Better known as the viper-tongued queen of the comedy skies, Australian comedienne Caroline Reid has been playing her turbo-charged airline hostess alter ego PAM ANN for more than two decades. Catty, cutting and often crude, Reid’s act draws on both the glamour and inelegance of flying, usually dividing the audience into first, business and economy classes. Her shows are an addictively entertaining environment where literally no-one watching is safe from either Pam demanding help or dishing out a piece of her indecent mind.
What was your first inspiration for Pam Ann and how did you come up with her name?
The name Pam Ann was actually born out of a bottle of vodka at a James Bond themed birthday party where I was dressed as a 1960s Pan Am air hostess because James Bond only flew the then chic Pan Am airline. After a lot of vodkas Pan Am started to sound like PAM ANN and the rest is history.
Is there any theatrical history in your family or were you a fan of any particular comedians as a child?
My dad was a used car salesman and my mum sold Hoover vacuum cleaners. My Mum hails from Liverpool so her side of the family was always very funny – maybe the Northern humour is in my blood. Barry Humphries aka Dame Edna Everage was my childhood inspiration – I just loved the way he played with the audience and referred to people seated in the back rows as paupers. Dame Edna not only inspired my live Pam Ann shows but also my TV show on Foxtel Australia.
What was your first air travel experience?
I flew as an unattended minor on the now defunct Trans Australia Airlines (TAA) from Melbourne to Sydney. My Mum would often send me off to stay with my cousins. I remember the flight attendants being so glamorous and they took incredibly good care of me. Back then passengers could smoke on board and security wasn’t a priority.
The show is a little like taking a flight in the sense that you get a bit of everything, from champagne to a movie, all washed down with some verbal abuse
Who or what has most influenced Pam’s personality?
Air travel and flying are obviously Pam Ann’s inspiration, and travelling the world almost as much as a real flight attendant has added more layers and depth to the character over the years. Working the club scene in the early days made Pam aggressive since she often had to yell and curse to be heard. She never used to be so ferocious and bold. But as the airports got bigger and she travelled more the character started to develop into what she is today. As Pam is getting older she is becoming less and less concerned over who she offends.
Please tell our readers (who haven’t had the pleasure of flying with Pam Ann) what to expect from one of your shows.
Pam Ann says what real flight attendants would like to say. The show is very improvised and audience participation plays a big part of the current tour so don’t sit in the front row. The show is a little like taking a flight in the sense that you get a bit of everything, from champagne to a movie, all washed down with some verbal abuse. Someone said to me it was like being hijacked for two hours with laughing gas. Buckle up though because meeting Pam is not for the easily offended. Pam is very un-pc in a rather politically correct world.
Pam being so very un-pc, edgy and spontaneous – often voicing things that others are too scared to say – makes her shows uniquely comedic in today’s world
What are Pam’s traits, qualities and failings?
Pam Ann is very passionate about flying. She is always flying and when she’s not flying she is partying in fantastic locations with fabulous people around the world. People either love her or hate her – she’s very much an acquired taste. She loves a drink and recreational drugs, I mean, how else can a lady party all night and do a back-to-back to Singapore the next day?! Pam loves fashion and the marketing aspect of her airline. Pam never married because she gets bored incredibly quickly so she has a man in every airport. Basically, Pam Ann is an unapologetic airhostess bitch who is the envy of the airline industry.
Madonna once described Pam Ann as #cruellyfunny; Would you say that this is accurate?
Absolutely, and coming from Madonna makes this comment even more fabulous. I would love to work with Madonna on a comedy tour. Who knows, maybe she will read this and call Pam Ann. A “Madonna/Pam Ann Confessions Of An Unapologetic Bitch” tour has a rather nice ring to it!
Elton John and David Furnish changed me forever, and there is no one else in the world that knows how to throw a party like they do
You’ve performed all over the world, in everything from backstreet bars and comedy clubs, to huge theatres and massive stadiums. What’s your favourite venue in the world to perform at and why?
The Two Brewers in Clapham is a fun venue. Not the most glamorous but it’s perfect to try new material because I can be as un-pc as I like since it’s a gay bar, people are drunk and they are there to laugh which allows me to explore and let rip. Theatres are more of an event, which people book months in advance, so they expect a certain level of professionalism and want to be entertained which can put more pressure on a performance.
Joe’s Pub in NYC is a great cabaret space where people are eating and drinking during the show so there’s a really buzzy atmosphere. New York audiences are very hard to please but if you manage to do it the show can rock. The Hammersmith Apollo is a great theatre, huge space and on another level, but it’s a different kind of performance – more of a production and less intimate. The Theatre Royal in Glasgow is an incredible venue and probably my favourite in the world to perform at. Not only is it beautiful and the perfect size, but Glaswegians are one of the most enjoyable audiences to play to. They love to drink and want to party so they arrive with an incredible and infectious energy.
