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Comics' Corner - June

CHRIS LILLEY’S NEW SERIES, Lunatics, has been released to mixed reviews. In my opinion, Lunatics is sadly a tired and ultimately frustrating collection of predictably quirky characters, lacking the intelligence of Lilley’s earlier work. 

By Will Crawford

The media release proclaims the characters “teach us that it’s okay to just be you,” this phrasing is unfortunate given that Quentin, a toxic real estate agent, labels women disgustingly when they don’t fall for his creepy advances.

Any discussion of Lilley’s work inevitably veers to the question of whether his body of work should be respected or admonished for racism.

We Can be Heroes contained some clever and insightful caricatures, including the satirical portrayal of high school queen bee Ja'mie King. However, musical theatre enthusiast Ricky Wong’s portrayal of Cathy Freeman in Indigeroo, the Musical, is an ironic warning of the dangers of cultural appropriation, which it seems Lilley himself has not subsequently heeded.

Summer Heights High worked successfully because of the quality of Lilley’s observations, the execution of his vision, and the affectionate presentation of the characters and their flaws. However, Lilley’s character Jonah roused significant debate. Jonah was arguably an empowered anti-authoritarian in the larrikin tradition of Bart Simpson, however, became increasingly nihilistic causing widespread criticism from many for his negative portrayal of the Tongan community.

The questions is, is it acceptable for a white actor to portray a character from a minority group? This is a complex issue. Robin Williams’ improvisations included a cavalcade of ethnicities and genders, as does the work of Sacha Baron Cohen. Arguably both pass my morality test because Williams treated his characters with warmth and respect, whilst Baron Cohen queries the dominant culture’s response to his characters.

The lingering question is whether Lilley’s characterisations celebrate the characters’ eccentricities or belittle and exploit minorities. Sadly, I feel in recent years the latter is the case.

Dear Netflix, give Kiki and Kitty or the Black Comedy crew a commission to tell an authentic Australian story…


Top End Comedy Gigs
facebook.com/topendcomedy

First Thursday Comedy
WHEN THU 6 JUN | 7.30PM
AT HAPPY YESS
COST $10

LOL Thursdays
WHEN THU 27 JUN | 8.30PM
AT BEACHFRONT HOTEL
COST FREE

Canned Comedy Darwin
WHEN THU 13 JUN | 7PM
AT THE DECK BAR
COST DONATION OF CAN OF FOOD


Will Crawford is an up-and-crawling comic. He moonlights as a land rights lawyer and policy activist.

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