Chris Lilley

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 02, 2007 3:47 pm    Post subject: Chris Lilley Reply with quote

Laughs are on us just the way we like it
Peter Munro
September 2, 2007

When Kath Day-Knight calls on Kim to "look at moiye", many of us are laughing at more than just a pair of high-maintenance ladies on the television screen. Australia's most famous mother and daughter act is funny because it's familiar and their muffin tops and fadoobadas would not look out of place on most suburban street corners. The show's best jokes are on us, so why are we giggling at the punchlines?

Self-mockery runs strong in Australian comedy, from Dame Edna's suburban home in Moonee Ponds to Daryl Kerrigan's castle and, this week, to Summer Heights High and student Ja'mie King's dreams of becoming a United Nations ambassador or an international supermodel. Australians take particular pleasure in having the piss taken out of them, and you don't have to live in Kath & Kim's Fountain Lakes to see there is a little effluence in every one of us.

Tom Gleisner, co-creator of Working Dog's film The Castle and TV hit Thank God You're Here, says that self-mockery is an innate part of the Australian culture. "We tend to be inherently suspicious of anyone who looks like being a bit full of themselves, and our preferred way of dealing with this is through humour," he says. "Even if it means turning that humour on ourselves."

Local comedies are the top two most-watched TV programs in the country. Last month's opening episode of Kath & Kim on Seven was the most-watched show of the year, drawing a national average audience of 2.52 million, including 882,000 viewers in Melbourne. In second place was Ten's Thank God You're Here, with 2 million viewers nationwide.

Gleisner says Australians are particularly good at giggling at themselves. "Self-deprecation is the most generous form of comedy," he says. "Whilst we all love a sharp, American-style put-down, there is something ultimately cruel about it. But when the punch-line of a joke is yourself, how can it possibly be construed as mean?" Melbourne International Comedy Festival director Susan Provan says that every comedian in the world has a good putdown line, whether directed at themselves or at their audience. In Britain, that has been exemplified by the success of The Office and in the United States by Seinfeld and The Simpsons. She says that the secret to Kath & Kim's success is the familiarity of the show's stars to local viewers. "I think the characters are just so bizarre but so completely related to characters we all know," she says.

The show's creators, Jane Turner and Gina Riley, drew their inspiration from Australian reality TV shows such as Sylvania Waters and Weddings, in which the characters oscillated between being embarrassing and unintentionally hilarious. Kath & Kim's plum-mouthed characters, Prue and Trude, who run a homewares shop selling "threws for the carch" (throws for the couch), were drawn from the streets of Toorak and Armidale, in Melbourne's wealthy inner suburbs.

Sue Turnbull, associate professor in media studies at La Trobe University, says that Australians' love of self-mockery goes back to the 1930s hayseed comedies of Dad and Dave, and their loveable but naive country bumpkins. In the 1960s, Barry Humphries turned the spotlight on suburbia with Edna Everage, and encouraged audiences to cast a critical but ultimately affectionate eye over themselves with his ocker Aussie, Barry McKenzie, and boozing cultural attache, Sir Les Patterson.

"The role of comedy is precisely to hold up a mirror to society or culture and to reflect back to that society aspects of itself which are funny, ridiculous, silly or outrageous," Dr Turnbull says. "I think the laughter comes from recognition and pleasure in recognition."

Dr Turnbull is co-convener of a special research project examining the impact of comedy on Australia's national identity. She says that it is debatable whether Kath and Kim or any of Barry Humphries' characters are celebrations or critiques of Australian society. "Dame Edna originally was a form of self-loathing about suburbia," she says.

But Laura Waters, a former producer on Kath & Kim and currently executive producer on Summer Heights High, which premieres on the ABC on Wednesday, says that such comedies are not about trying to take the mickey out of the audience. "It's just finding humour in the little details of day-to-day human life," she says. "To me, it is more giggling than poking fun. The characters highlight how funny life is."

Comedian Chris Lilley's Summer Heights High follows last year's acclaimed mockumentary series, We Can Be Heroes, which introduced Australian audiences to Ja'mie King, who completes the 40- Hour Famine each week to "keep me looking hot", and Ricky Wong, who played the lead in his Chinese musical theatre group's Aboriginal musical, Indigeridoo.

Lilley also played the character of Daniel Sims, a mildly intellectually handicapped twin. He was among the show's fictional nominees for Australian of the Year, and certainly deserved an award for Australian self-mockery comedy with his rap, "Who is the wanker?" and his definitive answer we all are.


'We Could Be Heroes' was a very funny series - Ja'Mie King (in the pic) plays a different character in each episode and does them all brilliantly. Kath and Kim is also excellent and I'm sure a lot of people would get into it if they gave it a chance. And 'The Castle' was just fantastic too - a great film about a man who decides to fight against plans to flatten his house to make way for an airport runway.

