Right on time, there he is and Sainsbury is oh so pleased to see us! The preamble before the show-proper is a good 10 minutes long and is utterly charming. He shares details about his invited tour of the beehive earlier today, getting caught in a lift with Christopher Luxon and looking at pictures of tapeworms with Health Minister Dr. Ayesha Verrall. It is apparent in this opening section just why Tom Sainsbury is so popular. He is a fab storyteller, who has an absolute understanding of his audience and what they want from him.
Once the show gets started it becomes clear that, despite Sainsbury’s obvious charm and comedy chops, some of this material is new or potentially even a touch out of his comfort zone. A crowd-work section near the top of the show proves genuinely a bit uncomfortable for the audience and Sainsbury himself. He even admits that he’s trying to get better at it. That’s admirable, but I can’t help feeling that a sold out comedy festival show is possibly not the place to be “giving it a go”.
There’s a weird moment where he asks if anyone worked at KFC. No one in the audience has, and he simply proceeds “Well I have, and here’s the story of my last day working there”. It’s these little bits that just feel a touch clunky round the edges, or like unnecessary risks with fairly low reward thresholds (that relationship between risk and reward is always key to any audience interaction).
Despite this slightly jolted early section, once Sainsbury gets into his flow telling stories and sharing jokes the show really finds its feet. He shares memories from his youth growing up in Matamata and trying to function in the world as a slightly awkward, camp man. It ends strong with a truly hilarious story about meeting Katy Perry, and some beautifully curated comments from community facebook pages and the comments section of Christchurch City Council posts. The last 20 minutes of Gone Bananas feels like the tight, hilarious, boyishly bashful comedy which has established Sainsbury as one of Aotearoa’s funniest entertainers.
With a bit of tightening on the first third of the show, Gone Bananas has the makings of another Tom Sainsbury hit to delight audiences all round the motu. As a comedy-lover and fan of Sainsbury’s work for several years, it hasn’t quite hit that mark for me just yet.
Tom Sainsbury: Gone Bananas is playing at Te Auaha until Saturday 13 May and in Auckland later in the festival. Tickets can be found at the Comedy Festival Website.