Actor, writer and comedian Celeste Barber is best known for her roles in All Saints, Office Correctness and How Not to Behave. She has also made a name for herself through her satirical Instagram account, which has more than 740,000 followers and has caught the attention of celebrities including Kris Jenner, Ashton Kutcher and Zooey Deschanel. Barber, 33, tells Kate Waterhouse where she sees her career heading and provides hilarious insights into her social media challenges.
You are a trained actor and only later fell into comedy?
Well, yeah, I’ve always been told I’ve been funny but I always thought funny was stupid. I thought if you were a bit of an idiot then that was funny. But I’ve since learnt, no, not the case, and being funny is the best and I love it… My late friend Mark Priestley, who worked on [All Saints with me], was like, “This is your niche,” and he helped me focus on it.
You appeared in The Letdown this week as part of ABC TV’s Comedy Showroom. How did that come about?
I was asked to audition and read the pilot’s script and fell in love with it. Then I found out that Noni Hazlehurst was playing the midwife and I was willing to sell my children to get the part.
What do you love most about comedy and making people laugh?
It’s so nice to hear people’s response because laughter is a positive thing. You very rarely hear someone going “I’m really angry” while they’re laughing … If we focus more on things that are funny and made us feel nice, as opposed to feel pressured to look that way or pressured to think this way, I think it would lift the mood a lot, in a lot of circles …That’s what I’m finding since doing this Instagram stuff – that people just walk up to me and say, “I’ve had the shittiest day and then I saw your photos and now I’m laughing and thank God for you, I’m sick of worrying about being fat now.”
How did you become this internet sensation?
Well, the second you put yourself up near Kardashian … then you’re running for president… it’s madness. I don’t know how it happened. I remember when it happened: it was, like, in August last year. I was at my house with friends and I had just done the Daily Mail interview and then I got an e-mail from the Daily Mail going, “It’s going live now.” They put it up and then Phil my friend was like, “All right – drinking games. No one check their phone for one minute.” We all had to turn our phone on aeroplane mode and then a minute later he’d say “10,000 [more followers] – scull” and then we’d scull. It was the best. Then we’d go, “Right, five minutes,” then set an alarm, come back, “15,000 – scull”. It was the best.
You now have over 740,000 followers around the word.
Yeah. Most of them are in the [United] States. I’m waiting for Amy Schumer to go, “Actually you are amazing,” and be a part of it. Come on, Schumer.
So how did you start doing your satirical photos of celebrities?
My sister and I were just seeing crazy yoga poses or someone going, “Wednesday Lunch”, and we’re like, “That’s not Wednesday lunch. You’re on a paddle board, in the middle of the Bora Bora, doing downward dog.” And then I would go, “All right, I’ll try that. That’s just what a normal day is for fancy people. Challenge accepted.” That’s just how it started. My sister and I just started sending texts to each other with a funny photo [from social media] and she would write, “Challenge accepted?” I’m like, “Yeah.” I did a few and then the Kim Kardashian one, on the dirt pile.
Did that image of you imitating Kim Kardashian have the most impact?
[Yes] most impact. It’s not one of my most popular ones. But that’s the one where people took notice. Then Daily Mail got hold of it and then Time magazine and that sort of thing.
Kris Jenner recently shared your Instagram image on Facebook. What was it like to catch the attention of one of America’s most infamous personalities?
It’s weird considering her children/clients are the main source of my parodies, but she seemed to have a good sense of humour about it.
Did her star power have an impact on your career?
Nup. My followers went up but the Weinsteins are yet to call with a show offer.
Have any other celebrities reached out to you?
I did a photo of Cindy Crawford – the iconic one where she is popping a bottle of champagne in front of the Hollywood sign. So I got a bottle of Coke and stood in front of the Long Jetty sign, on the Central Coast [of NSW]. She wrote underneath it, “A nice one,” with a smiley face, which was very sweet. People like Ashton Kutcher have done shoutouts, Zooey Deschanel and Snooki. I am waiting for Kanye to beat down my door though and go, “You will not hurt my wife.” I’m waiting for that.
Do you ever get nervous of a celebrities response, especially someone like him?
Wouldn’t give a shit, wouldn’t care less. Good luck to him.
Do you get trolled by some of the celebrities’ fans?
Sometimes I do. Sometimes people are like, “You’re fat, go away.” But I don’t care. I have kids and teenage daughters. I’ve made sure that I always say to them, “Social media has the power you give it. If you don’t want it to be anything more than a photo of you with your friends, then that’s all it is”.
Who is your favourite person to impersonate on your Instagram?
I like to call them my muses, not my victims or anything. They’re my muse. Kylie Jenner is pretty easy. If I’m struggling for something to do, I’m like, “Surely she has got something going,” and I’ll look for her and bang there it is.
Who are your favourite comedians?
Usual suspects: Amy Schumer, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler… They’re just funny. Excellent women. And a lot write their own stuff. Amy Schumer recently said, when she won an award, “I work because I look like this. So I have to write my own stuff.” Because I’ve got this area and that’s exactly how I feel. I get really inspired by that, really inspired by making my own stuff which will suit me. That’s fun.
What would you be doing if you didn’t go into acting and comedy?
Oh, crying. Nothing. I don’t know what I would do without it. I really don’t. It’s my first love. Nothing. Look at me freaking out. Well, actually maybe back-up dancer for Beyonce. There, write that.
What do you do in downtime when you’re not working?
Hang out with my kids, my little fellows. They’re the best.
It must be fun around your dinner table.
Yeah. We don’t always eat — I’m going to be on a parenting website now. We don’t always eat at the table. We’ve got too many age groups and too many needs. So we’re just like, “Make sure everyone eats.” That’s the way you do it. Don’t tell Mia Freedman that. She will put me on Mamamia [as the] “worst mother in the world”.
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
Doing a sitcom-type show that I have written. That’s my plan.