Your global following spans everything from city slickers and heterosexual couples to the LGBT community and countless celebrities. What do you think it is about Pam’s personality that appeals to such a broad spectrum of people?
These days everyone travels, so most people can relate to what Pam talks about in her shows, basically because they have lived it. I have literally performed all over the world – from Warsaw to Hong Kong and Paris to Sydney – and I guess that Pam appeals so broadly because I tailor each of my shows to the country and culture I’m performing in, and the universal topic of flying is so easily relatable. People also love to be made fun of and hear how other people perceive them and their country. And Pam being so very un-pc, edgy and spontaneous – often voicing things that others are too scared to say – makes her shows uniquely comedic in today’s world. More than anything else, laughter is arguably still the best medicine.
You supported Cher onstage during her UK farewell tour in 2004. Tell us about the experience, especially performing in stadiums and warming-up for a global pop icon.
It was one of the most exhilarating and scariest experiences of my life yet one of the highlights of my career. I’ve been a fan since the Sonny and Cher show, so to be asked was a tremendous honour. I’ll never forget that Cher was driven from Dublin to Belfast, her driver got lost so she was 30 mins late to the Odyssey Arena. As a performer you really don’t want to be late in Belfast. I had to perform to a hostile crowd and make them laugh. It was fucking scary. Cher’s manager asked me to extend my set by 10 mins to buy some time for Cher, so I added a security bag check, keeping in mind this was to a crowd of around 10,000 disgruntled and drunk Northern Irelanders. I got the stage security to grab a woman’s feather topped bag (I couldn’t reach from the stage). Security gave me the bag, I went through its contents to the woman’s horror, then asked my dancers to wrap it in cling film. But as they wrapped it I could hear the top of the bag snap and break. Basically the dancers turned a beautiful feathered bag into a small ball. When I threw the remains back to the bag’s owner she looked like she wanted to stab me. I ran off stage and never did that again in a show.
Is Pam’s character constantly evolving and how much of Caroline Reid has morphed into the Pam of 2017?
It’s actually the opposite – these days I’m less and less like Pam. In real life I’m low key, quite shy and not at all like the character I play, which is sometimes makes it hard when meeting new people. Establishing new relationships with guys often pose a challenge. I routinely tell guys on dates that I work at Aldo (Canadian shoe store) because telling them I’m Pam Ann can freak out a heterosexual man.
Tell us about an occasion when Pam has taken a joke too far.
I personally don’t think I have ever taken a joke too far but some people in the audience do and they generally leave. Aids, Aborigines and Isis are great topics for taking a joke too far. People walk out if I make fun of a certain culture and my language can also make people leave. A woman saying c**t is offensive in some people’s minds. People should research the show before buying a ticket and chill out more. The world has become way too serious and politically correct for my liking!
Cabin crews around the world have made my world spectacular, and I’m forever grateful to Pam Ann for gifting me the most awesome travel experiences
Have you ever considered toning down your act to secure a particular gig?
Never, which is why I don’t get booked for as many corporate gigs. I once had to cut my show in half at a bankers Christmas party at the Dorchester hotel because I swore and offended the CEO. The show was doomed from the beginning because they were a bunch of white middle-aged misogynistic men who couldn’t handle an aggressive in-your-face female comic. Basically they wanted a stripper. I’ve had men come up and squeeze my boobs at corporate events, asking if I was a man or a woman. That kind of behaviour is disgraceful, so if anyone should tone themselves down it’s drunk inappropriate corporate types. I will never tone down my act for corporations or money – it’s simply not why I got into comedy.
You were invited by Elton John to perform as Pam to David Furnish’s 40th birthday party guests on board a privately chartered 737 from London to Venice. Please tell us about the flight and how Pam handled the abundance of celebrities on board?
Elton and David changed me forever and there is no one else in the world that knows how to throw a party like they do. Seeing the passenger list threw me into a spin.. Victoria Beckham, Isabella Blow, Philip Treacy, Patrick Cox, Elizabeth Hurley, Lulu and Damien Hirst to name but a few. On the day of the flight I was so freaked out at the thought of being on a plane for two hours with such huge stars that I had a panic attack. As they started boarding the plane Pam went into full-on bitch mode. I don’t suppose many had ever been spoken to in that way before and some couldn’t work out whether I was a real flight attendant or not. They were shocked and amused but mostly confused, especially when Pam told them to fuck off when they asked for a drink or assistance with their bags. By the time we got into the air I literally had them eating out of the palm of my hand, so much so that Pam was asked to perform on the flight back.
Do you have any memorable anecdotes about that weekend which you would care to share with our readers?
