From the moment the Vengaboys intro music starts to play, I know I’m in for a good time. Matthewson’s camp, high energy performance style is utterly infectious and has the crowd onboard before he’s even reached the mic. There is some darker content in this show, but Matthewson maintains a joyous and cheeky self-awareness which allows us to laugh right on through it.
Gutterball is centred around a core memory of Matthewson’s involving a bowling ball, a foot and an intrusive thought. Intrusive thoughts make up a fair chunk of content in the show, and lead to some of the darker content mentioned earlier. For the uninitiated, “intrusive thoughts” are those often nasty and unexpected thoughts that pop into your usually kind and innocent mind. This definition is actually explained to us on Wednesday night by the legendary Karen O’Leary from the crowd, which is an added little thrill for the Wellington Paranormal fans among us.
Matthewson’s handling of this content has us openly cheering in support of throwing a stranger in front of bus, or physically harming a baby. I truly don’t know how we got here but it was completely hilarious and a testament to the performer’s craft that he got us there with such ease.
There is a running thread rippling out from the central Gutterball story about Matthewson questioning whether or not he might be evil. He weaves this into stories about cabbage patch kids, childhood memories, anecdotes about his family and the guilt of owning a home as a Millennial. It’s a real breadth of content and doesn’t have any particular social theme or message to it, but it doesn’t need to. It’s held together by this loose thread of self-reflection and nothing ever seems to come from nowhere. There are also seemingly constant callbacks which ensure maximum value out of every joke and detail.
It’s obvious that Eli Matthewson is just really bloody good at this and the result is a high quality, high pace comedy show chockablock with laughs. Gutterball isn’t a show that will change your life, but it’s a damn good night out with universal appeal.
If I was to have one criticism, without spoiling the ending of the show, it would be for Matthewson to commit to the illusion of his final gag. The set up is delightful, and I think just leaving it on a blackout and a thud would be a glorious end to the show. You can always re-emerge 10 seconds later to do your thank yous, but let us bask in the stakes of this final “bit”.
All in all, Gutterball is a just a brilliant stand-up show. I highly recommend you check it out if you can get your hands on a ticket. More info and tickets available on the Comedy Festival website.