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Comedy podcast sets a scandal in Wairarapa

It’s murder out there.

Or so New Zealand comedian and actor Tom Sainsbury would have you believe.

His true crime mockumentary podcast ‘Small Town Scandal’ – set in the fictional Wairarapa town of Te Hoiho – has just been given the green light for a second series.

The first season of the comedy whodunnit launched in late March on NZME’s digital audio platform, iHeartRadio.

‘Small Town Scandal’ follows Toby Buchanan – a disgraced, out-of-work journalist living with his mum – as he tries to solve the grisly murder of his rich uncle, lawn mower kingpin Mitch Buchanan.

The way in which Uncle Mitch died – by two Buchananizer automated mowers – isn’t the only unusual thing about the show.

Toby and the cast of 30 colourful and distinct Te Hoiho townsfolk are all voiced by Sainsbury.

He was inspired to create ‘Small Town Scandal’ after gravitating towards true crime podcasts during a summer of road trips.

“My producers approached me and said, ‘What do you want to do for a podcast?’ And I said, ‘Well, I love true crime, but I don’t know any criminals and I don’t know any true crime. So let’s make it fiction’,” Sainsbury said.

After a year of honing his idea and penning the scripts, Sainsbury spent part of just two weeks voicing all the show’s characters, a process that initially turned his ‘head to mush’.

“We broke all the characters down one at a time. I could only manage about three sessions a day because otherwise my mind just wouldn’t work.”

The characters Sainsbury uses in his regular bite-size comedy content on Instagram and Facebook formed the basis of many members of the Te Hoiho citizenry who feature in the podcast.

“I’ve got a stock standard maybe 12 different voices that I have.

“Before I’d go into a recording session I’d experiment, especially with the smaller characters and record it [on my phone],” Sainsbury said.

“If I got a bit lost in the studio, I just listened back to the recording to sink back into character. It was a lot more technical than I really kind of gave it credit for.”

Sainsbury grew up in Matamata in Waikato and has starred in TV shows such as ‘Educators’, ‘Wellington Paranormal’, and ‘Give Us a Clue’.

He was drawn to setting his murder mystery in Wairarapa after spending some time in Featherston and Masterton two years ago.

“I just kind of fell in love. It was during the moody winter and I came across quite a few old macrocarpa trees, and it was really kind of Gothic. I really liked the vibe. I thought this is the place.”

The second series gives Sainsbury the opportunity to showcase his favourite character’s surprising talent for solving crime in small town Wairarapa.

“I really identified with [Toby], I spent so much time with him. And I liked the relationship he had with his mum. I’ve got a real soft spot for the loser.”

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