Australian comedienne Caroline Reid – better known as Pam Ann – hits the tarmac with her new show, Around The World, at The Astor Theatre on Friday, August 24, and Saturday, August 25. Bookings via BOCS.
In vino veritas, the old saying goes: in wine, there is truth. Although, in Caroline Reid’s case, that might need to be amended to in vino comoedia – in booze there is laughter. After all, it was drinking that led to the birth of Pam Ann, Reid’s stewardess alter ego.
“Alcohol – purely out of a bottle of vodka,” Reid confirms, going on to tell of a deliberately vague social occasion, the only concrete detail we’re privy to being that it involved costumes.
“I dressed up as a Pan Am flight attendant,” she continues. “And throughout the night, as people got drunker, it went from ‘Pan Am’ after saying it a few times, to ‘Pam Ann’. It really was just born out of that. Having a lot of gays around you helps, too. I guess that they’re my tribe; they’re my friends. You’re just a product of your environment.”
These days she’s more than a product of her environment, though – Pam Ann belongs to the world, having taken her outrageous act to countless countries, and captured such high-profile fans as Elton John and Madonna. Yet, despite the costumes and the controlled image, Reid insists that there is no character – she is Pam; Pam is Caroline.
“I don’t know,” she ponders. “I guess people can still have a go at you even if you are a character or not. I don’t think it really protects you, in a way. I’m really indifferent about it. I think it’s still your voice; it’s still you. It’s just really a premise for a lot of other things I talk about. I travel the world, I do shows in every country, and it’s more of an observation on a country, a culture, a person, people, airlines.”
Tellingly, when asked who her key comedic influences are, Reid doesn’t namecheck lauded character comics such as Andy Kaufman or Peter Sellers; her heroes are raconteurs and iconoclasts, for the most part. “I guess, right at the beginning, the three key people were Barry Humphries, Steven Berkoff, and Sandra Bernhard – they were the three people that I liked a lot. Today I like Lenny Bruce, Dave Chappelle, Billy Connolly – I like his storytelling. There are a lot of comediennes, too, like Joan Rivers. I like people who push the boundaries, take risks, and get complaints.”
Reid herself gets few complaints, though, with Pam Ann having proved wildly popular – something she admits she is still occasionally surprised by. “I guess it’s a weird thing. When you’re passionate about something, I guess it’s a long journey of learning, and I don’t think I’m really there, yet. I’ve still got a lot to learn about the craft and the skill by looking at other people. I don’t think I’m there yet!”
And as for the new show itself, she remains guarded, except to say that it will be “really topical in so far as what’s going in Australia right now with the airline material. Be prepared to feel a little bit hijacked!”