes him feel fresh and natural. You can understand why a youth radio station snapped him up – and hopefully, at 28, he can now be trusted with the money they pay him.

Review date: 12 Apr 2014
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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