Kath & Kim
Tuesday, April 27, 2004
Worlds Funniest Island II takes place soon (Oct 16-17). Tickets are being offered at a special price until October 4. Kath & Kim are hosting the Foxy Gala. Go on, you know you want to: buy some tickets. Now. www.worldsfunniestisland.com
While attempting to Googleâ¢ âGina Rileyâ for a suitable biography and âKath & Kimâ for a suitable synopsis to link to from the introduction to my Julie Dawn Cole interview, I realised that virtually no examples of the former really exist online (although this bio is at least a good starting point for Riley, while Andrew Dentonâs Enough Rope interview with Riley and Jane Turner provides quite a full picture), and few of the examples of the latter that do exist (again, apart from Dentonâs work, of course) satisfy me as much as my own attempt of the same. So, despite its short-comings (no info whatsoever of Peter Rowsthornâs contribution to the show; no mention of Marg Downeyâs saucey cameo; certainly, no biographical details of the writer/stars) I include here my interview with Jane Turner and Gina Riley. It originally appeared in FilmInk to coincide with the 2002 DVD release of the first season of Kath & Kim .
A recent criticism from a regular visitor to this blog is that I have been âslippingâ â updates being posted a week apart. Thus, any excuse to raid the comedy archive is a good one, particularly when it gives repeat visitors something else to read.
In addition to more information on Riley and Turner as performers, and any information whatsoever on the likes of Rowsthorn and Downey, the other thing Iâd want to add to this piece is the way in which the opening sequence of Kath & Kim seems to tip its hat to those first seasons of Absolutely Fabulous: the distinct typeface of the title and the white background are so stylised that it would seem deliberate. Was someone cleverly trying to coerce the same comedy audience who loved that particular mother/daughter comedy to give this one a go? Or is there another dimension of humour at work, perhaps a class-based one, whereby the newley âeffluentâ Aussie middle class is, as ever, taking the mickey out of the upper-middle class English mickey-takers? If so, thatâd be really noiyce and un-yews-ual â as far as sitcoms go, particularly as Kath & Kim is now being enjoyed in other territories around the world.
Jane Turner and Gina Riley on Kath & Kim
The first hint came during the highly stylised opening credits, when Jane Turner bent over to look back at us from between the legs of her ridiculously billowy harem pants, while Gina Riley belted out an aptly defiant rendition of the Anthony Newley/Leslie Bricusse-penned comedy song âThe Jokerâ. The exact moment followed soon after, in the very first scene of that very first episode. When Kath (Turner) turned to daughter Kim (Riley) to utter for the first time the words, âLook at moiye, Kim; look at moiye, look at moiye, look at mooooiiiiye!â and a new catch phrase entered everyday speech, it was abundantly clear that, in addition to being a comedy loverâs wet dream, Kath & Kim would also prove to be that most elusive beast of Australian culture: the funny sitcom. Jane and Gina, creators, writers and stars of Kath & Kim, have much to be proud of.
âThatâs good to hear,â Jane acknowledges appreciatively. In the process of getting the show up, she says, âa lot of crap went downâ. Criticisms included the apparent lack of âemotional arcâ, ensuring characters âdonât learnâ and âdonât changeâ. Gina concurs: ânobody thought that the show was going to work.â After eighteen months writing the series, it took a further two years to convince the ABC to start shooting it. But Jane and Gina stuck to their guns, concentrating on âwhat we think is funny and what we think is right.â With their keen eye for detail they got it absolutely right: the misadventures of the would-be âempty nesterâ and her âhornbagâ daughter is a cack.
However, if the characters fail to show sufficient development throughout the course of Kath & Kimâs eight episodes, it is because their characterisations come to the show fully formed. Gina agrees that, in many ways, Kath & Kim is an extension of Dumb Street, the piss-take of Aussie soaps that she and Jane used to do on Fast Forward. Furthermore, Jane has a history of ditzy comedic blonde characters under her belt â or rather, in her handbag â since, Jane admits, virtually every one of her characters has had as a prop âthe same sort of white, quilted handbag with gold chain.â The handbag has been passed onto Kath, the latest in a long line of âdaggy housewivesâ Jane has been playing since her Fast Forward days. And Glenn Robbins, who plays Kimâs âhunk of spunkâ boyfriend Kel Knight, often portrayed a similarly daggy bloke opposite her. âWeâve had each otherâs numbers for a while as those characters,â Jane says. Indeed, it was on a sketch-comedy show that appeared in 1995, entitled Big Girlâs Blouse, that Kath and Kim were born â in a henâs night scene, as it happens. âJane naturally fell into the Kath character,â Gina reports, âand I naturally fell into the Kim character, and that was it; we were off and running.â
Initially, the mockumentary voice-overs and the housing estate setting of Kath & Kim â harking back to Sylvania Waters â clearly marked middle Australia as the butt of the joke. Hence a mixed response from the critics â âelitistâ Sydney Morning Herald gave it the thumbs up but âpopulistâ Daily Telegraph had to withhold approval until the realisation sunk in that itâs own readership also had a sense of humour. According to Gina, âthe response was the opposite in Melbourne.â However, while journalists largely misinterpreted where exactly she and Jane were coming from, the audience âcottoned onâ pretty quickly that they âwere taking the mickey out of ourselves as much as anyone elseâ. Jane adds that, having no pride, she and Gina were shameless. âWe pulled out our warts and our carbuncles and our monobrows and our love handles; we dredged up our own lives.â
Although the DVD release of Kath & Kim fails to include commentary or a âmaking ofâ, it does provide an additional hour of material. Takes in which the actors crack each other up (Jane mostly blames Magda Szubanski, who plays Kimâs âsecond-best friendâ Sharon: âit was very hard to maintain order with naughty girls like her aroundâ), more mockumentary sequences and âwine timeâ ruminations and even Sharonâs handy cam footage of Kimâs own âconnubialsâ, initially deemed superfluous to the finished product, were far too funny to lose outright. The real question, now that Jane and Gina have raised the bar so high, is âwhere to next?â Not giving anything away, Jane says, âbecause the relationships are set, we can take them anywhere and do anything with them. We just want to keep it as real as possible.â