This week, I had a chat with Tom Sainsbury, the impersonation master portraying key figures this election cycle, such as Paula Bennett, Nikki Kaye and Bill English.

Sainsbury rose to internet fame with his short, two-minute videos impersonating New Zealand politicians. Since then, Tom’s Facebook page has grown rapidly, now boasting 20,000 likes.

Tom posted his first video portraying himself as Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett, showing her frustration over newly elected Labour leader Jacinda or “Cindy” Ardern a few months back. The video soon went viral, being shared hundreds of times and even prompting a response from Paula Bennett herself. Since then, Sainsbury has continued making videos of other politicians and stereotypical personality traits, such as a lesbian sheep shearer and a tough, masculine builder.

Tom has continued to post videos of politicians, almost daily, prior to and post election. Sainsbury admits he had an influence on what people looked at on social media, but doubts he had any impact on the way people voted.

“I don’t give myself that much credit, although people are telling me that they found things out through it like policy. It’s certainly been fun to do, though.”

At one point, Tom collaborated with National MP for Auckland Central Nikki Kaye, who gave him some pointers on how to improve his impersonations. However, when commenting further, Sainsbury said “Bill English is the easiest to impersonate, I do him the best.”

Tom says he hasn’t had any requests from politicians to impersonate them, but he wouldn’t shy away if they did.

His favourite person to impersonate is Paula Bennett. Sainsbury says he spent a long time watching videos “to try and get her” and master the impersonation. It paid off. Each video of Paula gets around a thousand Facebook reactions, and around 20,000 views.

Each video of Paula is very similar. It always opens greeting the people watching, referred to as “sweeties,” a reference to Bennett’s 2012 gaffe where she told Labour’s Jacinda Ardern to “zip it, sweetie” during question time. On top of that, there’s always a reference to a bowl latte and a panini, personal favourites of Bennett.

Despite his fixation on bowl lattes and paninis in his videos, Tom said he’s only had one panini in the last eight years. “It was winter vegetable and onion jam and it was fantastic.”

Despite his love for impersonating National MPs, Sainsbury says he’s left wing.

“The most pressing problem for me is probably child poverty, and I know that Labour really wants to change that. I would want [Winston Peters] to go with Labour, because every day counts for some of these kids. But I also think he’s gonna go with National. I’m a pessimist, I always think the worst.”


This is ETHAN GRIFFITHS’ very first piece for TEARAWAY! Be sure to check back for more of his writing and more political stories from the Mavericks.

Will the Teal Deal Become Real?

Don’t Be Afraid To Talk Politics

Save the Oceans, Save the World