Comedian Chris Parker celebrates campness in new solo show Camp Binch

by Julie Hill / 09 May, 2018
Comedian Chris Parker channels  his inner All Black. “I think women and straight men can  be camp, too. A  light fixture can be camp. A duvet can  be camp. Everything.”

Comedian Chris Parker channels his inner All Black. “I think women and straight men can be camp, too. A light fixture can be camp. A duvet can be camp. Everything.” Photo/Mike Rooke.

RelatedArticlesModule - CP

In his new solo show, Camp Binch, Chris Parker lets his true colours shine.

The word “camp”, much like the word “girl”, hasn’t always been used as a compliment. When actor and comedian Chris Parker was starting out, one reviewer described him as “talented if camp”; another “talentless and camp”. “It was weird,” he says. “And they were saying it as if I’m not aware of it.”

In his new solo show, Camp Binch, which premieres at the Comedy Festival in May, Parker explores the notion that campness is “a really warm, fun, charming energy to have” and that femininity, in women and men alike, is actually something to aspire to. “I thought for a while I could totally pump it up and be like a masc bro walking down the street blending in with the dudes. But I realised I’m very soft, very femme and very camp, and I love that about myself. So that’s my journey.”

As for “binch”, that’s a new word, born of the internet, for when you don’t want to say “bitch”. “It’s a term of endearment, albeit a bit cheeky, whereas ‘bitch’ has often been used as a negative word against women.”

Growing up, Parker found the Kiwi culture of machismo and All Blacks-worship, and the general disdain for performers and artists, akin to a tidal wave crashing over and threatening to drown him. Even now, when he makes cameo appearances on TV comedy show Seven Days, he angsts over what to wear. “I feel myself desaturating, in a sense – toning down the colours, the vibrancy, so that I can fit in more.”

Parker credits David Halls, who he portrayed in the wildly successful play Hudson & Halls Live!, as an inspiration for letting his true colours shine. The original TV cooking show on which it’s based first aired more than 40 years ago in the conservative 1970s, but Halls and his partner Peter Hudson, and their cheesy, creamy culinary style, were beloved by Kiwi audiences, who must surely have realised they were an item. “David’s style of camp is really different to mine, but I really found my voice as a camp performer in him, and what it’s like to have the audience eat out of the palm of your hand.”

The show also taught him to set aside his natural tendency to improvise, in favour of respecting a finely crafted script. “It’s like baking a cake,” he says. “You can keep adding stuff or you can learn how to cook the same cake perfectly every night. I had to learn how to really listen to the audience, and how to execute every single joke the best way I possibly could.”

During the Comedy Festival, Parker will also appear in Giggly Gerties alongside Tom Sainsbury, best known for impersonating National deputy leader Paula Bennett. The show will be loose, weird, improvisational and possibly involve aliens. It’s a double act in which neither of them plays the straight guy, says Parker. “There’s never been a straight guy in any of my work.” 

Camp Binch runs from May 9-12 at The Basement, Auckland, between two seasons of Giggly Gerties (April 27-May 5, Bats Theatre, Wellington; May 16-19, The Basement, Auckland). Visit comedyfestival.co.nz.

This article was first published in the May 2018 issue of North & South.

Latest

White Noise: Who is shaping Auckland's future?
101439 2019-01-21 00:00:00Z Auckland Issues

White Noise: Who is shaping Auckland's future?

by Kate Newton

Some Aucklanders have more say in their city's future than others.

Read more
Stephen Fry revisits the world of the Ancient Greeks in Heroes
101242 2019-01-21 00:00:00Z Books

Stephen Fry revisits the world of the Ancient Gree…

by Lauren Buckeridge

In his delightful way, Stephen Fry dips back into the ancient world with more stories of tests, quests and feats of old.

Read more
Comedian Jo Brand on the benefits of not giving a toss
100970 2019-01-20 00:00:00Z Profiles

Comedian Jo Brand on the benefits of not giving a…

by Diana Wichtel

Jo Brand’s deadpan style is deceptive, as some blokes have discovered to their very public cost.

Read more
Green Book: A racially themed road-trip drama that stays within the white lines
101345 2019-01-20 00:00:00Z Movies

Green Book: A racially themed road-trip drama that…

by James Robins

Green Book joins a long tradition of civil-rights era movies that barely scratch the surface.

Read more
How I caught Marie Kondo's tidying up bug
101329 2019-01-20 00:00:00Z Television

How I caught Marie Kondo's tidying up bug

by Diana Wichtel

Four episodes into Netflix’s Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, something snapped.

Read more
The vital importance of full sleep cycles
100962 2019-01-20 00:00:00Z Health

The vital importance of full sleep cycles

by Mark Broatch

It’s a myth that older adults need less sleep, says University of California professor of neuroscience and psychology Matthew Walker.

Read more
Searching Great Barrier Island for the meaning of life
101413 2019-01-20 00:00:00Z Life in NZ

Searching Great Barrier Island for the meaning of…

by Joanna Wane

Joanna Wane goes to Great Barrier Island in search of the answer to life, the universe and everything.

Read more
Australian classic Storm Boy gets a modern remake
101340 2019-01-19 00:00:00Z Movies

Australian classic Storm Boy gets a modern remake

by James Robins

The biggest beak in Oz screen history returns in a remake of a 1970s favourite.

Read more