With 11 years of comedy behind him Rhys Mathewson now wants to do more than just make people laugh.
The Auckland comedian is returning to the NZ International Comedy Festival in May with his new show Rhys Classic.
Last year Mathewson won the 2016 Fred Award, a prize named in honour of Kiwi comedy legend John Clarke’s character Fred Dagg. Clarke died while on a bush walk in Australia in April.
It recognises the best New Zealand show in the NZ International Comedy Festival and has been won in the past by the likes of Dai Henwood and Rhys Darby.
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Mathewson was the youngest winner of both the Fred Award and the Billy T Comedy Award which he won in 2010.
The 26-year-old said Clarke was a remarkable example of a comedian who got sharper with age.
“It’s a nice reminder that there’s still more work to do,” Mathewson said.
Beginning his stand-up career as a 15-year-old, Mathewson said he had reached a point where he felt he had done his fair share of cynical comedy.
Instead he wanted his humour to arrive at a more positive place.
“People just want to laugh and that’s important, they deal with enough crap in their day to day life,” he said.
“The braver comedic choice is to try and leave people with a positive thing and invigorate them and make them care about stuff.”
Mathewson began his comedy career when he was a student at Westlake Boys High School on the North Shore.
Initially his parents had to accompany him to gigs because he didn’t have his full licence to drive home after 10pm.
“As soon as I stepped off stage for the first time I knew I was going to do this my entire life,” Mathewson said.
Now a writer on Three’s current affairs show The Project he said the great thing about comedy was you never “run out” or you never had to retire.
“I wish jokes worked the same way as music where you could hear the same one over and over again and it would still be as good.”
While there’s still anxiety involved with getting on stage, he said he had reached a point where the fear of not having enough material could be “harnessed”.
In preparation for Rhys Classic he’d set up a monthly show at the Classic Comedy Club and work entirely new material with each performance.
“There are those worries but the trick is to use them to make good work rather than just kind of sit in the fear and let it dominate.”
Mathewson will perform Rhys Classic from May 3 to 7 at the Basement Studio on Lower Greys Ave.