What do a sixteen year-old school girl , an ex-cop, a Ph D physics student, a middle-aged woman who intends to roll from Perth to Uluru and a country kid who wants to donate his ear-drum to his deaf twin brother all have in common?
Well, they’re all appearing in a new show called We Can Be Heroes: Finding the Australian of the Year.
More importantly, they're all played by the one person, comedian Chris Lilley, who wrote and stars in the series.
Here's a short version of my interview with Chris, which is going to be (or was, depending on when you read this) broadcast on ABC NewsRadio Breakfast, Wednesday 27 July. (Listen to it here if you like!)
Demetrius Romeo: Chris, where did We Can Be Heroes come from?
CHRIS LILLEY: It came mostly from me just wanting to play a whole bunch of different characters. I just wanted the challenge of being able to play male and female characters, Asian, young, old… I wanted to do five different people who were ‘hero’ types – you know, the sporting hero, the inventor, the medical miracle – and eventually have them meet and interact and that was the basis of it. And the format of ‘Australian of the Year’ awards was just a device to be able to do that, to have them all heading towards something.
Demetrius Romeo: Some of the comedy you come up with is kind of ‘wrong’ comedy, and I’m thinking the whole Ricky Wong being the Chinese physics student who’s involved in the musical about Aborigines called Indigeridoo. A lot of the time we’d give that sort of humour a wide berth without exploring it, whereas you’ve taken it head on.
CHRIS LILLEY: Well that was the idea; I thought, they’re the taboo things: you’re not allowed to impersonate an Asian person if you’re not Asian and you’re not allowed to… you’re barely allowed to mention Aboriginal people, certainly not impersonate them. And so I combined that to have a Chinese student dressing up as an Aboriginal person. So I’m just exaggerating it to try and be funny.
Demetrius Romeo: Chris, you do disturbingly accurate women. When you ‘frock up’, it’s scary.
CHRIS LILLEY: Well, I wanted to do it all accurately, and I think you have to just give over to it and just try to nail it and not be perceived as being anything ‘weird’. I think you just have to get into it and I tried to do that. I was surprised at how real it was. One of the executives at the ABC found Pat Mullins, the middle aged woman – she said, “that was your most real performance out of all the characters”. So, I don’t know, it’s a bit weird.
Demetrius Romeo: Chris Lilley, thank you very much.
CHRIS LILLEY: Thank you!