Comedian Tom Sainsbury says people's flaws are fodder for his character studies which investigate the human condition.
1 What did you learn during your campaign for Mayor as Fiona the wine taster?
A mayoral campaign is as much or as little work as you want, and I tended towards the showier things rather than the hard work. I learnt a lot; the lack of power that mayors actually have, the issues facing Auckland. The traffic thing is just 100 percent depressing. A lot of my friends were worried I'd take votes away from Phil, so I got a lot of guilt around that. I really like Phil. He's not very charismatic. He's steady and uninspiring but that's quite good. My goal was to get 200 votes but when I got 2,800 there was a part of me that was disappointed I didn't win.
2 Which do you love more, comedy or acting?
I love comedy but it's not my number one passion. I'm passionate about psychology, human behavior and what it means to be human. When I die, I would love to have - in whatever form – managed to capture the human experience. The Snap Chat characters that give me the most satisfaction are the ones where I feel that I've captured an aspect of humanity most truthfully, whether that's a trait, a type of person, a stereotype that people fall into, or an experience that lots of people have. When people say, "That's so spot on" or "This is just like me", that's success.
3 How much study goes into each Snap Chat character?
For the political videos, I do a lot of research on what's going on with those people. The animals I do are dictated by the filter. Snapchat filters change regularly - every morning you wake up and hope your favorite ones are there but sometimes they've been replaced by some random filter, so you can't plan too far ahead. If there's a dog filter, I'll use that as a starting point and think about what it would be like to be a dog.
4 Who has been your most successful Snap Chat character?
Gingerbread the cat. I never thought it would be so successful. When that first one got half a million views, I felt like I'd sold out by doing the most popular subject on the internet. What really interests me about Gingerbread is he's so horrible, yet people love him so much. In every video he's eating a native bird - a tui or a dotterel or something - and no-one bats an eyelid. It's a fascinating insight into humanity.
5 Are there any you've regretted?
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Oh, yes. There have been some complete stinkers, absolutely. I did a character that was using an anxiety disorder as an excuse to get out of doing things. That crossed the line for a lot of people. I'm always testing the line, to a degree. If I stopped for a second and thought about it, there's a part of me that might stop me from posting things, but for some reason my desire to put it out there trumps everything.
6 Has being creative for a living increased your resilience?
I've definitely grown as a person. I used to be too sensitive to feedback, but in acting and comedy you get feedback all the time and I've learnt not to connect my emotions to it so much. I think that's probably resilience, or it could be saturation point - when you've had so much feedback it just washes over and doesn't affect you anymore.
7 Were you devastated when Kura Forrester beat you to the Billy T Award?
It was like the mayoral thing. Leading up to it I didn't care, but when they say '…and the winner is…' you always hope it will be you. I knew the writing was on the wall from the reviews. Kura's show was getting better reviews, everyone was loving it - I loved it. I love her; as soon as she walked off stage after getting the award we were crying with laughter about a gag about that, so the pain was short lived. But it was a good five minutes of pain.
8 What was your childhood like, growing up on a dairy farm in Matamata?
Look backing, it was idyllic. Of course it wasn't, there was lots of things to stress one out. Navigating school was always difficult. If you were 'out', it was probably the worst thing. You could be absolutely horrible and people would forgive that. I wish I had more courage to just be who I was. Even now, I just kind of edit myself for who I'm with.
9 Are you vegan because of what you saw on the farm?
I've been vegan off and on for the last 10 years. Strangely my father is a vegan too, after reading a book called The China Study about the correlation between cancer and dairy and meat consumption. My reasons are compassion for animals. Hearing the mothers separated from their calves when they're a few days old was the absolute worst part of it. When you put the baby in the back of the truck and drive off, the mother screams. She sounds like a woman screaming. It's haunting. They can bellow for days.
10 You're about to star in Top Town with your comedy dance troupe Dynamotion. Do you have any formal dance training?
No, unfortunately. I'm self-taught. We did folk dancing at school. We did this dance called Carry Your Maiden Across the Stream; these tiny 11-year-old boys would have to carry much bigger girls, who'd already had their growth spurts, across the dance floor. As if they all weren't feeling self-conscious enough. But I do love dancing. I started Dynamotion with my friend Lara Liew eight years ago because at parties we'd always be dancing together. Each show we do a different era; this one's set in the 80s. It's comedy but we try 100 percent to get the moves right and make it as slick as possible.
11 You're directing a play called 'Play' in the Pride Festival in February. What's it about?
It's by Liam Coleman, the guy in the ANZ billboards, and it's about the world of dating apps and how horrible people can be compared to if you met them face-to-face. I always look forward to Pride. It's a fractious time though, a political time. I'm working with someone else on this concept of LGBTQI as a collective, and whether it should exist anymore. The experience of the white gay man is so different from a person of color, or a trans person. How can we be lumped together?
12 Do you look forward to the debates?
I get a lot of enjoyment when people get on their high horse or get really offended about things. It's great material. I'm not so good at standing up to people when they say something outrageous. I was at a corporate gig in Tauranga when this woman I was talking to started saying the most horrific things about homeless people. I was so shocked, I just left. But that stuff is all fodder. I always get the last laugh.
• Tom Sainsbury presents Dynamotion's Top Town Dec 10-21 at Q Loft and directs Play Feb 4-14 at Q Vault as part of Auckland Pride Festival 2020