Tom Sainsbury and Chris Parker are two of the most successful gay comedians New Zealand has ever produced. Here, they discuss whether sexuality affects what we find funny.
Do you believe as gay men you have a specifically queer sense of humour?
Chris: Well, I wouldn’t say I feel a responsibility to make all my jokes about being gay, however I am a gay man (shock horror) and all my writing does come from my point of view. So in that sense yes, it is a queer sense of humor because it’s coming from the mind and mouth of a gay man. That being said, my new show is all about needle felting… so, maybe my point of view is really a middle-aged woman named Debbie who lives in Cambridge with her husband and two boys. (‘Boys’ being Bichon Frises!)
Tom: I definitely think there is a particular queer sense of humour simply because some of the gags coming out of a gay man would never come out of a straight man. What is it? Probably acerbic wit. But I don’t think I have it. I’m not fast enough or cutting enough or smart enough to pull it off. I can be, however, pretty damn camp which I explain as ludicrously tragic. So my comedy can certainly be read as sad or hopeless, but the scenarios are so ludicrous you can’t help but laugh.
Has that been something the two of you have bonded over?
Tom: Chris and I have definitely bonded over comedy, whether it’s particularly queer comedy, I don’t know. Chris just makes me laugh and laugh and laugh, and it’s usually over the most precise observations of people or scenarios we have shared. He is so damn clever, and he can eloquently put into words, what I find absurd and silly about life.
Chris: I think we share a similar way of looking at people/characters and find humor in the very strange unique ways that everyone in this world behaves. It’s the small things for us, the tiny ways people drink their coffees or call themselves “water babies” that have us in hysterics.
Were the comedians who inspired you to get into comedy, LGBT+ themselves?
Chris: Unsure if I was inspired to get into comedy, as much as I just turned to comedy out of desperation. Like in all honesty the only thing I wanted to be growing up was the a McDonald’s Young Entertainer Super Trooper. Without a word of a lie, if Jason Gunn came knocking at my door asking me to join the gang, I would throw my entire career away to do it. Just me at the ripe old age of 30 dancing with a bunch of kids!
Tom: Some of the best stand up I’ve seen was by Urzila Carlson. Her shows are sublime. But my biggest inspirations are character comedy, so Kath and Kim, French and Saunders and Ricky Gervais. None of them are LGBT+ but I guess there’s a campness to what they do. Jack Black and Melissa McCarthy are also huge inspirations for me.
So there always been a camp sensibility to things that make you laugh?
Tom: Yes, definitely. My first favourite film was Muriel’s Wedding, which is the height of camp, and it’s just kept going. The shows Chris and I do together are definitely camp as well. We’re camp as a row of tents.
Chris: I think I’ve always been attracted to a camp sense of humour. I remember catching Are You Being Served? on TV at probably 11am on a Sunday morning and thinking “this is fabulous” I think it’s very telling that the only DVD I had growing up was Kath and Kim Season 2.
Tell us about your new comedy festival show and why should every express reader buy a ticket?
Chris: How I Felt is my cheap attempt at capitalizing on all my Instagram felting game during lockdown. It’s a live comedy felting craft show. Truly one of a kind. It’s going to be a deep cathartic dive into little old me and the big, big feelings I go through on a daily basis. All while creating a $3 Daiso felt pack in front of your very eyes!
Tom: My comedy show, The Man Behind The Masc, is an hour gossipy catch up with a girlfriend. I’ll be sharing some celebrity goss and also talking through my experiences as a sperm donor. So get amongst!
Tom Sainsbury’s The Man Behind The Masc plays Auckland’s Q Theatre on Friday 22 & Saturday 23 May.
Chris Parker’s How I Felt plays Auckland’s Q Theatre from Tuesday 4 to Saturday 8 May, and Wellington’s San Fran from Tuesday 11 to Saturday 15 May.