Why 2018 Was The Year Of Accolades For Comedian Rose Matafeo

By George Fenwick
Rose Matafeo. Photo / Supplied

Rose Matafeo was already a household name in New Zealand when she moved to London in 2015 but in 2018, she received the biggest accolade of her career so far: the prestigious Edinburgh Comedy Award, won for her solo show Horndog at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

A comedic breakdown of Matafeo's love and sex life, Horndog debuted to rave reviews at the New Zealand International Comedy Festival in May, and went on to win favour with critics and audiences alike in Edinburgh (she later sold out a 12-night run of the show at London's Soho Theatre).

To put in perspective how important the Edinburgh Comedy Award is: past winners include international stars Steve Coogan, Dylan Moran and Demetri Martin. Last year's co-winner Hannah Gadsby was launched to international fame this year when she released her earth-shattering Netflix special Nanette.

The award broadens Matafeo’s horizons, but on an individual level, her win is significant in a number of ways: She’s the first Kiwi to win, the first Pacific Islander, the first person of colour to win solo, and only the fifth woman to win in 37 years.

Matafeo's win is no overnight success story, however; the 26-year-old comic has been performing for a decade, putting up annual solo shows at the New Zealand Comedy Festival. She hosted TVNZ's short-lived youth channel U Live, reinvigorated Jono and Ben when she joined as a cast member and writer, and helped create Three network's female-oriented comedy sketch show Funny Girls.

But Matafeo is aware that her success this year is helping her come to terms with her choice of career. She told TimeOut: "It's been a year where I've gone, 'Oh yeah, I actually do comedy; I'm a comedian.' It was the first year I actually felt like this is what I do for a job."

It's a job that's about to get even busier. Britain's Channel 4 has commissioned Matafeo to create a three-part online comedy series called Rose Matafeo: Temp, following a temp office worker and their interactions with three colourful characters in the workplace.

She's been cropping up on long-running British comedy shows such as Have You Been Paying Attention? and W1A, and recently wrapped up a part in the Australian comedy series Squinters. She's also written her first play with Work Do, the Basement Theatre's annual Christmas show, in partnership with Alice Snedden.

With her Edinburgh prize money of £10,000 and an elevated profile, the world is now Matafeo’s oyster and we can’t wait to see her sharp, self-deprecating, intelligent and thoughtful humour be given the platform it deserves.

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