“I will forever be attracted to the Internet, and it really was a love at first click for me,” says Chris Parker of his ‘digital life’. “But I’m 30 now, my priorities have changed and I do not know if I can keep up with the internet’s needy demands.”
The beloved comedian is taking that frustration at social media on the road and onto the stage with his new show, Give Me One Good Reason Why I Shouldn't Throw My Phone Off This Bridge, touring the country next year. Its title perfectly embodies the melodramatic language that Instagram and TikTok have helped normalise – and reflects Parker’s changing and fraught relationship with social media. Inspired after seeing a sponsored post on his feed for shorts with a built-in jockstrap and quickly spiralling and questioning his algorithm targeting and digital habits, the show will act as a very funny commentary on data, tracking and our constantly plugged in modern lives.
They’re also all things that have helped build Parker’s own following and seen his short front-facing videos reach millions, from observational character skits that capture the Kiwi psyche to his lockdown series where he made a felt hat. To quote the show’s press release, itself a meta comment on technology’s impact on fame: “That Feeling When… you owe everything you have to social media, but, you also want to throw your phone off the tallest bridge you can find.”
As for welcome marketing and actual purchases via Instagram, Parker says that there is a plus-side. He’s bought a lot of artisanal boutique vegan chocolate from @chocboiii. “He’s so talented and has really built a name for himself via social media. I go crazy for new cafes and food spots I’ve discovered via Instagram. I won’t rest until I’ve tried them all!”
*Chris Parker’s Give Me One Good Reason Why I Shouldn't Throw My Phone Off This Bridge will tour Aotearoa in June and July 2024, visiting Nelson, Christchurch, Dunedin, Auckland, Wellington and Rotorua. All details and tickets here.
POV: You’re baby Chris Parker, going online for the first time. What’s your earliest internet memory?
It was obviously on the family computer, in my 20 min allocated time slot shared between siblings. It would have been like 2001 and everyone who’s anyone was printing out pictures of “bubblegum characters” – simply drawn cartoons with names like “drama queen” and “sassy diva”. After I waited for them to download (took an eternity) and printed them out (a second eternity and $1000000 in print cartridges), I would then systematically place them in my clear file like it was my full time job.
Social media gets a lot of bad press, but can be used for good, too. What do you love about it? What do you dislike?
I think social media has genuinely been responsible for me discovering some community. I’ve learnt more about myself, grown my personal taste and style and built a career.
But being on social media is like being in a digital space where 2000 people get to voice whatever they like and you weirdly have to listen to them, and I don’t think I’m alone in saying some people in this world have dog shit opinions.
How do you personally measure the ‘success’ of one of your videos? And do you get influenced by social/Instagram metrics at all, when creating them?
Basically, do I cringe watching it back? If so, I don’t upload it. If I am proud of it then it goes up and I can sleep easy at night. I try to make that my only metric of success.
Social media has meant that comedians can go global and reach huge audiences. But how do you think social media has influenced the actual craft of comedy – i.e. structures of jokes, skits etc.
I do start to wonder if people think comedy is only crowd work now, as that’s all you seem to see online. Crowd work can be amazing and is a fun way to connect with your audience as a comedian, but only crowd work does not a comedian make.
I think as well, because front-facing character videos are so popular online, there are quite a few comics who are trying to work out how to translate that success into a live space, but I don’t think I’ve seen that successfully yet… nor have I tried, either.
How has the ‘front-facing comedy’ boom influenced you and your work/craft?
People who have studied film and TV making for years will shudder and pass out when they read this, but I kind of feel like I’ve learned how to make better TV through the practice of trying to make better content.
That’s what satisfies me the most about making content now, is seeing what tricks and skills I can sharpen when actually crafting the video. So stupid to talk so deeply about something so trivial. But I can’t deny that I reckon I’ve learned so camera and editing skills, simply by making POV videos.
TikTok humour is extremely specific and dark/absurdist (or maybe that’s just my algorithm). How would you describe the humour of different social platforms – are there differences?
I think it probably reflects generational divides between platforms. TikTok is so much younger, the audience is more chronically online; it's going to push them to laugh at the more absurd. I also find whenever I’ve posted any experience about being 30 on TikTok, the audience is like, “🙃🧐 what’s 30?l”
Whereas Instagram is a haven for my millennial girlies. It is our safe space, to be our authentic skinny jeans, side-part selves. I think that drives the videos to be more, “that feeling when the dishwasher is stacked properly”.
And Facebook is truly like trying to make content for citizens of Mars. I’m like “who are these people, do they come in peace?”
How many group chats are you in?
Endless group chats, but that’s not what I find disturbing. The thing that keeps me up at night are the ones I’m not in. I made my friends delete the group chat they set up to plan a surprise birthday party for me, because I didn’t like the idea of them all being there without me.
What’s your approach to Instagram?
That I could walk away from it at any point and I’d still be happy. I think those boundaries are important.
What’s on your TikTok FYP? What do you like/hate about it?
It’s so chaotic: at one moment it’s someone cooking a full meal with the microphone horrifically close to the food, just slapping meat on the table and guzzling oil everywhere (why do they cool like that!). Next minute it’s a dog crying at its owner's Grave, then we are back to watching a dirty carpet being shampooed.
WHAT IS THIS DOING TO MY BRAIN.
What’s your relationship like with Facebook? Do you use it? What do you use it for?
I love to go back for nostalgia. I love seeing posts from me in 2004 being, “Chris Parker is sad and missing his besties” – it was all very raw on there and I do kind of love how real that was.
I also always check it on my birthday for a serotonin boost, and it is always so disappointing; just my old English teacher from high school and a guy who was in the clarinet ensemble with me wishing me a “happy day of birth”.
How do you feel about AI and ChatGPT?
It’s probably the future, and personally I don’t want to understand it, and inevitably it will be the thing that isolates me from generations behind me and ultimately turns me into a grumpy old man who’s like “back in my day, we used to have our own ideas”.
What was the last screenshot you took?
They took a photo of me on Breakfast TV as a joke being like, “Look who’s the new host”, and all the comments are from bitter people who didn’t see the humour in that and were like, “noooo, I hate that guy”.
I just found it so funny to post something so inoffensive – just a nice photo of me smiling – and then all the feedback to such a boring photo to be like, “This guy is too OTT for the news”.
The writer and comedian in me can’t help but enjoy the comedic irony there. It seems to be that all people making content want is to entertain and brighten peoples’ day, and all the people receiving the content want is the demise and end of all joy.
You’ve had lots of ‘viral’ moments. What’s been your favourite/proudest/weirdest?
Would probably be my lockdown felt hat. I loved the journey from picking up a new craft and everyone thinking I was insane, to my felt crown being bought by the Auckland Museum and being displayed for two years for the rest of the country to look at and also think I was insane. Looking back now on that time, I’m happy to admit, I had in fact lost my mind.
What was your screen time last week?
I can not answer that question without my lawyer present.