In the world of comedy, there is no one quite like Australia's own Pam Ann, international air hostess. She counts among her fans Cher, Elton John and Madonna (who once described her as "cruelly funny"), and has a huge international fan base both flight attendant and gay. Now living in New York City, Pam (otherwise known as Caroline Reed) takes to the stage in elaborate outfits recalling the "futuristic" flight attendants outfits of the 1960s to mid-1970s, if the flight attendants were a bit into drag. Her big hair and makeup don't come close to overshadowing her huge personality, which Pam wields with abandon on stages worldwide. One could think that a comedy routine based largely on air travel might run out of material, but after over a decade it's clear that Pam Ann has tapped into something more. I caught up with Pam/Caroline as she was gearing up for a couple weeks of shows at the Triad Theater in New York City. Take a look at what she had to say about everything from growing up a goth in Melbourne to the prop newspapers in the first class cabin.
How different is Pam now than when she first started in show business?
Well, she was a lot sweeter back in the day! She never swore or cursed. She also wasn't traveled -- she'd only been to Greece, with her Greek lover who flew her there. She hadn't really explored the world yet. I always say, as the airports got bigger so did her ego, and her mouth got filthier too. She's a real cunt now. She started off not quite twee nice, she would have been a bitch, but you would have been able to approach her. Not anymore.
You've traveled all over the world performing. How much of your material changes depending on the city you're in?
The material changes a lot. The top of the show is pretty on the fly. For example in Paris, It's all about the French. I tell the French they're a bunch of cunts in the best way -- the ultimate cunts. The ultimate cunt is a French Parisian. I open up my show there by saying, "How many of you can understand what I'm saying?" They all look at me and say, "Oui! Oui!" Then I just go, "Well how the fuck is it now you understand me, but earlier when I walked up to you and asked you for directions you walked off like you didn't know a word!" That's what I tell them, and they love it!
Class is a major theme of Pam's comedy. What do you think makes humor aimed at being seated in economy so successful with your audiences?
You know, people get upset if they don't get first class. The cheap bitches are at the back. I was inspired by Dame Edna, who does a bit about "the paupers upstairs." A lot of my work is inspired by Barry Humphries, really. It's a hard bit to do when everyone is standing, though. It's like, "Oh, are we on an Air India flight today?"
Though you're a live comic, your show is much more of a production than a typical stand-up set. What's the most difficult part of traveling with so many elements to your performance?
Well at the Triad (in New York City) we don't have much of a setup. It's just my food-cart; it's a low-key gig. But for the big shows it's much different. To be honest with you, when you're touring it's very hard to do any big sets. We travel with great lighting (we have a great lighting designer) and we travel with the lights and a screen projector. That's all I really bring with me on the road. That and my assistant/therapist. Honestly, I have no idea why she's still with me... she should have died by now. She's a lesbian Dutch girl; I'm always quite tempted too when we get drunk. And then we have a production manager, this big strapping guy who is really straight. You can smell him, he smells like straight person. He's probably got hairy balls. He's in London though; I have different teams for different places. When I'm in Europe I have this team of crazy Austrians that I can't understand at all. I'm like ..."Sure, we'll go with that!" In Australia I have LiveNation, which is just a whole other bitch. It's like, "Can I have-" "Yes. Done. Done." They've got so much power, they're like the mafia or something!
You've described yourself as a, "delusional freak who was once a goth." How does a delusional freak/goth transform into a delusional glamorous airline hostess?
I was a goth! I used to get chased by a gang called the Sharpies. Google it -- Sharpies Melbourne, Victoria [I did -- check it out]. They wore really tight jeans, very Tom of Finland really when you look at it, very homoerotic. They used to chase me because I was a goth. They would open up moving train doors and creepily go, "You getting out here, Cleopatra?" There were like full on crazy-ass Nazi gangs out in the suburbs, and then little old goths like me who were just getting into New Romantics and Boy George. I was just coming from the club with my tube skirt on, I didn't want to get off the train early! They're like, "Run!" and I was just like, "Fuck!" trying to run in my pointy-ass shoes. I was running like a geisha girl like, fuck me! I think that's what made me a bit of a cunt later in life too -- a cunt in the guise of an air hostess.
There is a long history of Australian comedy, especially when it's gay-orientated, having a cult following in the states. Dame Edna, Christopher Lilly and his bevy of characters, and of course the iconic drag film Priscilla, Queen of the Desert all hail from Australia. Why do you think this niche of Australian comedy is so successful?
