Pam Ann has hosted us on the friendly skies since 1996.
Sort of a drag queen who happened to be born a woman, she is the character created by Australian comedian Caroline Reid who uses air travel as the entry for a bawdy take on current events and cultural observations. Her new show, “Pam Ann, Queen of the Sky” takes off from Joe’s Pub in New York beginning September 18. Pam gave Metrosource a pre-flight briefing, talking about the Golden Age of air travel, Grindr hookups, and how comedians broach transgender issues.
Interview by Matt Gurry
METROSOURCE: You talk about Grindr in a lot of your material. How the hell do you know so much about Grindr?
PAM ANN: I’m on Grindr! I have an account.
Shut up. You are not.
Yeah I am! I’m on as Pam Ann. I was in Glasgow doing shows in the middle of the winter. It was grim, just dark and gloomy. And I thought, I need to go out with some gays for cocktails. So I went onto Grindr and said, hey, it’s Pam Ann, are there any gays out there that would like to go for a cocktail with me? So that’s how I tracked down the Scottish gays and met them up for a cocktail. They were like, it’s really you? I said, yeah, it is, and I’ll rim your asshole as well.
If you Grinded me that, I’d assume you were taking the piss, that you’re not Pam Ann, you’re just…you’re going to murder me is what’s going to happen.
No! This is truly me! I actually put myself down as a black guy, 5-foot-9, 93 pounds and a twink, 22 years old, I like to travel and I’m not into commitment.
This segues into the first of two then-and-now questions I have for you: What’s your take on gay social life before and after Grindr and the other apps?
Well, I was on Tinder, and also this site called Fling.com which was like ComeSuckMyPussy.com. I’m a gay man, so I know exactly the score. [Ed.: Just to be clear, she isn’t.] Basically, everyone’s horny, and everyone wants to get fucked. So once upon a time you had to go out, the gays had to go out into bushes and parks, you know, cold at night, and go around and try and get their cock sucked. But now they can do it from the luxury of their homes. I thought it killed off a little bit of that society, like, you know, a lot of the gay clubs and things like that. But then I went out like a couple weeks ago to the Ritz, and it was packed. And I was like, well, hang on a minute. There’s a lot of people here. And Viva is packed. [You can reach] out to people that you wouldn’t necessarily meet in your certain circles. In a nutshell, I think it’s good. It has pros and cons. But I think I’m leaning more towards it’s a good thing.
My second then-and-now question is about air travel. Pam Ann comes from the Golden Age of air travel, when people dressed up and all that, and the customers were more civil; of course, on the flip side, the airlines had better customer service. What are your thoughts on what air travel has become?
Back then it was how much money you had to fly, so only the glamorous could fly, the people with money. Flight attendants couldn’t be fat. [laughs] But I think today you can still travel like that. Airlines do offer that product. For example, British Airways, if you fly first class you go to the Concorde Club. … Flying first class still has the glamour, I think. I mean, when I travel first class which, obviously, I’m paying for it if I do because [presenters] won’t pay for that, but it’s all about how you get there. And I think it’s still there. It doesn’t have the glamour of the golden days, because that was such an optimistic time, and flying was a new thing. Anything that’s new and exciting is going to always have that, you know, that appeal, that whole sort of excitement of boarding the plane, and everything was beautiful. But now we have low-cost carriers, which I think are also good because they allow people to travel around the world; everyone can be a bit more privy to the rest of the world. Whereas maybe ignorance was bred out of people not travelling. So I think it’s definitely changed. But if you’ve got the zillion dollars, you know, you can be P. Diddy and be on a G6.
You mentioned British Airways. I saw you tweeted this earnest compliment to them the other day when they dealt with that fire at Las Vegas. Looking through the rest of your feed, it becomes clear you’re really savvy with the business of air travel, that you’re more involved with it than fancy bags and nice meals.
Yeah. I mean, I can get myself into trouble too. Some things I’ve tweeted haven’t gone down well with some crew. [laughs] And there’s been some airlines or alliances that some of my jokes may hit too close. I’ve said things about British Airways being horsey and stuff, but as far as the fire and everything, British Airways have been flawless and have had fierce crews. All I can say about that incident was that hopefully no one took a sleeping tablet before that happened, because that was going to be a drag to get off. I always say to people, don’t take your sleeping pill until you get in the air. [laughs]
How does the character of Pam Ann handle it when there’s something a lot more tragic, like with the Malaysian Airlines flight?
