Interview with comedian Eli Matthewson

"Make sure there isn't a fish and chip show right below your accommodation because you will eat it every night (especially if you come from a part of the world where they don't do curry on chips and the novelty is too exciting) and it is not healthy."

Interview with comedian Eli Matthewson

Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?

Hi! I'm Eli Matthewson, a comedian from New Zealand who is back at the Fringe for my third time. Since I was last at the Fringe there was a pandemic, I became a Breakfast radio host and I've just been on Dancing With The Stars NZ as part of the first ever same-sex couple on the show. It's been busy, but I'm so excited to come back!

How would you describe your show?

My show was originally planned to be my least gay show ever - I wanted to prove my haters wrong by doing a show without any jokes about my sexuality. That goal had to be set aside, however, as lots of exciting and very gay things have been happening in my life - not least of all my father coming out of the closet in his sixties. This show explores me getting older, processing a massive family change and coming out a better version of myself by watching my Dad do something amazing.

Why do you want to perform at Edinburgh Festival Fringe?

Being in New Zealand we are so far away from so much of the world, that being in amongst this massive festival, surrounded by international talent feels absolutely incredible. Plus it feels like a true test of your talent and work to put it up against the best from all around the world. Also, there's a really great Korean restaurant I want to go back to.

What differentiates it from other festivals?

The size and scope is incredible, and it also really feels like no matter where you are from in the world you have the opportunity to make an impact. There is just so much to see, with shows starting every other minute, and the buzz of being around so many performers, even if half of them are trying to force a flyer into your hand, is amazing.

What first motivated you to enter the industry? Who were your inspirations?

I saw my sister's high school play and her friend Dan was playing the Irish, comic-relief character and getting so many massive laughs and I just knew that was what I wanted. I was addicted to Whose Line Is It Anyway, and spellbound by watching Amy Sedaris being interviewed on David Letterman. Nothing seemed as fun as getting people to laugh, and right from my first ever school speech when I was nine (I absolutely roasted the Spice Girls) I knew this was what I wanted to do.

How has your background, upbringing and education had an impact on your artistic career?

I think growing up Christian in Christchurch, New Zealand - which is one of the country’s more conservative cities - really made me repress the more flamboyant aspects of my personality for years. When I realised I could be whoever I wanted to be the floodgates were opened, and that is why I love talking about things I was never allowed to as a kid. Sex, porn, which bible stories sucked, which youth leaders I had a crush on... anything I used to stop myself saying I will now say loud and clear.

What is your earliest childhood art memory?

I choreographed a full Jurassic Park ballet performance when I was five. Me and my sisters made costumes out of paper and performed dinosaur dance routines to the music of the Four Seasons by Vivaldi. It should be on the West End.

If you didn’t have your current job, what would you probably be doing?

I think I would teach Classics. I loved it at school, I studied it at University and I can definitely see myself shutting the classroom door and performing solo-shows of the Greek Myths for the (probably not interested) kids.

Did Covid-19 change the way you create work? Do you approach shows with a different mentality now?

It just made me so grateful for being on stage, and being in a room with other people and getting to do comedy. It is such a privilege to do this job and I try and remember it now, because we couldn't do it for so long. I tried a few Zoom gigs and... nope. Never again.

Describe the last year in 5 words or less?

Long distance is finally over!

Do you subscribe to the idea that art should be exempt from ‘cancel culture’?

Not at all. Every maker should be thinking about the effect their work has on its audience. If you are making people feel excluded and hurt by your work... you should rethink whether that's what you want. I don't necessarily think cancel culture is healthy, and people seeking to 'cancel' people left and right could definitely get better hobbies – but I also think there are so many amazing performers out there making work that isn't transphobic, let's focus on them instead of sharing hideous clips of past-it stand-ups using those jokes to get clicks.

If you could work with anybody, from any point in history, who would you pick and why?

William Shakespeare. I used to be obsessed but I reckon I could show him which stuff to cut.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to take a show up to the fringe?

Speaking from experience... make sure there isn't a fish and chip show right below your accommodation because you will eat it every night (especially if you come from a part of the world where they don't do curry on chips and the novelty is too exciting) and it is not healthy. 

When and where can people see your show?

I'm at Underbelly George Square. 8.50pm every night except the 17th. 

And where can people find, follow and like you online?

I am @EliMatthewson on Twitter and Instagram, or @EliMatthewson39 on TikTok, or if you're old school I'm EliMatthewsonComedy on Facebook. 

Eli Matthewson: Daddy Short Legs, Underbelly George Square (The Wee Coo), 8.50pm, 3-29 August (not 17). For tickets, visit:

Header Image Credit: Caitlin Murray


Tom Inniss

Tom Inniss Voice Team

Tom is the Editor of Voice. He is a politics graduate and holds a masters in journalism, with particular interest in youth political engagement and technology. He is also a mentor to our Voice Contributors, and champions our festivals programme, including the reporter team at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

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