I don't think I've ever been so positive about an article in a long time, but there's absolutely no doubt that Australian comedy has been great in the last few years and with any luck they'll keep knocking out the quality.
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Joined: 13 Dec 2006
Location: West Yorkshire, UK

PostPosted: Sun Sep 02, 2007 6:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yea, Kath & Kim is hilarious! I'm friends with a girl who lives in Victoria and she's such a good laugh.
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Joined: 25 Apr 2006

PostPosted: Sat May 28, 2011 8:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Chris Lilley's mum has a cardboard cutout of Ja'mie, but is she ready for skateboarding gay-style?
Summer Heights High creator says new show Angry Boys is inspired by people his characters have 'in posters on their wall'
Eleanor Morgan
The Guardian,
28 May 2011

Taking Chris Lilley seriously is tricky at first. It's just so hard to not see the characters; Ja'mie flicking her GHD-ed hair out of her face, her glycerine lips spitting another giggly, and probably racist, insult; Mr G mincing smugly across the playground; or Jonah, puckish and sad, screaming, "Oi, you got your period or what, miss?" across the classroom. Lilley isn't actually those people in real life he looks like a handsome version of Elliott Smith but he plays every single one of them and disassociation doesn't come easy. It feels like a long time too long since Summer Heights High first aired in 2007, but he's finally back with a new crop of characters in Angry Boys, a co-production with HBO that was three years in the making and, according to the Australian network ABC, "explores what it's like to be a 21st-century boy." Unlike anything Lilley's done before, Angry Boys which is already ABC's highest-rated show of the year and was the No 1 trending topic worldwide on Twitter the night it aired isn't, as Lilley says, "just about the lives and habitats of people in little pockets of Australia"; it goes worldwide. It's big, very bold and is, as his fans would hope, deliciously controversial.

Although Lilley's 2005 series We Can Be Heroes was popular, and critically well received, it was more of a cult attraction. But Summer Heights High was massive. It's the biggest-selling TV series of all time in Australia, and was also hugely popular in the US and UK. It was certainly the most exciting thing to come out of Australia their new MasterChef format excluded in a long time. For many, he's a genius. His courageous, boat-rocking comedy spends a lot of time with its (often contemptible) characters rather than flitting between them, and the worlds they inhabit seem so real that they only serve to heighten the comedy. And yes, it's jaw-dropping at times, but there's a heart the size of Uluru pumping away underneath it.

Lilley's ability to step into a character like a comfy pair of trousers almost certainly comes from all the time he spent creating them as a kid. "All I did when I was younger was make up characters," he says. "I had friends who'd play along. We'd just ring each other up and I'd be a character and they'd be a character, and it'd be this continuing story. There was never any acknowledgment either we just did it. It was completely real."

Lilley plays six characters in Angry Boys ("The most I've ever played"). There's Blake Oakfield, a champion surfer; S.mouse, a black American rapper whose only hit is a song called Smack My Elbow; Jen Okazaki, a manipulative Japanese mother who is pretending to the world, for the sake of her merchandising empire, that her skateboarder son is gay ("Skateboarding - gay style!"); Ruth "Gran" Sims, a guard at a juvenile detention centre; and her grandchildren, 17-year-old twins Daniel and Nathan Sims. "Daniel and Nathan were the starting point for the whole thing," says Lilley, who comes across unlike his characters as very shy. He's a reclusive comedian; preferring to exist through his characters rather than talk about himself. "I find it so funny that there's a woman playing their mum who I'm far closer in age to and yet, it's this real thing; you really believe she's the mum." The boys were in We Can Be Heroes: did he know then that he wanted to explore them further in the future? "Yeah, as soon as I'd finished that series I knew I had to do something else with them. The other characters in Angry Boys all came out of me wanting to explore the twins' heroes, the people they have in the posters on their wall. I like the idea of dreaming big."
'I never rehearse; I get the characters clear in my mind during the writing stage then when it comes to filming I go straight into it'

He says Gran has been the character "people have responded to the most". Which is funny, as he struggled so much with her during filming. "I didn't think it was going to work," he says. "I remember saying to the producer, 'I'm not sure about this', but it came together. Also, I never really rehearse; I get the characters so clear in my mind during the writing stage, that when it comes to filming I just go straight into it." Gran is perhaps Lilley's most complex character yet. At first, you dislike her. She's quite racist "Right, let's divide you into two teams: light skins and dark skins," she says before a football match between the young prisoners cold and narky, but beneath the caustic exterior is a woman who really cares for, and is respected by, the prisoners. She makes elaborate superhero pyjamas for them ("You can have Shrek or Superman") and brings her pet guinea pigs in to visit the inmates when they're sad or having trouble adjusting; it's like a prison-bed petting zoo. Internet forums have frothed over Gran's racist language but, as Lilley says, "She's a 65-year-old woman being incredibly inappropriate because she's from another generation." It's blindingly obvious he knows it's not acceptable: that's what he's laughing at.

