For a section of Australian TV viewers in the mid-2000’s, catchphrases like “quiche” and “puck you, miss” entered the nationwide cultural lexicon as easily as “only gay in the village” and “am I bovvered?” entered ours. And the mockumentary series that birthed them, all created by the comedian Chris Lilley, caught on here too, albeit in more cult circles. Today, his bittersweet tales of social outsiders and oddballs remain incredibly popular, even if his own reputation within critical circles has by and large sunk.
Lilley’s appeal, through the mockumentaries Summer Heights High and Angry Boys, has long been driven by his spectacular transformations. Using little more than a number of deliberately lackluster wigs he has embodied obnoxious teenage girls, aspiring Los Angeles rappers, and elderly female prison wardens. He’s also been beset by controversy, not only due to his casual deployment of blackface, but over whether his brand of comedy, little of which has evolved since his arrival on Aussie television in 2005, has outstayed its welcome.
Netflix, for what it’s worth, is sure that Lilley’s voice is still relevant. Last week saw the debut of Lunatics, his first series for the streaming giant, and his latest exploration of the cruel and the bizarre within Australia’s fringes. It has also been embroiled in yet another blackface row, though not with the ending many had expected.