The comic and actor Rose Matafeo was as soon as kicked off a fan discussion board for rock band Franz Ferdinand as a result of she stated she was going to marry frontman Alex Kapranos. She as soon as appeared in a highschool manufacturing of Grease the place all of the male roles have been performed by 28-year-olds. And when her cat, Burt Bachacat, went lacking in 2013, she put up posters providing 100 hotdogs as a reward. In her stand-up materials, Matafeo excavates the mortifying trivialities of her friendships, her adolescence, and her period-tracking app. However, she tells me, it’s way more widespread for her to be mistaken for a political comedian – “being the individual who I’m, which is a brown girl on this planet”. She sighs. “It’s weird whenever you simply actually speak about being a girl, and individuals are like, ‘Wow, it’s actually cool you speak about feminism.” The 31-year-old’s head strikes so vigorously that her curls bounce. “I really like feminism and I really like being a feminist, however I’m not even entering into the hardcore s***!”
Born in New Zealand to a Samoan father and a Scottish-Croatian mom, Matafeo has marked her place on the British comedy circuit with this trademark combine of vitality and honesty. The identical candour that gained her the Edinburgh Comedy Award together with her 2018 present Horndog – making her, considerably depressingly, the primary individual of color and the fifth girl to win in its 42-year historical past – permeates over Zoom. Wearing a black T-shirt, she is enthusiastic and considerate, and vulnerable to interrupting herself to go off on tangents. It’s a trait solely exacerbated when she realises halfway by way of our dialog that she’s misplaced her laptop computer charger. We proceed our chat as Matafeo bounces from room to room, scrambling by way of baggage and checking plugs all whereas clutching the pc beneath her chin. “I’m so sorry you’re watching all this occur,” she says. In the long run, she offers up and collapses onto her couch. She most likely has sufficient cost left.
To most audiences, Matafeo is greatest recognized for one of two issues. One is that she’s the creator and star of Starstruck, the Bafta-nominated BBC Three sitcom. The opposite is that she’s broadly thought of to be one of the perfect and funniest contestants on Taskmaster, the adored Channel 4 present by which comedians are requested to hold out eccentric challenges. She is such a pressure of nature on the collection that she’ll quickly be entering into Greg Davies’ position to host Taskmaster Junior, a children’ spin-off, which is able to debut this autumn. The format has been a good one for Matafeo, who was at one level – like many comics – a staple of the TV panel-show circuit. Given this, in addition to her shut friendship with satirist-turned-Pod Save the UK host Nish Kumar, I’m shocked she hasn’t given extra explicitly political comedy a go. Matafeo says she’d like to, however factors out that she’s nonetheless within the course of of ready for her “indefinite go away to stay” visa. “I’m simply gonna shut my mouth for a good quantity of time till I very properly embed myself within the nation, and then I can presumably begin,” she jokes.
In addition to, Matafeo says, she typically seems like “an absolute f***ing fool on the subject of politics”, each by nature of being associates with the very-well-versed Kumar “and being somebody who’s not born right here and not from this nation. As a individual who’s moved right here and is organising a life right here, I feel you are feeling – which is the issue – a little disempowered to have a say. The extra I strive and discover group right here… that hand-in-hand comes with a stronger confidence in having a political voice.” Within the weeks after our interview, she receives the visa, so who is aware of what may very well be coming. “Possibly that would be the step up in stand-up. Studying a quantity of manifestos, simply soberly on stage with no laughs.” She giggles. “That’ll be the subsequent present. See all of them off. That’ll be enjoyable.”
I’m talking to Matafeo forward of the return of Starstruck, the romantic comedy hybrid accountable for jettisoning her into the mainstream each within the UK and all over the world. The collection, which is broadcast in practically 100 international locations and is now again for its third outing, follows Jessie (Matafeo), an bizarre girl who has a one-night stand with a Hollywood star (Nikesh Patel’s Tom) and makes an attempt to start a relationship with him. The couple’s dynamic could also be ripped straight from Notting Hill, however Starstruck has in any other case at all times subverted the tropes and stereotypes most related to romcoms. Collection two started seconds after the top of collection one, and concluded with Tom and Jessie desperately in love. Collection three, which returns later this month, equally picks up seconds after these ultimate moments, then jumps ahead two years. There, the pair have had a messy break up and are navigating life in one another’s orbits, all whereas their mutual associates are having weddings and infants.
Watching collection three, I discover myself fixating on the present’s relationship with “the meet-cute” – that traditional romcom machine of a dramatic but lovely first interplay that indicators one thing vital is on the horizon. We reside in an age when apps are perceived to have de-romanticised relationship, so individuals appear to disregard issues of their relationships in the event that they occur to satisfy their companions the old style method, that means in individual. Tom and Jessie remind me of that. Their story is so good, so romcom-y, that they always overlook the truth that they’re simply not that suitable.
I say all this to Matafeo; it’s one thing I’ve typically mentioned with associates, however hardly ever seen explored in popular culture. “Oh my God, yeah!” she says, with the passion that infects most of her solutions. “I feel that you simply put on a pedestal these moments of ‘Oh, however it’s so romantic!’ I have sadly – not sadly, perhaps soberly – come to grasp that romantic love could be very, very totally different to long-lasting relationships.”
