The Other Guy: an interview with Matt Okine

Break-ups can have strange consequences. As a more-or-less direct result of a bad split a few years ago, Matt Okine is now on the phone with me, explaining how he put his genitals in a drawstring bag. Okine is the writer and star of a new TV drama, The Other Guy, based on his award-winning stand-up show of the same name – which is in turn based on the discovery that Okine’s girlfriend of 10 years was cheating on him with his best friend. Out of pain came art. Also, sex scenes.

“I have to get nude quite a lot for the show – like, you don’t see my bits on the TV show, but they were definitely out too much for most of the crew’s liking,” Okine tells me. “Sometimes you’re squeezed inside this tiny room and you’ve got the focus-puller’s head about three inches away from your crotch, and that’s not good for anyone, you know? You’ve got to wear this little modesty pouch – and it’s not even like a cool, slick, cup – it’s like this pathetic, cream-coloured large earring purse. You know those little sacks you put earring in? It’s like that.”

I tell him I’m not entirely familiar.

“It’s like this little hessian bag,” he elaborates, “it’s got a drawstring, so it’s like you’re choking your penis. And you’re supposed to be doing this sex scene and pretending that you’re real into each other and that it’s this hot, sexy moment – and then you look down and you’ve just got your dick in a bag, you know what I mean? It’s like, this is pathetic.

“I tell you what, it’s definitely not a how-to guide for people on how to deal with a break-up, that’s for sure.”

All six episodes of The Other Guy are streaming on Stan from August 17. Okine, primarily a stand-up comedian, hit the national spotlight as the co-host of Triple J’s breakfast slot. He co-wrote the show with Becky Lucas, also a Sydney comedian, and the episodes turns over gags with the familiar rhythm of a stand-up show. There is serious material in the show – body insecurity, a gambling addiction, alcohol abuse – but the sense of comic possibility is always there.

Even as Okine’s character, AJ, falls deeper into the emotional sinkhole of his ex-girlfriend’s manipulation, the show retains its optimism. Okine told me over the phone that the show was definitely not “a step-by-step mirroring of my life,” but that it is accurate in its depiction of the ping-ponging emotions of a relationship in its death throes. AJ also makes excruciatingly bad decisions, while knowing exactly how they are going to end: and in that, too, the show is true to life.

Okine is an exceptional performer, as is Harriet Dyer (who plays Stevie, AJ’s best friend). The show is also worth watching for the beautiful shots of Sydney’s Inner West.

This piece was written for Neighbourhood Paper.