Angry Boys, Summer Heights High, We Can Be Heroes
added: 18 Jun 2012
Gaga over Chris Lilley
interviewed by: Jennifer Palmer-Violet
After experiencing the UK's passion for his comedy last year, Australian actor Chris Lilley, the man behind fictional US rapper S.Mouse, wanted to give something back on his latest London visit. Music-News.com joined a bunch of lucky fans for probably the best bus ride of their lives
Meeting comedy hero Chris Lilley is a whole new experience. Well-known for playing a repertoire of diverse roles in self-penned popular series We Can Be Heroes, Summer Heights High and recently Angry Boys, he seems unfamiliar. Save for traces of Angry Boys surfer Blake Oldfield’s boyish charm and heartwarming enthusiasm, there’s no character in sight. Perhaps it's telling of a great actor but Lilley also wants to protect his fictional creations. It’s a reason why he doesn’t do chat shows or on-camera interviews. “People might just go, ‘Oh, is that what he’s like?’” he says, “and not that it’s disappointing, but it sort of undermines the illusion of the characters.”
In fact, Sydney-born Lilley is otherwise very happy to talk about his work (although he reveals little about the current project he hopes will be released late next year). Often described as shy or private, he particularly welcomes the chance to meet his ever-growing army of fans. “I guess I see people on the street all the time that come up,” he says, “and I feel like the people that came along today are interested in the real me, they don’t want the characters so much.” Those he refers to are about 350 fans, out of 1,500 applicants, who ‘won’ tickets for a Q&A session with Lilley aboard a Routemaster bus. “The people on the bus are like the intense hardcore fans that are on Facebook every day and they’ve formed all these friendships because of their whole fan thing. So I feel fine exposing myself to them!” he laughs.
The bus tour is taking place during a business trip to London. Lilley is only supposed to be in town for meetings but wanted to do something for his UK supporters. The original idea to host a screening of his favourite episodes was considered “too boring”, so he took inspiration from a fellow Twitterer. “I heard of this thing that Lady Gaga did,” he chuckles, explaining how she would tweet her whereabouts and dash off soon after fans arrived. In Lilley’s version he hid copies of the Angry Boys soundtrack around the capital and posted photographic clues online. “But I’m not as popular as Lady Gaga,” he says, “so we thought maybe we’ll have to announce it a week before. Stupidly, we did and had way too many people responding.”
Was that really a surprise? Lilley had a taster of his UK fame at a HMV signing session last September, which garnered a record turnout and saw him autographing Angry Boys DVDs for ages. “It was like five hours or something ridiculous,” he remembers. “It was so full on. And then people were really mad if they didn’t get in.” Even though Lilley stayed late, there was still “the forgotten 20”, a group cut off at the end of the line who were not happy. However, the majority had a great time, including Lilley. “Because I’m not a live performer and I have this really closed world where I write by myself and work with a really small group, it’s good to have that access to people,” he says. Discovery channel
Angry Boys, broadcast on BBC3 last year, has really opened up the UK to Lilley. It was Twitter’s top trending topic on opening night and quickly attracted an ardent following. So what was it about this, his third original series? “I have no idea, it’s so weird,” says Lilley. “In Australia, there was this big build up, probably like a tall poppy thing. Whereas in England I feel like a lot of people discovered me through Angry Boys.” He thinks the show aired on the right channel as well. “It feels like it’s more of an edgy youth show here whereas in Australia it’s more mainstream. Like your television is so different to Australian television, it’s much more edgy and it sort of has this weird campness to it as well. I think Angry Boys fits into English TV better for some reason. I’m half English - my mum’s English. Maybe I’ve tapped into something.”
Whatever he’s tapped into, it clearly means something to the crowd here, some of whom run screaming to the Routemaster as it pulls up in Trafalgar Square with a beaming Lilley waving at the window. “The fans in England are so passionate,” he emphasises, “they’re so into it.” Lilley's demographic is hard to pinpoint, though. While there is an obvious ‘gen y’ pull, he has widespread appeal judging by the mixed bag boarding the bus today. The tie that binds is simply adulation and it's a feeling Lilley can relate to. “I was a big fan of Neighbours growing up,” he admits. “I was obsessed with it. We went to Melbourne one day and I nearly fainted when we got to Ramsay Street. I got out of the car and I had to lie down on the grass. I was hyperventilating because I was so excited. I loved TV and the idea of creating an illusion and actors playing characters.”
And it didn't end there. A young Lilley also went to see Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue at a shopping centre when they got married on the soap. “There was like a big riot and everyone got crushed. And hilariously there’s news footage,” he says, a clip that gets wheeled out on commemorative TV specials. “I’m actually in the crowd of this news footage. There’s like this big head in the crowd; I remember it so well. I’ve told a few of my friends and one of them reckons they can see me mouthing the words ‘I love you Kylie’, which I don’t remember doing! Kylie was helping lift people out of the crowd and was really looking after people.
“I didn’t get lifted out,” he sighs. “It would have been good.” Angry Boys the DVD and official soundtrack are available nowChris Lilley pictured as rapper S.mouse from Angry Boys. Photo credit: Charlie Gray
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