Comedian Caroline Reid’s laugh-packed character Pam Ann is a hoot — on stage and off. She’s coming to Charlotte on Nov. 15. Folks have been chatting about it for weeks. qnotes got the opportunity to chat with Reid via phone before her visit. And, even on phone, she knows how to make a gay laugh. Check out our conversation below. Learn more about her upcoming show atpamann.com.
Anywhere in the South? Atlanta, maybe?
Yeah, I’ve been to Atlanta. I loved Atlanta. I had an absolute ball there.
Well, you’ll have to imagine Charlotte like, uh, maybe a miniature Atlanta.
Oh! Wow! Awesome. I’m really excited about that.
How did you first get started doing comedy and what drew you to it?
I always really wanted to do acting, but I was horrible at auditions. I never got the really good roles. I was always the mute role in a play. I was playing a mute revolving door in this play and the cast would go through this door and I would make fun of all their characters. The play got slated, except that they said they loved the revolving door. So, that was kind of the catalyst of, oh, I think I’m funny. But, it was never something that as a kid I thought I’d be doing — comedy. I wanted to do fashion and art. It was just an organic process from just doing some sort of amateur plays, to working in the clubs and doing P.R. that kind of allowed me to sort of hang around drag queens and such. I ended up having a dress-up party where I dressed as a Pan Am flight attendant. When you’ve had a few cocktails and you say Pan Am so many times, it starts to sound like Pam Ann. I thought that was a good idea for a character. I liked the fashion and the whole jetset thing. So, I just went out on a stage and did it and pretty much read from a safety manual a friend had given me. It kinda was a good night. I thought this was good-ish (laughs). I just kind of kept doing it. It was never really a planned thing.
Did you know anything about airlines before this one gig that launched Pam Ann?
Not really. I had only ever traveled once before to Greece. That was my only international flight. I had flown a lot in Australia as an unaccompanied minor from Melbourne to Sydney. Other than that, I knew nothing. I knew I liked the architecture, the graphics, the Pan Am logo. James Bond flew Pan Am. And, that was back in 1996. Travel then really wasn’t what it is today. To travel from Australia, you had to have a bit of money or you had to save for years to go away. It was just living out on that island and dreaming of getting off it.
So, you had a lot of drag queen friends, you say?
Yeah, there were all my friends. Just hanging around them and being at their shows, they just took me in under their big feather boa (laughs).
And, the gay community, too, has really been a core fan base since your beginning?
Absolutely. I don’t think I’ve ever really been to a straight club. And, when I do, I’d want to leave. I’ve been hanging around with my gays since I was like 16. And, I’ve fallen in love with a couple of gay men and I thought, “No, he’s not gay.” And, my friends are like, “He is. He’s a choreographer and he’s into ballet. He’s gay.” And, I’m like, “No! He’s not!” Total denial (laughs).
How did you launch yourself from doing Pam Ann in clubs and with small groups to your larger performances and even landing your own TV show?
I always wanted to do a TV show since the very beginning. I’d written that show back in 1997. I didn’t know how I was going to get there. I guess just building up an audience is just a lot of hard work. I’ve had to do shows in dingy fuck clubs throughout London — like gay saunas — to clubs with two people and a microphone held up with sticky tape. I’ve done my fair share of years on the circuit in London. You just have to build up an audience. This was way before social media. The fans were loyal. And, as social media gets bigger and bigger, your fan base gets bigger. But, I guess the TV show came because the CEO of Foxtel use to come to my shows at the Aubrey, which is an old drag venue in Sydney. Just, over the years, we were talking and we met and I said I have this idea and he said he loved it. You just have to follow your dreams and persevere and then things pay off.
What U.S. TV have you done?
I’ve appeared on Andy Cohen before. I just did “The Couch” here in New York; it’s just a local morning show. And, a morning show in Dallas. But nothing like a Jay Leno. It would be my dream to do something in the states.
If you could pick any show — a reality show or a late-night comedy show — which would it be?
David Letterman. I’ve always loved David Letterman. He’s amazing. That would be the one to do five minutes and be interviewed.
You’ve done an ad campaign for British Airways. But, you really make fun of them, too. Were you surprised some of the airlines wanted to work with you? Or, did they understand the humor?
I was very shocked at British Airways approaching me. I thought they were going to come and serve me papers, honest (laughs). But, when they said they were interested in doing something, I nearly fell off of my chair. I’m constantly working now with British Airways and their charities. And, other airlines, too — Lufthansa, KLM, AirFrance — they sponsor silently my shows also. They give me tickets. I also just hosted the Apex Awards show in Anaheim which had all the heads of some of the biggest airlines. I guess some of them take offense. Some of them get the joke. But, I just tell the truth (laughs).
Isn’t it a healthy thing for one to know how to laugh at oneself and not be so serious about one’s work or passion?
Oh, I think so. I laugh at myself every day. You have to laugh at yourself. The airlines do have a very good sense of humor. I think Emirates — I pick on them a lot — I think they like it, but I think they are a little bit, aaah — maybe it’s a little too close to the bone for them sometimes (laughs).
How do you manage the line between humor and offense, or do you just not worry about it?
I think in this business you have to offend. I don’t want to be in the bracket where everyone loves me and it’s all commercial. I’d rather be loved and hated, rather than, “she’s just alright.” I’ve had people walk out of my shows, but they aren’t the kind of people I’d want to hang out with anyways or really care to be at my show either, so I really don’t give a shit. So, if you’re really offended by it, then, please by all means, go. I understand some people come in and it’s not at all what they are expecting. They think it’s some air hostess musical review or something. I feel sorry for them. I do try to put disclaimers on my posters now (laughs). People are just so offended by things these days. I think that’s hilarious. There’s nothing really to be offended by. I think it’s a big excuse sometimes for people to say, “How could you write that? People died on that ship.” And, I’m like, yeah, people die every day. Did you know the people who died on the Costa Concordia? No. Well, the ship’s funny. It fell over. It’s funny. Yeah, they died. Sorry about that, but it’s still funny that an Italian flipped the ship (laughs).
Of all the various characters other than Pam Ann that you’ve portrayed, which is your favorite?
I guess Lily would be the next one — the Asian one with the glasses. I’ve had people offended at that, but not the Asians. The Asians love it. They can’t wait for it. I like doing Lily. I have performed briefly as the other characters but I didn’t really enjoy it. I would like to do a big black TSA woman. I know it’s been doing, but something in my vein. Or, a gay man (laughs). : :