I think they were all molested. You know all that sparkle and glitter... there's something really dark there for sure. I mean... I'm just joking. It's just so camp out in Australia. Camp, and also racist. You've got both spectrums. You've got absolute racist redneck assholes, and then you've got campery beyond. I think there's glitter in the water in Australia, seriously. Then you've got pop princess Kylie Minogue... I don't know, is she on Xanax constantly? Because that girl is always nice. She's like a fembot or something. I have to admit that I'd take Madonna over Kylie. Don't get me wrong, I love Kylie, but nothing beats a real sinewy cunt like Madonna.
What is the absolute worst audience you've ever had, and how did you handle it?
Anything corporate is going to be your worst nightmare. One of my worst was in Melbourne years ago for football. Anything to do with sports -- football, tennis. God only knows why they ask me, knowing that I snort cocaine on stage. I did that at the Australian open, and they were like pulling me off the stage because I pulled out a gigantic bag of coke at the press launch. Then I made the papers for what happened at the Australian Football Dinner. I came out with aerosol cans (because back in the day, Qantas would go through the planes and spray all the foreigners to "get rid of all the insects"), and they thought I was a stripper. Like, my skirts around my knees! If I was a stripper I'd be wearing hot pants or something, I'd really work it. I was booed, and then physically taken off stage. There's this famous sports guy named Eddie McGuire who wrapped it all up and said, "Well that was a big air disaster."
I also did a gig in Dubai once. Anything that says the words "Rugby," "Children's Charity," and "Dubai" together... don't do it. They looked at me just like, "Don't you dare!" and I was just like, "OK!" I couldn't exactly show up and go, "Oh, hi! Cunt cunt fuck, fisting, gay gay gay!" because it's Dubai and you... can't really be gay! It's just really hard for me -- I can't not say cunt. Even if I try, it just comes out harder. Anyway, I was doing the show and I had to wrap it up -- if you see a guy in all white it's a problem. The sheikhs or something, very serious you know. I saw the guy standing there in the white robe and finished up super-fast, and ran right over to him apologizing. He just looked at me and said, "You were fabulous!" I think he was gay and wanted me to come sit with him at his table or something.
If I was getting on a plane tomorrow and had no choice but to fly economy, what advice would Pam give me to help me get through the ordeal of my flight?
Flying in economy is hideous. Always. If I was you next time, in America I'd fly on JetBlue. It's a fucking amazing airline. You've got way more space, the terminal at JFK is beautiful, the seats are nice, and the crew is young and friendly. It's really easy. I think it's the way forward. On their LA routes now you also have their new mint class -- which is your own suite. You can just close the door and it's just you. It's really perfect, like first class on Emirates or something. You can start off with watching Wendy Williams and land in L.A. just after Ellen. All the gay entertainment covered! You sit there and watch the television and then it's, "Oh fuck, I'm in L.A.!"
Do you think the flight attendants on Virgin America are equal to the ones on Virgin Atlantic?
No. On Virgin America they just don't really get it. I got in so much trouble with Virgin America's crew. I flew on Virgin America out of JFK. There's no lounge in JFK first of all -- you're paying two or three thousand dollars for a seat, there's no fucking lounge. It's a bit Mickey Mouse, too. As I was boarding the plane, the flight attendant was eating, just had her mouth full of cookies or whatever. It was horrifying, and then she just vanished! I tweeted something about her eating as we were boarding... and I was just joking alright, people are so easily offended these fucking days! I'll give them something to be fucking offended about. Anyway, everyone freaked out and was like, "How dare you! Crew needs to eat as well! We thought you were on our side!" I was just like, "I'm not on anyone's side. I just paid for a ticket you bunch of cunts!"
Then another girl was doing this horrible dance routine thing, "Yo yo yo, people, Virgin America in the house!" so I of course videoed that and posted it too, which everyone got all fucked up and thought I was posting a video of the girl who was eating and that I was trying to shame her. I'm just like, "No!!! That's a whole other subject!" By that point social media had gone so crazy there was no point in even trying to defend myself. Then I get a tweet back from Virgin America saying that they're "looking into this," which set everyone off again, "Now she's gonna lose her job!" I was just like, "Oh now I've created a monster!" Someone said to me, "I work at Virgin Australia and I wouldn't even serve you tap water!" I mean it's like... I'll have a Coke, actually.
Why is it that they seat all the first class passengers before everyone in economy, instead of the first class people just staying in some lounge drinking champagne or something until economy is settled in?
It's showing people that make no effort: this is what you could have if you tried harder! Lazy cheap cunts. All the first class passengers just have to sit there with the newspapers they give them . They're not reading them. They're just props so they don't have to look up at the economy passengers boarding.
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