Actor Tom Sainsbury has Simon and Paula down pat. Watch out Jacinda, you’re next.

The entire thing is filmed in a Toyota Starlet, which was my first car. What was yours?

A Starlet. A white Starlet. Then I went to a teal Starlet. Starlet all things. When I first got it, it was very pristine and grandmotherly like. It's aged though.

What are you looking at right now?

A guava tree. I'm at my friend's flat and there is a tree full of guavas. They're not ripe yet, unfortunately, but boy it's gunna be a bumper crop.

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With your new series, your character names are your names. Why is that?

We just started with ourselves, with our relationship as the basis for our drama or the comedy and it felt right to keep it like that. Keep it blurred so that people might go, are these people really like this?

Are you really like that Tom?

I think I get fed up and irritated, like the Tom in the show. He's always getting fed up. Flustered. But I hope I'm slightly more smart.

There's road rage in the Starlet - are you given to explosions of rage in the car?

Yes. Yes. Absolutely.

Do you give them the finger? What's the worst thing you've done?

It's been hidden - I have screamed at the situation but not at a driver. It's not drivers cutting you off. It's more that I'm backed up - I had to be somewhere 15 minutes ago. That's my rage.

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Someone said you used to write greeting card copy - true or false?

False. I love it. I wish that was true. Oh my God. I'm pretty sure I didn't.

What's the weirdest job you've had ?

I worked in a medicinal marijuana plantation in London. An underground one. It was illegal but the police tolerated it. But every few weeks the police would come and do a fake raid just so that people could see they couldn't do it too. So, I'd be pruning marijuana, the police would come and cuff me, take me out on the street, tell us all off. And then we'd go back in and carry on for the day.

My boss had no kneecaps, which I also found strange.

What do you do for relaxation?

I read a lot. I quite like Scandinavian thrillers. I co-wrote one with a Swedish writer and it was published two years ago. I like H.G. Wells. Science fiction.

Simon Bridges. When you do this, do you want to shift thinking on politicians or is it purely to amuse? What's your end game?

It's just entertainment. To humanise, but also ridicule people in power. Comedy is a leveller and it's also a great way to hold them accountable for silly behaviour.

Are you empathetic or are you thinking, God, what a fool?

I used to be a lot more heated about politics. But ever since analysing politicians I'm a lot more forgiving. I do genuinely think they've got good intentions. I think NZ politicians think they are doing the right thing, regardless of where they are on the spectrum. My comedy is quite cruel in a way, but I do love them. I am so glad Paula and Simon exist because it gives me so much material - so much joy to do it. The worse behaved they are, the better for the comedian.

They say that imitation is the best form of flattery. Does it worry you, for example, if Paula Bennett says, Tom must really like me?

I had a lot of people saying I was making Paula more palatable. I don't know if it can change thinking though. Or change people's opinion. But people will come up with their own ideas on what my intention is.

Is kindness vital? Are you feeling kindly?

I have a soft spot for Paula. And Simon Bridges. I just think of him as a toddler in a playground. It's hard not to sympathise with these people. I think people can be quite vicious. Even more to the left. There are more militant people on the left, who refuse to listen to any right policies at all. I do think there is a viciousness and stubbornness.

Anyone overseas you would like to get your hands on?

I want to start doing Australia and America as well. America is full of amazing characters. I'm just practising my accent. I really like Ivanka and Jared Kushner. I'm fascinated with Paul Ryan. I was fascinated watching him after the school shooting, all those montages of him saying "now's not the time to act on gun control".

This is horrific, and needs to be mercilessly parodied.

What's your ambition. How would you like all this to play out?

If someone offered me a great role in a scripted series or a film, I would drop everything to do that. I just love having a character to embody. In terms of impersonation, my goal now is just to get better and better ... I find Jacinda so hard to do and I spent all yesterday trying to get her down and I just couldn't nail her. I've asked for help from a speech and acting tutor. I want to be the perfect mimic.

Isn't that terrifying, to take on Jacinda? Do you worry that you'll get shit for that?

Not really. I usually take on something or focus on what they've actually done. So if it was a negative portrayal it would be because of something negative that she's done. It's not me making it up, in that way.

Do you find it easy to laugh at yourself?

Yes, absolutely. I'm such a dick.

What are your flaws?

Oh my God, where do I even begin? In terms of this work, I'm impossibly naughty, but I want to be liked. So there is this constant struggle between taking the naughty option, but I feel bad if people react badly. But I do it anyway. It is a constant struggle.

You could argue that's not a flaw. You're just being true to yourself and your art.

True.

Oh my God, you just said "true" like Prue and Trude on Kath and Kim.

They are my favourites. Kath and Kim, Prue and Trude - trewwwww.

Who else inspires you?

They are huge. Also French and Saunders were huge for me. I've been getting into The Two Ronnies. They are genius. And Peter Sellers. French and Saunders came into my life at a pivotal time. I loved them so much as a child.

What was it about them?

I can remember the moment - my brother and I were watching. They did film parodies and they did the Titanic. Jennifer Saunders did Kate Winslet's part and she didn't change anything. She did a perfect performance of Kate Winslet doing this part. The comedy wasn't in changing anything or heightening anything; the comic genius was just that she was so true and straight. It's the truth that's funny.

What I love about the show Hello Sweetie are the malapropisms.

Yes. Chris and I just love malapropisms so much. The best one ever is from Kath and Kim, when Sharon comes in and says, looks like you've been burning the candle at both ends of the spectrum.

If you were a vegetable Tom, what would you be?

A potato. White and lovely.

And versatile, actually. Across the spectrum.

Yes, a versatile vegetable.

Lowdown

Stake Out, season 3 from March 23. Season 1 and 2 streaming OnDemand
Semi-professional private eyes Tom and Chris (comedians Tom Sainsbury and Chris Parker) get a little too much one-on-one time as they work to maintain their burgeoning stake-out business.