Interview with Tom Sainsbury

CANTA issue #13, 2017

Alexander Lyall interviews Tom Sainsbury…

  1. How did this all start, when did you realise Snapchat was the best place to make comedy?

As with every craze, it takes me a while to come around to it and not to my nose up at it. So my friends were making videos for each other and I was thinking – this is so dumb. But then one filter which had downward mouth really captured my imagination. I downloaded Snapchat onto my phone and started playing with a character for it – Shanan. And then I downloaded a very straightforward-sounding app called ‘Video Joiner’ which allowed me to put the videos together. And I was away! This happened about 13 months ago.

  1. Regarding inspiration, was there one person in particular whose mannerisms were so apparent that you just had to mimic it, or had you noticed at large a general way that New Zealanders speak?

I actually think I’m inspired by my actor friends doing broad New Zealand accents. I kinda mimicked them mimicking others. But then, if I’m doing someone specific, I watch their videos or listen to their interviews and try and pick out their key idiosyncrasies.

  1. Are people suspicious now when they talk to you, do they fear that you’ll pick up on any mannerisms?

They sure are. But I’ve been writing for years now. So most of my friends think they inspire what I’ve written. And, to be honest, they probably do.

  1. You’ve been featured a lot on The Spinoff, that was where I first heard of you hear. How did you come to their attention?

I was just posting videos on my own page and one of the journalists there watched them. She suggested to Duncan Grieve, the editor, that I should do some for them. We met up, got on, and I was doing them videos from that week onwards.

  1. Some of your best received videos are the ones of politicians. Who’s your favourite to do?

Paula is so popular. And easy to do. And she keeps inspiring me every day with her antics. But I probably love Bill English the most. I feel I’ve got him down the best.

  1. Do you have any intentions to bring your Kiwis of Snapchat live, how do you think that would go as a stage performance?

Yes, I do. But god knows how. Hmm. I went to Disneyland earlier this year and we could talk to the turtle from Finding Nemo live. He was on a screen but answering our questions. So maybe there is a way.

  1. Have you ever been caught in the act making one of your videos?

Yes. On Cuba street in Wellington people were giving me looks. And at a cafe in Auckland. But if you act confident and don’t register them, people just hurry along.

  1. Are your videos improvised, or do you prepare a script?

A variety. Sometimes I just see how the filter inspires me and see what character comes and then just start talking, trying to find a story to tell. Other times, especially when I’m doing a dialogue between two characters, then I will scribble down the main points to say.

  1. I’d imagine that you could really go on and on when you’re making these videos, how much do you end up cutting?

Two minutes is ideal for a video and often I do about three minutes of material and have to cut stuff out. But sometimes you just can’t lose the jokes. And it ends up being long. Hmm. There are always cuts. Making something shorter, cutting out the air, is always a good thing.

Issue Two: The Greasy Wok 4