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Here for a good time

28 November 2022
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chris parker author photo 4 credit nic staveley
Photo: Nic Staveley

Talking Riccarton Mall, sausage dogs, South Island must-visits and alpaca parties with Christchurch-raised funnyman Chris Parker. Words Josie Steenhart Photos Nic Staveley

“I love going back to Christchurch,” says celebrated comedian Chris Parker, once we’ve got our prerequisite Zoom “Can you hear me?”, “Can you hear me now?” icebreaker out of the way.

“It’s my hometown, it feels like home, but also there’s always something new, every time I go back down, that’s just opened. It’s the best vibe in the country. And in spring and summer it’s just divine. I was so excited to show it off to all my friends for the alpaca do.”

In case you’ve been living under a rock, a few weeks back Chris married partner Micheal McCabe at a fabulous soiree at Auckland’s Hollywood Cinema. But in true comedic style, the week prior he held – not a stag do but an alpaca do – at Shamarra Alpacas in Akaroa.

“Gorgeous creatures,” says Chris. It’s just this kind of endearing, slightly kooky yet ultimately relatable choice that represents the unique charm of Chris Parker.

In the last couple of years that charm has been showcased by Chris not only bravely entering but winning Celebrity Treasure Island; shooting a televised return to “the battleground of his adolescence” (TVNZ’s words not mine) aka Christchurch Boys’ High School; becoming a social media saviour against the madness of lockdown by providing daily LOLs; and – the reason for our video chat – writing his first book, Here for a Good Time.

“When I won Celebrity Treasure Island a couple of people came knocking at my door, asking about a book and I thought, jeez, I don’t know what the hell that would be. I don’t think anyone needs to read a memoir from me, I certainly wouldn’t want to read a memoir about me,” recalls Chris. “I thought about it for a while… I don’t want to waste people’s time, and I think to read a book is a commitment, especially in the age of having TikTok and stuff and I was like, well, what would I want to read?

“I thought I’d rather read a bunch of short stories or essays or humorous takes, something that’s kind of like a stand-up show but in book form. So like, a comedy book in a sense, but not just a bunch of jokes. And I was talking to the people at Allen & Unwin and they really liked that idea. It took a year of my life, and it took a year off my life as well.”

While he’s quick to tell me he doesn’t recommend writing a book, “not at all”, now that it’s done he’s finding space to reflect on the experience… and laugh at his own jokes.

“It’s so exciting that the book’s out, I feel the weight of it being lifted off me now, because the idea of having to write the book was such a drain and such a heavy weight on my shoulders. I feel somewhat at ease now.

“I obviously had to proofread it – and I laughed. I’m pretty critical of my own writing but I think maybe I blocked out the experience of doing it and then reading it back I was like, this is funny, I’m a funny guy!

“It’s a true test of your comedic ability I think, because you can’t…I do lots of voices and distracting hand movements in my comedy to sell a joke, whereas you can’t really do that in written form. But the feedback I’ve had is that people can hear my voice in it. I feel like that’s a compliment… Or it’s an insult, I’m not sure.”

Favourite chapters? “I enjoyed the chapter ‘Resolutions’, which is about dating and the year that I was trying to activate my sex life, as I put it, which is something you’re supposed to keep to yourself, but I made it a public new year’s resolution.

“I think it’s an interesting chapter and maybe a side of me that people are not used to seeing, but it’s a bit more honest. When we think about queer representation in media it’s always just on the other side where you’re feeling confident about who you are and you’ve found the person you love, but there’s no like, articulation of shame when you’re working through that, so that was important for me to share.”

“I also like the chapter on the mall, and my love for the mall, ‘An ode to the mall’. The mall gets a bit of a hard rap, and I’m a bit of a mall rat, I enjoyed indulging in my experience of and love for a mall. And I also get to share an experience of when I was a mall Santa, and that was quite an unusual experience…”

As Christchurch’s funniest son, it’s inevitable this chapter would include Riccarton Mall. “There’s a lot about Christchurch in the book actually,” says Chris, “a lot about Riccarton Mall, a lot about growing up and doing the Christchurch theatre stuff.”

And despite moving to Auckland in his adult years, Chris lacks no enthusiasm when it comes to the South Island.

“l love the South Island! I’ve toured the whole country so I’ve got lots of must-visit places. I enjoyed Nelson, I love Nelson, I went on summer holidays every year in Richmond of all places, and Māpua is beautiful.

“Love Dunedin, huge advocate for Dunedin, almost to the point where it feels like I’m sucking up and want them to like me, but I truly think it might be the coolest city in the country, it toughs up against some pretty shit weather but it’s got a real culture down there.

“And then Central Otago, I love. Cromwell is truly… I can’t believe it’s real, it’s mad. I just love being down south, I really love the scenery, it’s so rugged, really different from going out in the country in Northland, it’s got a real different vibe to it.

“I really want to show Micheal Te Anau and the National Park and stuff, I just think it’s so inspiring and it changes your life. For our kind-of sort-of honeymoon we’re going to drive around Central Otago, Southland over New Year’s, because it’s just my favourite part of the country.”

In an apparently mind-reading move that makes me wonder if he can see my notes (and also question the predictability of my questions), before I can ask the standard interview-wrapping “What’s next?” Chris takes the words out of my mouth.

“If you’re going to ask what’s next for you – not kids, but I would love a dachshund, a couple of dachshunds… No kids – we’re trying for a dachshund.”

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