Best known for his Snapchat impressions and accidentally causing a diplomatic incident after telling media about an off-the-record anecdote shared with him by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, I wasn't sure what to expect from Tom Sainsbury live.

Would he rely on his Paula Bennett impersonation or go for something totally new?

It was a mix of both.

Watching Sainsbury is like being regaled by a dear and especially funny friend - sometimes the stories don't quite hit the mark but even then it's enjoyable listening to them talk. He seems eminently likeable and keen to be liked in return.


Nominally about self-help and self-improvement, the show is really more a collection of skits about Sainsbury's life and experiences, including (of course) sexual misadventures and near-death experiences.

Sainsbury's humour, like you imagine the man to be off stage as well, is gently mocking rather than acerbically witty, so that even a story about spitting in a man's mouth (it's a fetish thing) feels fond in its recounting.

The show is a little uneven, and interludes when he dons wigs and does impersonations of people, real or imagined, are hit and miss.

Maybe he felt he had to do them considering his Snapchat impressions - and Paula Bennett in particular - are what he's best known for.

And it's true that when he finally gets to the Paula wig a whoop comes from the crowd, but in a very funny story recounting the aforementioned interaction with Ardern where she told him about Trump mistaking her for Justin Trudeau's wife, Sainsbury himself points out the problem with doing the wig and impressions in real life - part of the act relies on the ability to do a face swap on a phone, and without that element the joke doesn't quite land the same.

Even so, it's a funny and energetic 50 minutes from one of the Auckland comedy scene's most prolific performers.

Comedy review
Who: Thomas Sainsbury
Where and when: At the Basement Theatre until Saturday, May 5