Listen: Sam and Duncan chat with comedian and author Matt Okine
The last few years have been massive for comedian Matt Okine.
Moving from co-hosting triple j’s national Breakfast show, to writing and acting in his own TV show, The Other Guy, he’s now penned his first novel, Being Black ‘N Chicken, & Chips.
The book is distinctly Australian, and reminiscent of coming-of-age stories like Tim Winton’s Lockie Leonard series. Despite covering some heartbreaking content, Okine did emphasise to Hope Breakfast’s Sam & Duncan that his book is a work of comic fiction.
“It’s about a twelve-year-old boy who is trying to start high school while his mum is dying of cancer—it’s a comedy, I promise!” he says.
“But there’s also touching, poignant moments. I really wanted to capture a book that showcases the sort of way that a young person deals with grief in a realistic way, and the way that parents deal with grief as well.”
Reflections of his Own Childhood Loss
Although not an autobiography, the novel is based on Okine’s 2012 stand-up comedy show, and does reflect much of Okine’s growing up in Brisbane – including losing his own mother to cancer. It’s an experience many don’t often have to deal with until they are an adult, and one that deeply affected Matt.
“I wanted to capture a realness of that time and that place,” he said. “There’s an innocence to it all, a naivety. Even though he has to visit his mum in hospital and watch her condition deteriorate her, there’s also a lot of joy around the other parts of his life.
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“It’s trying to highlight that when grief is happening to someone, it’s not just black and white. There is still joy and happiness around you, and that joy and grief battle for your attention.”
“It’s not black and white. There is still joy and happiness around you, and joy and grief battle for your attention.”
Matt is also a new father to a beautiful baby girl named Sofia, to whom he’s dedicated the book. He acknowledges the world that she will grow up in is very different to the world of 1998, in which the novel is set.
“The world does seem to be about Netflix specials and everything is online,” he said.“But books have lasted the test of time.
“It’s amazing that my daughter can hold this book and read it and see what life was like for her Dad growing up.”