Matafeo describes Starstruck as a “soup” of the writing workforce’s (together with fellow Kiwi comics Alice Snedden and Nic Sampson) latest experiences with “break-ups, new romances, a goddamn pandemic”. However there are clear similarities between Jessie and Matafeo, to the purpose the place our conversations concerning the character shortly morph into conversations about her personal life. Take collection three, the place the topic of having children proves to be a sticking level for the couple – one that’s passive-aggressively raised by Tom and dismissed by Jessie, who merely doesn’t care sufficient to debate it.
Matafeo feels the identical. She says she’s “actually not that bothered both method”, and is within the course of of determining find out how to discover the topic as she returns to stand-up for a new run of work-in-progress exhibits. “I obsessively, secretly, comply with Instagram accounts which can be like, ‘Listed here are all of the celebrities who don’t have children’,” she says. “Actually, I’ve got a Google spreadsheet about celebrities who don’t have children.” That’s “to not say, God, you by no means really feel it,” she stresses, “however I’ve been actually eager about that side of entering into my thirties and going, ‘Oh s***, that maternal intuition everybody instructed me was going to kick in? Has not kicked in!’”
Folks may assume Starstruck is an autobiographical programme, however the fiction of all of it does add an necessary barrier between Matafeo and her creation. Her reside comedy, in distinction, is all her. As we converse, she’s making ready for a two-week run attempting out new materials on the Edinburgh Fringe. Months earlier, I noticed Matafeo put this to the check at a mixed-bill comedy evening, the place she spoke with trademark honesty about her latest experiences on Hinge.
Speaking concerning the here-and-now is one thing she’s nonetheless getting used to; in spite of everything, a lot of Horndog and 2017’s Sassy Greatest Buddy revolved round Matafeo’s teenage years. Figuring out how a lot to share about her current relationship experiences has been a problem. “After I used to do stand-up earlier on on this nation… there was a bit extra freedom to be fairly weak and private, as a result of individuals didn’t know who the f*** you have been,” she says. “Now, if I’m speaking about private stuff, individuals are like, ‘What’s the goss?’” (Matafeo beforehand dated five-time Edinburgh Comedy Award nominee James Acaster, though has intentionally by no means named him when discussing exes on stage.)
Matafeo’s return to the Fringe comes amid heightened discussions about the associated fee of showing on the pageant. She first carried out there in 2015, and is amongst a quantity of high-profile comics who’ve stated “there would by no means be any expectation that I’d ever make any cash from the Fringe” concerning their earlier exhibits. She took cash from her life financial savings to fund her earlier runs, “and that was simply the way it was once I began, which is so s***, as a result of in case you don’t have that chunk of cash to have the ability to spend money on the present, then you definately’re not gonna be capable of go”. Actually, she admits, she needs she’d taken a break this yr, however “horrific internalised capitalism” has made her really feel like she must “preserve being productive otherwise you’ll die and not be worthy of something”. She exhales. “So, you realize. Enjoyable stuff.”
Whereas her star has grown immeasurably since her early days on the Fringe, so has the comedy business. Now, she factors out, all-female line-ups with “multiple not-white individual” are widespread, with out identification being the principle theme. “However now you make me sound like an previous crone. Like, ‘What has modified within the business, coming again to it?’” She adopts the voice of an aged girl and wails. “‘I’m thirty-oonnnnnneeee. I’ve been doing comedy for too lengthy. That is horrible!’”
The brand new comedy class could also be “way more cool and way more wide-ranging”, however the business nonetheless has issues on the subject of progress and the way in which it treats ladies. Final yr, I interviewed Matafeo’s Starstruck co-star Emma Sidi, who introduced up a particular overview of the present that had bothered the pair. As quickly as I increase the subject, Matafeo is aware of what I’m speaking about. “Oh, the body one?” Yep, the body one. To paraphrase, the reviewer praised the present for that includes two feminine leads who don’t seem like the standard smooth-faced, stick-thin ladies you see on Instagram. The pair discovered it exhausting. What did their our bodies have to do with it?
Feedback like these, Matafeo has discovered, have turn into extra frequent because the present is broadcast all over the world. “You get individuals being like: ‘Sure, go lady! Nice to see a mid-size gal on display screen, displaying her rolls!’ I’m like… look, I don’t wish to… can we simply not? I do know that it’s a constructive factor, however you’re politicising my body in a method that I don’t.”
Matafeo is fired up. I don’t blame her. If it was my body, I’d be equally enraged. “I settle for that being a public determine and being in a factor that goes out internationally [means] you’re open to interpretation in what your efficiency is and what your present is. I’m completely down with that… It’s simply at all times ladies. You’re by no means saying, ‘Man, it’s so cool to see Invoice Hader, or some man who’s a “tall king”, with stubble or a abdomen.’ No. By no means. It’s at all times, at all times commenting on ladies’s our bodies, once they’re not even talking about them themselves.”
The feedback may “irk” Matafeo, however she’s nonetheless in a position to squeeze a joke out of it. “Subsequent factor, you’ll be seeing us in 20 years, and assume, ah, they got a lot of fillers as a result of of that remark. Think about! If that’s what motivated me.”
She lets out one final snigger, and the display screen cuts out. The charger-less laptop catches up together with her simply as our time involves an finish. It’s an abrupt conclusion, however a suitably becoming one. Matafeo goes out as she is available in: with a bang.
Rose Matafeo is acting at Edinburgh’s Monkey Barrel 4 till 27 August. ‘Starstruck’ returns quickly to BBC Three and BBC One