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Rose Matafeo: All you need is laughs

The Funny Girl finally has the nerve to leave home

Rose Matafeo’s quirky speed dates on the Jono and Ben show, complete with “kiss, marry, kill” ultimatums, have won over many a celebrity. So it seems only fair that, as the 23-year-old chats about her TV3 show Funny Girls, we give her a taste of her own medicine.First up, a trio of her US comedy idols – Tina Fey, Amy Schumer and Lena Dunham.
“Oooh, this is hard! Um ...OK. Kiss Amy Schumer, marry Tina Fey and – sorry, Lena! – shoot Lena Dunham.” On to the blokes now. Ex-boyfriend, Kiwi comedian Guy Williams, current boyfriend, UK comedian James Acaster, and US actor and recent speed-date victim Bill Hader. “No way!” she laughs. “Um, I’d probably shoot James and Guy, and marry and kiss Bill.” Now officially based in London, part-Samoan, part-Kiwi Rose has been back in New Zealand for a whirlwind trip to shoot Funny Girls. It’s her creative baby – a self-penned sketch show featuring herself and a tribe of other female talent, including Antonia Prebble and Kimberley Crossman. But make no mistake. Even though the show, which takes its cue from UK comedies like Smack the Pony and Green Wing, is skewed towards women, it’s not just for the fairer sex.
“Guys,” she jokes, “if you’re taking your girlfriend or wife to Pacific Rim and she’s putting up with it, then the least you can do is watch this show with her. Maybe you’ll even like it!” The last few months have been a whirlwind for the 2013 Billy T Award winner, who began stand-up at the tender age of 15 after taking part in a school- holiday comedy programme.
After following her heart and making the leap across to the UK to be with James, she and fellow comedian Guy Montgomery performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It might sound like every comedian’s dream, but the reality, says Rose, was more of a nightmare – performing 25 back-to-back shows in a beer-stained Edinburgh nightclub to a less-than-enthusiastic audience.
Joke’s over
“It kind of screws you up!” she shudders. “I pretty much had a breakdown in the toilets each night. It was just audiences of angry, old Scottish men, like Trainspotting on steroids. And we were in the free section, so we got people walking out halfway through. There was a woman who just totally ignored us and read her programme.” As soon as the festival was over, Rose and her boyfriend
took off to the States for a break. “We went to Dallas, Austin, New Orleans and Florida – pretty much all the places with great food – and Disney World!” Then it was straight to the studio in Auckland to film Funny Girls. The pace has been relentless, but her 70-something nan Jessie Vuletich, with whom she’s been staying, has been her rock. “Nan’s the best!” Rose smiles. “I’ve had so many early morning wake-ups, and she’ll make me crumpets and tea to take in the car on the way to work. She’s always out and about, going fishing or on road trips. She’s the coolest. I’m so lucky to have her.” Noticeably absent from her Auckland homecoming was her white, dreadlocked, Rastafarian teacher mum Diane Vuletich, who is teaching in Uganda for the next two years “or until the grandchildren start coming”, says Rose. Their dynamic is pure Ab Fab – the sensible, socially anxious, former head girl daughter and her fearless, fun mum. “Apart from a few months during Jono and Ben, I’ve always lived at home,” says Rose. “I’d be in on a Friday or Saturday night, and it’d get to 10pm and I’d say, ‘Mum, where are you going?’ She’d be off to some party and I’d be about to go to bed.”
It was Diane’s boldness that gave Rose the push to move to the UK with James, who she met on the comedy circuit in 2014. “I was scared. Then I looked at Mum and I thought, ‘If she’s so excited about moving to Uganda, then why the hell am I so scared of moving to England?’”
Another one of Rose’s fears, death, was addressed in her sell-out 2015 Comedy Festival show Finally Dead, directed by her pal and Super City creator Madeleine Sami. Rose plans to take the show to Melbourne and is also working on a film script. Her dream is to move into movies. “Who knows what the next year holds?” she muses. “I could completely change my life this year – become an accountant or something – but I don’t want to! I’m having too much fun doing this and, anyway, I’m too much of a control freak to leave things to chance.”
Funny Girls (clockwise from left) Chelsea McEwan Millar, Laura Daniel, Jackie van Beek, Kimberley Crossman, Rose and Brynley Stent.

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