Career

Rose Matafeo: The comedy trailblazer cementing her place on the international stage

Rose Matafeo has taken New Zealand comedy to the international stage.

“The first time I did stand-up was when I was 15. It was a comedy festival show in the concert chamber at the [Auckland] Town Hall. I was wearing an orange sweater vest and still had braces – and I was bizarrely confident,” recalls Rose Matafeo of her debut.

If 15-year-old Rose had known that 12 years later she’d be performing her work in front of Duke and Duchess of Sussex Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in the Royal Variety Performance, she probably wouldn’t have believed it, and 27-year-old Rose still doesn’t.

“My whole thought process that night was, ‘Why am I here? Someone’s going to kick me out soon. Rick Astley just opened the door for me. How have I tricked people into thinking I’m at all qualified to do this?”


If you can gain one qualification in comedy, winning Best Comedy Show at the Edinburgh Festival is certainly a good one to have under your belt.

Last year, Rose took home the gong for her show Horndog, which struck a chord with audiences and critics alike, maybe because, she says, “it celebrates that weird energy that fuels a person’s passions in life. There’s also a bit of dancing and I do some funny faces and voices, and that usually makes people happy.”

For the past four years, the Aucklander has been living in London, which she says is a great city for stand-up, just not for coffee.

“There are a lot of gigs and a lot of people who want to see gigs. You can also see some pretty inspiring work being done by your peers. I find it exciting to have peers in comedy both in New Zealand and abroad who are the funniest people I’ve ever met and who are doing so well.”


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Cementing your place on the world stage as Rose has done is no mean feat, even more so, unfortunately, for a woman in comedy. And though we’ve seen female comedians making an powerful impression on the scene in recent years – Hannah Gadsby, Ilana Glazer, Abbi Jacobson and Tiffany Haddish, to name a few – it’s an industry that has historically been dominated by men.

However despite Rose’s recent accolade, she doesn’t see herself as a trailblazer.

“There have been many before me who worked hard to allow me, a self-reflective, sensitive Pisces, to unleash my pretty mild comedy on the world,” she says.

“It was pretty hard to be a woman doing comedy even 20 years ago, and those comedians have made it possible for me to do comedy now. That sounds pretty corny, but it’s quite true.”

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Coming off the back of a year of stand-up touring, 2019 looks set to be relatively stand-up free for Rose, but she has a plethora of goals she’s hoping to tick off; “Shooting a movie, writing a new show for 2020, hopefully writing for TV, trying to think of a feature film idea, learning to direct, working on some new crochet stitches, learning the piano, make a ‘zine, working on not being so easily embarrassed…”

When asked how she feels about being one of the best in the world at something now, thanks to her win at Edinburgh, Rose wastes no time shooting the title down.

“I think believing I’m the best in the world at anything is entirely against my brand and I politely reject the notion, thank you.”

Seems she is easily embarrassed, but us Kiwis are more than happy to boast about her new-found status for her.


This article originally appeared in Fashion Quarterly, Issue 1, 2019.

Words: Lucy Slight
Photos: Stephen Tilley, Instagram

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