Another character that has provoked a ripple of contention is bubblegum rapper, S.mouse. This is, after all, a white man pretending to be a black something wholly unpalatable to a lot of people. "When the press first found out about Angry Boys they were like, 'It's racist! He has a black character!' says Lilley. "But when they saw it they realised it's much more subtle." Subtle is a dangerous word to use when you're playing someone of a different race. However, S.mouse isn't offensive in the way David Walliams playing a Jamaican woman in Come Fly With Me is; Walliams makes his character's ethnicity the punchline, whereas Lilley has created a ridiculous character who just happens to be black. "It's not like I'm putting on a minstrel show or something reminiscent of another time that's going to rile people," he offers. "People can clearly see that's not my intention. It isn't about his race at all; I am not overdoing any stereotypes. I just thought it would be funny to have this young rapper guy desperately trying to rebel." And how does he rebel? He poos on a car bonnet, the only thing that gets him a whiff (literally) of street cred. Does Lilley anticipate any backlash with US audiences over S.mouse, and Jen Okazaki? After all, those Americans can be quite fussy about who says what about race and gender. "Ummm," he says, pausing to think. "No, I think the HBO audience will understand it. HBO are really excited about it. It's not in bad taste at all; I think I have a good gauge of when it's gone too far." Like with S.mouse, you kind of forget Jen's ethnicity; it's just part of the tapestry of her character.

Lilley is arguably at his best when he's playing women. It's terrifying how well a thirtysomething straight man can not just play, but become a woman, be it a waspy 16-year-old schoolgirl among her friends ("People are still so fanatical about Ja'mie; I get her quoted to me most days"), or a 64-year-old prison guard with shoulders like one of the New Zealand All Blacks. "People always say, 'Oh, you must interview people and copy their mannerisms and stuff', and I really don't," he laughs. "It's instinctive, like painting; you do a bit here, a bit there, and just kinda keep going until you feel like it's complete." Did he have any idea how Ja'mie would turn out, then? "None at all!" he laughs. "I just knew that I wanted it to be subtle, like, I didn't want to do a voice that was too high, or go over the top. Then suddenly I was hanging out with teenage girls and just became one of them. I'm interested in putting myself into characters that are so crazy but end up believing it."

One thing Lilley is not concerned with is being cool. "I'm not interested in being one of those comedians who wants to look good and be this 'cool' funny person," he says. "I don't care how weird or ugly I look. I like to totally immerse myself. That's why I admire Julia Davis; she's only concerned with completely becoming what she's created."

Is there a unifying trait in the characters he creates, then, that makes them so escapist? "I'm definitely attracted to the idea of people that have these big aspirations that the audience know might never happen, but they're lost in them." Like Pat Mullins? "Yeah, exactly like Pat." For those who haven't seen We Can Be Heroes, Pat was a 47-year-old woman who had one leg shorter than the other. To move around more quickly she developed the ability to roll along the ground at high speeds. Her ambition was to roll on her side from Perth to Uluru, though she had some setbacks during training, including having a gumnut lodged up her nose. In the final episode, it was revealed that Pat died of liver cancer and never completed her roll to Uluru.

It must have been quite a shock to actually become someone else in front of the camera for the first time. "Totally. It was like, 'Oh, this is real now. I have to put on a wig and do it properly.'" Are there hundreds of characters lurking in his head? "Not just in my head; I have books full of them. I like to keep characters alive. Apart from Pat, everyone I've played on TV is still around in my head. I feel like time hasn't stopped; to me, Ja'mie is still at school. I hope they can all come back at some point. I could do them all forever."

Speaking of keeping characters alive, is it true that Lilley's mum has a lifesize cardboard cutout of Ja'mie? "She rang me about that this morning!" he laughs. "She said, 'Don't tell people that, they'll think I'm insane!'" Where does it live? "In her house at the end of a corridor I have to pass to get to bed whenever I stay there. It's terrifying. It's so funny, when I first sent her a picture of me filming as Ja'mie she emailed back and said, 'I won't be showing this one at work, Chris', but then when people responded so well she went crazy for her. She begged a shop for the cutout! She literally walked through the whole shopping centre with it under her arm."

The Angry Boys characters may or may not provoke as much fanaticism as Ja'mie, but at the time of this interview, after only one episode has aired in Australia, Lilley says people are already stopping him on the street to talk to him about the show. And it's not just the kids, either. "I had a woman come up to me the other day, an elderly lady, who said she was 'soooooooooo excited' about the show and loved the twins. She said, 'I'm an 85-year-old woman and I'm your biggest fan'. I was really wowed by that." It's a type of person that loves what Lilley does, though; it's not age-specific. "A lot of people don't get it," he says. "But if you do get it, you really get it."
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 17, 2012 6:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Chris Lilley barred from Facebook
Jun 17 2012

Australian comedian Chris Lilley has been barred from Facebook for posting a nude photo of himself, prompting fans to start a Twitter campaign showing their support.

The Summer Heights High actor and creator tweeted news of the ban yesterday. "Banned from Facebook cause someone reported a nuts pic," Lilley wrote. The image is believed to have been from his 2011 mockumentary series, Angry Boys, in which twins Daniel and Nathan would secretly flash their genitals when posing for photos.

The ban is indefinite but if his Twitter fans have their way, it won't last long. The hashtag "FreeChrisLilleysNuts" has been created and is fast gaining popularity.


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