Fasten your seatbelts for Pam Ann

AIR travel has long inspired comedy.

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Pam Ann appears at the king's Theatre on March 25 as part of Glasgow International Comedy Festival
Pam Ann appears at the king's Theatre on March 25 as part of Glasgow International Comedy Festival

It's a wonderful world of passenger conning, condescension and conflict, of recycled oxygen - and alcohol.

And now Pam Ann, the flight attendant with the mouth that burns like a 747 engine, is back in town, with new stories about flying, the world's favourite airlines - and the ones we travel on because we have no real choice.

"I love coming to Glasgow" says Pam's alter ego, Aussie actress Caroline Reid.

"You're blunt like us. Verbal abuse to a Glaswegian is the equivalent of a Hallmark card to a normal person."

Ah, the bitch is certainly back. Madonna, who's a fan, described Pam as "cruelly funny" and she wasn't wrong.

In her latest tour, Caroline talks of travel in the new range of airlines, from the classy to the likes of Easyjet. And she trashes every one of them, offering the comedienne the chance to explore national stereotypes via the airlines the crew work for.

For example, her Ryanair hostess Clodagh often syphons fuel from other airlines and repeatedly shouts "I love my job". And British Airways attendant Mona greets passengers as if they are personally responsible for the death of Princess Diana.

"Some it plays on stereotypes, but most of it is based on truth," says Caroline, grinning.

Caroline Reid's character has been flying high for over 16 years and the actress tours the globe playing shows, very often to air crew who have travelled to see her. She's even appeared on jets chartered by the likes of Cher and Elton.

However Caroline didn't sit down to come up with her very clever comedy conceit; she fell down.

"Pam Ann was born out of a vodka bottle," she says of the drunken fancy dress party in Melbourne at which she dressed up as a fly girl and proceeded to create an airline crew voice to create laughs. "I didn't plan her at all."

When Caroline woke up the next day friends, told her Pam Ann had wings. And a stage character was born.

Over the years she's evolved into a world-weary, competitively glamorous air hostess who "would rather throw every last passenger out of the emergency exit at 20,000 feet than serve one more gin and tonic."

You have to feel a little sorry for the lady who spends her life travelling in the planes she mocks, breathing recycled air and at the mercy of real-life Pam Anns.

"Are you kiddin'," she says, her voice deadpan. "I've been lying by the pool all day. The blue skies are wonderful, I'm sippin' cocktails and lots of gay guys are telling me what size heels to wear."

Pam Ann has been described as one of the 'great comedy bitches' following in the stilletoed footsteps of the likes of Dame Edna and Joan Rivers.

Is it true that women have added licence to be cruel, whereby men would be seen to be bullies?

"I wouldn't know because people think I'm a man," she says. "And because I play a lot of gay clubs they think I'm a man doing drag."

It's true Pam Ann does wear something close to tranny make-up levels.

"What the hell," says the New York-based actress. "I don't care if I don't attract too many rugby players at my shows because I know why. They don't like to see an aggressive female on stage. It takes their power away."

Pam Ann isn't contained by geographical boundaries.

"I guess I still hit the same demographic in each of the countries, although I'd guess if I go to Russia I'll probably get killed."

Not all gay men have loved every minute of Pam's performances. Take Elton John. Caroline was once hired to appear on Elton's private jet. And the gig went well. Pam got lots of laughs, bullying Posh Spice to sit down and Elton and his entourage laughed liked drains.

BUT when Elton organised a trip to the south of France for the entire cast of Billy Elliot, and the boys began to misbehave, Pam crashed and burned.

"Well, I actually threatened the three Billys," she recalls, grinning. "They were misbehaving so much I told them we were going to fly back via Malawi, where we'd swap them for three black Billys - and leave them behind in Africa.

"Elton was very upset when he heard about that. He came up to me later and said 'Did you threaten the Billys? They're really concerned.' And I said 'Of course I did!' And his quivering voice indicated he wasn't happy at all. In fact, I never worked for him again."

No matter, Pam Ann is back in Glasgow. And it's time to adopt the brace position.

l Pam Ann, King's Theatre, March 25.

Arts and Entertainment

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