Well, you kind of have to try and hit a tone. Like, I didn’t go out to offend the families or personal victims or anything like that. Tragedy is comedy, in a way. It alleviates. When someone is making jokes about something, finally we can just breathe a bit. Because everything can be a bit too serious. It’s a comedian’s job to maybe diffuse something, and I can’t not address the elephant in the room. Or else people then come at you, “Oh, you’re too scared to say something.” You’re not going to win either way. With Malaysia Airlines, there was an ad on the back of a bus. It was the day after, and I said, “Found it!” It was just funny. And then when they couldn’t find the plane, it became something of a conspiracy and something that people were talking about. So it becomes pop culture. You have to just find a tone. It’s like Joan Rivers finding a tone when 9/11 happened. You know, and Saturday Night Live. I mean, they’ve all made comments on these things. And it’s just about finding the right tone.
What are you talking about in the new show, “Pam Ann, Queen of the Skies”?
I used to be very scripted back in the day, but now I’m very off the cuff. I had this one show I’d done so much that I couldn’t even remember it. And then I just had to change my way of thinking, how I approach my work. So that changed the whole course of how my show developed over the last 10 years. So I’m very improvisational. I’m very observational. I’m very right now in what’s going on, like, I’ll talk about that British Airways flight. And sometimes I take flights before a show. I’m going to L.A. tomorrow and come back next week, because I need to get some new material.
I have two new characters, Caitlyn and Gloria, who are trans, and they work for Qantas. And they can’t be sacked — they’re the only two flight attendants left. And that’s a new thing in my show that’s developed over something I improvised. Caitlyn and Gloria are kind of…they’re very busy. They’re the only two flight attendants who work for Qantas. They do everything. And, it’s on the whole trans thing, and it’s happening in the world, and I wanted to really talk about that.
I have new videos. We’ve put Pam Ann in Downton Abbey. It’s called “Downtown Galley.” She takes over Downton Abbey and has a party and gets everybody fucked up. And it’s very, Amy Sedaris — what’s that, Something for Candy?
Strangers with Candy.
Strangers with Candy! I actually wasn’t inspired by that, but now I look at it, and it’s that twist. It is — [laughs] — it’s fucked up.
Fabulous. Caitlyn and Gloria, are they video or are they live?
I do them live. I’ll just transform by putting on a voice and morphing into them. It’s like I’m channeling someone.
Do you find yourself being any more gingerly in dealing with trans issues as a comedian?
What do you mean?
Well, the transgender community is protective especially now — and rightly so — about how the wider public talk about those issues, and our need to do it respectfully. So I’m wondering if that’s something that you’ve given extra consideration to when creating an act and these characters, given that you’re coming at it with a bawdy tone.
Yeah, look: Growing up, my friend Del — he was one of my best friends when I was 17 — over the course of 10 years, he transitioned into Theresa and then into Vivian St. James, who’s a very big star in Australia. And I was with him the whole way through that transition. He was my best friend. So I’ve been there, on a personal level, all my life. I’m privy to the trans world. So I don’t come from a place of ignorance or someone that’s observing the trans community. I was in the trans community with my best friend. My whole Christmas one year was just trans. I’ve grown up in that environment. So what I do and the tone that I speak of comes from the voice of a trans person. So the things that I’m doing in the show – for example, my friends Linda and Vivian would hijack me, take me to their houses, and make me watch eight hours of Miss Universe. They showed me how to walk, how to move, everything. I was like their little trans prodigy. So it comes from real-life experience. A lot of friends of mine are trans; if there was anything offensive, they would tell me, and then I would then address it when there was an issue. I’ve performed when there have been trans people in the audience, and they seemed to be fine with it. So until someone from that community— I don’t care if someone else comes up to me and says, that’s offensive. I wouldn’t change the show over that. Only when the trans community will come to me and say, “You need to change that.”
I’ve had so much of that in my career, where I’m like, “Just shut up!” [laughs]
Has that become easier as the years have gone by?
Yeah. I mean, you have to take it like water off a duck’s back. But as the time’s gone by, you know, I would say something that provoked some people on social media platforms that got tiring, and I lost the energy to almost go on there and say things anymore, because I just couldn’t waste my energy and time on these people that are so easily offended. And it’s sad really, because I think on the flip side, as much as these people are easily offended, they’re offended at the wrong things and reaching for stuff that’s not there, ultimately, it’s going to dumb down comedians.
Well, I’m glad you’re still at it and still doing the show, and still letting the people who want to find you find you.
“Pam Ann, Queen of the Sky” plays Joe’s Pub in New York on September 18 and 19. Tickets are available here. On September 30, Pam Ann will the play the first of several UK dates, running through November. Dates and venues here. Finally, visit PamAnn.com for in-flight goodies, such as videos and the free Pam Ann app.
Last modified: July 27, 2017