The Funny Guy: Tom Sainsbury
Tom Sainsbury's viral videos offer astute and hilarious observations on politics, social media and life in New Zealand
During last year's US elections, political comedy flourished, offering a darkly amusing way to process the news of the day.
New Zealand's own comedy gold during the election — granted, much sillier and not as depressing — was "comedian and Snapchat dude" Tom Sainsbury, whose viral videos offered astute and hilarious observations on politics, social media and life in New Zealand.
Utilising the shareability of Facebook and the weirdness of Snapchat's face swap technology, the Auckland-based comedian and actor created short and snappy videos of various characters, fictional and not — updating the tradition of political satire through social media.
He impersonated everyone from "Bill Englush" to Julie Anne Genter, but it was his take on Paula Bennett — with her cheery greeting ("Hi sweeties, it’s me Paula Bennett!"), snappy catchphrases ("two ticks blue!") and penchant for a panini and a bowl latte — that hit iconic status.
In November, Paula even impersonated Tom impersonating her, and a week later, Tom presented an award as Paula at the NZ Music Awards (before being interrupted by her nemesis "Cindy" Ardern).
"I think the videos were just a naughty treat for people," says Tom of the success of his Paula. "It was taking the mickey out of someone in power and that always provides a bit of a thrill. I think she may have also reminded people of their aunties, or mums, or something. The middle-aged Kiwi woman who's a bit ruthless and loves a scrummy treat."
That's essential to the success of Tom's videos: in lovingly satirising New Zealand stereotypes, people see themselves.
One of his most shared videos, created as part of Tom's Kiwis of Snapchat series for The Spinoff, featured "everyday New Zealanders" sharing who they were voting for, sending up the follies of voters across party lines.
Like the middle-aged white man character voting for National because, "look at how well we’re doing as a nation. Last year, my wife and I bought an extra yacht, two extra properties and had three holidays in Fiji", and the young woman voting for "Jacinda's party" because "Jacinda's so cool and inspirational for so many girls.
"What's the party called again?"
"It made me happy knowing New Zealanders can readily laugh at themselves like that," says Tom.
Now, he wants to concentrate on different characters, but says Paula will always pop up now and then. "People are still requesting her, and love hearing about the latest panini flavour. And I'm more than happy to provide."
But it's Tom's naïve, and political free, character Maz Bazzington — an Animates employee being taunted by magpies, with a fairy bread loving girlfriend — who has been a post-election hit.
With his oversized mouth and delightful giggle, Maz's catchphrase also handily sums up politics in 2017: "what the actual f**k?"