When the music stopped at David’s party Donatella Versace had an Italian fit, insisted one more song be played and sent her people to retrieve a CD from her suite at the Cipriani. The song was “Video Killed the Radio Star”. Philip Treacy and I howled with laughter.
Whilst it’s impossible to disconnect Pam from her relationship with airline crews, she’s even more intertwined with the LGBTQ community. Please tell us a bit about the history of this strong bond.
I’ve always been part of the LGBTQ community since it’s where Pam was born. I think there should be a ‘P’ for Pam Ann at the end of LGBTQ-P.
I could fly twice around the world in his hot air balloon and would never tire of hearing what Richard Branson has to say
Caroline must always get treated very well on-board flights?
Cabin crews around the world have made my world spectacular, and I’m forever grateful to Pam Ann for gifting me the most awesome travel experiences. I’m nothing without cabin crew in my life – they are my inspiration.
Is Caroline ever able to fly commercially under the radar?
Absolutely since not all crew know me, especially in the USA.
How often does Caroline find the time to return to your homeland and what’s your connection with the country more than twenty years after you left?
My family are in Oz so I’ll always be connected. I try and get home once or twice a year. Nothing beats going home for the food, wine, bars and beaches.
What elements would Caroline say make a truly great flight?
Cabin crew and great service.
When was the last time you flew in economy and how was it?
I always fly economy on flights of less than 3hrs. I like it up the rear occasionally.
If you could sit next to anyone on a long-haul flight who would it be and why?
Richard Branson because he is one of my inspirations in life. I could go twice around the world in his hot air balloon and would never tire of hearing what he has to say. Richard Branson is to aviation what Steve Jobs was to computers. There are so few of these people in the world it would be an absolute dream to sit next to Richard Branson.
What essentials must always be with you on board a long flight?
MAC Ruby Woo lipstick, headphones and Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream.
I never sleep on planes because I’m too excited. I’ll watch a couple of movies and always leave the aircraft drunk, so by the time I reach my hotel it’s time for bed
Do you have an in-flight routine when crossing the Atlantic?
I am a plane geek so always book flights based on the aircraft. British Airways’ Boeing 747-400 is my favourite and 1A is my preferred seat. I get to the airport super early, eat and drink in the first-class lounge, board as soon as I can, unpack and get settled into 1A and drink some champagne no matter what time of the day or night it is, because to me, when you’re flying, you can drink anytime and any amount. I always watch the take off and film it, then drink some more and eat everything offered to me. I never sleep, even on red eyes, because I’m too excited. I’ll watch a couple of movies and always leave the aircraft drunk so by the time I reach my hotel it’s time for bed.
What has been your most memorable vacation experience to date?
Jackie O’s Beach Club on Mykonos is one of my all-time favourite places to eat, party and get merry. I’ve experienced the most amazing parties and drag shows here. It usually starts off quite tame, but as the champagne flows and the DJ gets going by sunset the entire venue full of guests are wedged precariously on the edge of the pool waiting for Priscilla the drag queen to start her act to the backdrop of Super Paradise Bay. Only in Greece can one get away with such debauchery. This summer I will be performing a one-off Pam Ann show here to celebrate Jackie O’s 9th birthday.
Best airport in the world?
Hollywood Burbank Airport in California because it’s a classic. Formerly known as Bob Hope airport, its architecture reflects classic old school Hollywood glamour and harks back to the golden age of flying when boarding a Boeing meant style, class and glitz. You can just imagine Liz Taylor flying out of Burbank with all of her Louis Vuitton luggage, or Sonny and Cher arriving back to a gaggling press pack.
Caroline’s worst personal air travel experience?
There really isn’t a “worst” because everything is potentially material for one of Pam’s shows! Saying that arriving anywhere hungover isn’t pleasant and happens often.
Caroline’s favourite airline and why?
British Airways because I love the cabin crew and the familiarity. Pam has performed quite a lot for British Airways so I’m very loyal to the airline and perhaps a touch biased. BA and Pam Ann collaborated on a viral campaign in 2008, and I have been involved in the airline’s Flying Start charity which raises money to tackle poverty in deprived communities around the world www.ba-flyingstart.com.
Where is Caroline most desperate to visit right now and why?
Mexico City since I’ve never been and I love big, hectic foreign cities.
What’s next for Pam Ann?
I have been brainstorming an exciting new Pam Ann TV concept with a prominent travel industry guru which I hope to announce later this year. I am also working on a Pam Ann movie which has been a longtime dream of mine. I know it might take some years to get on screen but I am working on it. As far as my live work goes, Pam is touring in Australia, USA and Europe in 2018. I am also penning my first biography on my hell of a journey as Pam Ann.