The Fame Reporter interviewed Australia’s theatrical comedy queen, Queenie van de Zandt. She is embodying her infamous alter-ego – Jan van de Stool, in her hilarious new show at the Brisbane Comedy Festival, ‘Parting the Red Curtains.’
Queenie is ecstatic to bring her new cabaret back to the city where this special character, Jan van de Stool was born.
In ‘Parting the Red Curtains’, audiences can expect the van de Stool they all know – the
“musical masseuse, singing psychologist and qualified interpretive dancer” – but she will also astonish Brisbane by unveiling an entirely new skillset.
We talked to Queenie about what Brisbane audiences will love about her new show, the origin of her character Jan, advice Jan imparts on her self-help clients and more.
See our interview below!
Welcome to The Fame Reporter Jan, what was it that sparked your interest in performing initially?
I have always performed ever since I was a very young child so I think it was just part of my makeup. My Dad was a cabaret performer back in Holland, so he passed on the love of it to me. By the age of eight I wanted to be an actor.
What can your Brisbane Fan De Stools expect from ‘Parting the Red Curtains’?
It is a show about my alter ego, ‘Jan Van De Stool’, who is a Dutch-Australian musical therapist. She becomes a D-list celebrity over the years and has been on lots of reality TV shows like ‘MasterChef’, ‘Top Gear’ and ‘Embarrassing Bodies’. She has been on them all. She had a very public breakdown on ‘I’m a Celebrity get me out of here’ and she was dragged off the island with her underpants on her head.
She has now come back to her roots and to working with people. That is what she used to do in the Nudgee Scout Hall in Woi Woi, where she runs her courses. She has come to tell the real story about Jan. She reveals when she had the psychotic breakdown on ‘I’m a Celebrity get me out of here’ that she actually had a breakthrough because she heard voices and is now a very powerful psychic medium.
In this show she has come back to explain to everyone that she is finished with the fame game and you are going to see the real Jan. The show gets derailed because this disgruntled ex-student of Jan’s keeps popping out and throws her show completely out of wack.
You are going to see the singer, the musical therapist, the interpretive dancer and the psychic medium.
What was your experience like on Australia’s Got Talent and has it changed the way you approach creating your shows?
We have kind of fed that into Jan’s history, saying that she is on Australia’s Got Talent and she begins hosting The Helpmann’s which is also true. She does these award shows and television and we imagine that she keeps going down that road and doing reality TV shows. I’m a teacher as well and I am quite fascinated by this obsession with fame that people have these days and also a generation of people that were told they were brilliant at things they weren’t good at.
There was a real push 20 years ago of telling children they were fantastic at everything and everyone got a prize. YouTube and all of those things have created this desire for fame that is really bizarre. Even with ‘The Real Housewives of Melbourne’, it’s interesting to talk to people who work in television because I often think why would anybody go on a show like that or ‘Embarrassing Bodies’ or anything of those shows. They said ‘the one thing rich people can’t get is fame.’ It’s the one thing you can’t buy. I thought that is so true.
I’m quite interesting in the notion of people wanting to become famous with a very deluded idea of their own talent.
I suppose the show spoofs that to a certain extent, this obsession with fame and not knowing your own strengths.
How is The Netherlands incorporated into your new show and what do you love about Australian audiences?
Jan is Dutch-Australian, so she has a thick Dutch accent. Dutch people are notorious for being very brutal in terms of their honesty. That is one of the ways I came up with Jan in the first place.
I saw a Dutch woman doing a psychic reading in public. She channeled this man and she had a terrible stomach ache. The medium said she could feel it in her stomach. She said ‘a man is in his mid 30’s and has died of stomach cancer’ and said ‘is that familiar to anyone?’ A woman in the front row was crying her eyes out, put her hand up and said ‘my husband has recently died, he was 35 years old and died of stomach cancer.’ The Dutch medium then said ‘yeah it’s not you, anybody else?’ I just remember thinking what are you doing? Even if it’s not her, you roll with it! Just say that he loves you. I just thought Dutch people can never ever be in any type of healing profession. That was one of the jumping off points for starting Jan Van De Stool as a character.
That brutal honesty from The Netherlands is very much part of Jan’s comedic make-up, as well as getting the language completely wrong.
I get all of my best material from the stuff my parents say and words they get mixed up. So that happens a lot with Jan, even in the title of the show ‘Parting the Red Curtains’, she has no idea what it means. Also the phrase ‘coming back to my Netherlands’, she doesn’t understand that anything could have a second meaning. She is very innocent in how she says everything and would be horrified if she knew that there was another meaning.
Jan reveals her past in this particular show and what happened when she grew up in the Netherlands. I haven’t done that much in the way of international performances. So I don’t really have anything to compare Australian audiences to.
I love Brisbane audiences. I think they are incredibly lovely and warm. I adore Brisbane and I love performing there, it is beautiful. Jan was actually created in Brisbane. The very first time I ever did Jan was at The Brisbane Cabaret Festival in 2002 I believe.
Brisbane is Jan’s birthplace and her very natural home.
What performers dead or alive would you love to have a dinner party with?
Barbara Streisand, I love her so much.
Joni Mitchell, I’d love to sit down with her although I think she would be a difficult party guest as well as Barbara actually.
Then I’d like to round it off with Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant and Melissa McCarthy. Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Kristin Wiig. Well, basically the entire cast of Bridesmaids as well.
What kind of advice do you impart upon your clients as a self-help guru expert?
Jan’s got a lot of self-help sayings like ‘do something every day that scares someone’.
Who are your comedy icons?
Definitely Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. I love their work so much. They have been a really big influence on my work with Jan. Then absolutely people like the girls from Bridesmaids, Steve Carrell, Will Ferrell, all of his films including Anchorman and all of those funny dudes.
Then also people like Carol Burnett back in the day, because I am a musical theatre performer, so musical comedy is really interesting to me. People like Barbara Streisand really influence what I do. I am very theatrical by nature in terms of how I write and my writing partner as well, we are both music theatre geeks.
What do you hope audiences take away from ‘Parting the Red Curtains’?
Ultimately when you do a comedy show you just want people to laugh. The nature of just going to the theatre or going into a space and just laughing for an hour is just so fantastic.
I really hope that they fall in love with Jan and that they have a great laugh and can go home and ‘go down the rabbit hole’ and watch Jan’s YouTube channel and enjoy all of her backlog of material that is on there.
Fame Reporter Word Play
You can only eat 1 food for the rest of your life, what is it?
Dream co-star to work with?
Jan’s own TV show
Wild Wild Country
Finally, favourite thing about performing for your fans?
Feeling like I’m just a conjugate for people having a fantastic night. It is my meditation basically. You are just there to be of service to the audience and it just feels effortless. It is a really spiritual experience.
Thank-you for joining us at The Fame Reporter. We wish you all the best for your performances at the Brisbane Comedy Festival in ‘Parting the Red Curtains.’
Audiences can watch Jan’s life unravel during Brisbane Comedy Festival at two locations: SunPac on Thursday 21 March and Brisbane City Hall from Friday 22 – Sunday 24 March.
For information and tickets, visit www.brisbanecomedyfestival.com
All photos – Supplied