New Zealand comic scoops coveted Fringe comedy award

New Zealand comic Rose Matafeo has won the biggest comedy award at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Rose Matafeo has won the 2018 Edinburgh Comedy Award.Rose Matafeo has won the 2018 Edinburgh Comedy Award.
Rose Matafeo has won the 2018 Edinburgh Comedy Award.

The 26-year-old has become only the fifth female comic to win the Edinburgh Comedy Award since it was instigated in 1981 and is also the first solo non-white winner.

Matafeo, the first Kiwi winner, has followed in the footsteps of Australian comic Hannah Gadsby, who shared the award with John Robins last year and went to have her show snapped up by Netflix.

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Matafeo, who has Scottish roots through a grandmother in Lanarkshire, has been performing stand-up since she was just 15, when she enlisted in a schools programme run by the New Zealand Comedy Festival.

Matafeo, who has relocated from Auckland to London, has won the best show prize award with only her third full Fringe show, “Horndog,” part of which explores an obsession with the Scottish indie-rock band Franz Ferdinand and a crush on lead singer Alex Kapranos.

Matafeo, the third female comic in six years to win the main award after Gadsby and Bridget Christie, emerged victorious in a year that also saw women win five of the six nominations for the best newcomer award.

Matafeo, one of seven nominees for the £10,000 prize, said: “I really didn’t expect to win and felt a bit silly when I had to go up get the award as I hadn’t prepared anything to say.

“There are so many incredible shows by women this year. The quality is just insanely high.

It’s a reflection of how things are changing.

“It feels so exciting to be part of and I feel really lucky to be doing comedy at a time when space is being made to hear stories by women and their voices.

“There is not only a new generation of comedians, but a new generation of audiences, who had perhaps maybe not been spoken to directly before.

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“It’s great to get girls in their twenties coming up to me after a show and saying: ‘I completely get what you are talking about.’

“I always say that I make comedy for people like me and I’m happy to keep catering to them. It’s a huge audience, but it’s one that has maybe been ignored.”

Born to a Samoan father and Scottish-Croatian mother, Matafeo said she was “very proud” to discover that she was the first non-white winner.

She added: “It feels hugely significant. There is so much further to go. The diversity of voices in comedy and at the Fringe is getting better but there is absolutely room for more. The fact I am the first is awesome, but that also means there is clearly a long way to go.”

Matafeo’s show includes a sequence recalling the events which unfolded when she was a teenager and declared on an online Franz Ferdinand fans forum that she wanted to marry Kapranos, who she met in Edinburgh the day the nominations for the comedy award were announced.

She added: “Winning this award is incredible, but I have to say that meeting Alex Kaparonos still eclipses everything else. My 14-year-old girl self is losing her mind.”

Irish actor and comedian Ciaran Dowd was named best newcomer at the ceremony, which were co-hosted by Steve Coogan, who paid a moving tribute to the late comic Sean Hughes shortly before Matafeo’s award was presented in his honour.

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Coogan, who won the then Perrier Award in 1992, two years after Hughes, said: “At that time there was a real atmosphere at the Fringe of trying to do things that were new and fresh.

“A lot of young people were getting involved in comedy that had value and wasn’t about all the old tropes and lazy stereotypes. They were trying to comedy that was unique to them and in their own voice. Sean was the epitome of that.”