Comedian Matthew McKenna talks to Grapeshot Magazine about a career in comedy, YouTube, and My Little Pony
“I’m one of those comedians that like people to shoot something back at me,” says Mathew McKenna. “There was this one woman who I spent five minutes trying to convince to talk to me. She just wouldn’t.” He is sitting cross-legged on the wooden bench we are sharing. The Arts Practice and Management student has had his fair share of awkward moments up on stage. “You know that feeling when you are in a tute and you make a joke and no one laughs? It’s like that but times ten.”
Since his first stand-up gig at The Roxbury Hotel in Glebe in 2011, the 18-year-old has worked consistently to pursue a career in comedy. His schedule from April to June is chock-a-block beginning with sets on 19 and 20 April at the Red Lion in Newtown, and later, Gosford’s ‘Project U’ in June. “This festival usually features music but they have recently branched into comedy. I’ll be performing some longer sets,” he tells me. He will be performing alongside 2012 RAW Comedy National Finalist Marty Bright.
A self-confessed ‘Brony’, Mat wears a white T-shirt with a ‘Rainbow Dash’ design. “She’s my favourite character from the show,” says Mat. Today the Brony Society, of which he is Vice President, is gathering for a screening of their favourite episodes of the show. As we speak he is preparing to co-host a series of panel discussions at upcoming festival PonyCon which celebrates the 2010 revamped series My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Held on 6 and 7 April at The Roundhouse at the University of New South Wales, fans are given the opportunity to meet and greet with the shows creators and mingle with other ‘Bronies’ (fans).
Mat began by running a YouTube channel. “The video blogs I did were very Shane Dawson. He puts on wigs and stuff and he plays every character. They were kind of stupid and fun I guess.” His efforts earned him a loyal following of over 3,500 subscribers. I ask whether he has used characters in his live routines. “I feel that if I put on a character it wouldn’t be me. People have told me [after a show] ‘You’re very real’. They told me I’m the same person as I am on stage. I like being me.”
Having closed the channel after finding annoyance with his material, Mat returned to the web in July last year with MetaHew. “Instead of doing the shit I don’t like I just sit down and talk about topics that I’m interested in or what’s going on in my life. I think I’ve talked about my stand-up far too much on the channel.” I ask Mat where he sources inspiration for his sets. “Honestly I don’t know,” he says. “I just say things. There’s a lot that I find funny. The thing I like is that my comedy will feed off the channel and my channel will feed off the comedy.”
In the years to come Mat plans to venture interstate to the Adelaide Fringe Festival and the Melbourne and Perth Comedy Festivals. “It’s awesome … it’s a show produced by you and all the money goes to you. I want to start saving now so that I can hit them all up next year.”There is a lot of money involved in setting oneself up for the performances. I was curious about how Mat funded his tours. “I work at Dick Smith so I get money from there. My idea was to use the money from the gigs to jump from one to another. I probably wouldn’t end up breaking even but I would have performed in four festivals.” I ask Mat if he’d consider getting sponsorship. “I would but I have no idea to get it,” he says.
Mat tells me that he’d like to continue onto Masters after his Bachelor. He is undoubtedly dedicated to his career in comedy, ready to attempt anything that takes him towards Melbourne. He pulls out a chrome pocket watch attached to a silver chain. Checking the ivory dial, he says, “I’d better go. The show’s about to start.”