IF you ever speak to Matt Okine, don’t bring up H20: Just Add Water. Unless you’re prepared to laugh until your face hurts.
The cult TV show is just one of the topics the Triple J breakfast presenter, stand-up comic, actor and hip-hop hopeful covered in a chilled-out chat with Weekender.
Okine’s new comedy show, coming to Newcastle’s Civic Playhouse on August 15, explores everything that’s happened in the 28-year-old’s life so far – and he doesn’t hold back.
‘‘I’m trying to put in a mantra of being 100per cent honest in whatever I do,’’ Okine said.
‘‘If I ever start thinking, oh, I don’t know if I should be telling this story because the audience might think differently of me, I always decide I have to do it.’’
One part of Okine’s hour-long show recounts a crazy, unlikely string of events that leads to his life unravelling at a fast-food restaurant. He remains tight-lipped on the actual details, not wanting to spoil the surprise, but promises the night is up there ‘‘in terms of things that go from bad to worse’’.
‘‘There’s a lot of joy in seeing other people fail, you know, and I think it’s one of those things where you always learn from mistakes, even if they’re other people’s,’’ Okine laughs.
‘‘I’m not going to lie to my audience, everything I do in my shows is about me and how I became me. I appreciate honesty in any performances I see, so I feel like I’ve got to return the favour.’’
The formula has worked for the Brisbane-born performer so far.
His decade-long career in stand-up began when he was a Triple J raw comedy finalist at the age of 18. Since then, he’s been awarded best newcomer at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and Edinburgh Fringe, sold out shows around the country, and supported international comics Dave Chappelle and Aziz Ansari on their Australian tours.
Such success at a young age – Okine also has an acting and hip-hop career on the backburner — can be attributed to his willingness to try anything once.
‘‘A friend of mine was talking about it, and he was like ‘I’ve never met someone who experiences such highs and lows in general in their life’,’’ Okine says.
‘‘And I’m not talking about emotionally — these things just seem to happen to me that are really extreme and I think it’s because of my willingness to never back down from any situation, and to constantly be challenging things.’’
One extreme situation – extremely funny, that is – is how Okine appears in two non-related projects about teen mermaids. In one, H20: Just Add Water, a 21-year-old Okine played Sea World dolphin trainer Laurie.
‘‘It’s amazing, honestly amazing, how often that show pops up,’’ Okine says.
‘‘Still, to this day, I get texts from people on the other side of the world – in Holland or wherever – just being like ‘oh my god, I just saw you on H20’. It’s hilarious.’’
Also hilarious is Okine’s reaction to finding out his character in the show was a 35-year-old man.
‘‘I didn’t bloody know that until now, so thanks very much,’’ he exclaims, dooming this interviewer to uncontrollable laughter as he demonstrates his disbelief.
As his star rises, Okine said people still send him screen-grabs of his acting appearances, including stints in All Saints, Sea Patrol and Aquamarine, but he’s mostly recognised for his radio show.
‘‘Which is bizarre, because people can’t even see me every morning,’’ he says.
‘‘I just spent a week at Splendour in the Grass, and it was genuinely amazing how many people wanted to say hi.
‘‘It’s really nice to know we’re connecting with that many people and that they’ve gone out of their way to even look at what we look like.’’
Okine said even daily listeners to his radio show, Breakfast with Matt and Alex, wouldn’t have heard a majority of the material he’s presenting on-stage, though he said it can sometimes be challenging to save a crazy experience he’s had until he tours his next show.
‘‘Even if there is a situation where someone heard something on the radio once, it would be the very basics of what can possibly be a long, complex situation,’’ he says.
‘‘I can talk about something on-stage for 35 minutes. On the radio, I can only talk about it for two minutes.’’
Reviews of Okine’s previous show, Happiness not Included, highlight a tendency to blend seemingly unrelated anecdotes into one final crescendo – and Okine hinted his show at the Playhouse would get similar treatment.
‘‘The shows are an experience, it’s like theatre almost,’’ he says.
‘‘I’ve always had a really good response from Newcastle crowds, I’ve done the Orient a few times, but this show is a perfect introduction for people who haven’t seen me before.’’