Chris Lilley (comedian)
Christopher Daniel Lilley (born 10 November 1974) is an Australian comedian, actor, writer, director, producer, and musician. He is known for his creation and portrayal of several fictional characters in the mockumentary television series We Can Be Heroes: Finding The Australian of the Year (2005), Summer Heights High (2007), Angry Boys (2011), Ja'mie: Private School Girl (2013), Jonah from Tonga (2014), and Lunatics (2019). Lilley is a two-time winner of the Logie Award for Most Popular Actor.
|Birth name||Christopher Daniel Lilley|
|Born||10 November 1974|
Turramurra, New South Wales, Australia
|Alma mater||Macquarie University|
|Notable works and roles||Big Bite (2003–2004) |
We Can Be Heroes (2005)
Summer Heights High (2007)
Angry Boys (2011)
Ja'mie: Private School Girl (2013)
Jonah from Tonga (2014)
Lilley was born in Turramurra, on Sydney's Upper North Shore, and was the youngest of four siblings. He was raised in Turramurra and attended Pymble Public School. He later studied at Barker College, and obtained a Bachelor of Arts (majoring in Contemporary Music) with a Diploma of Education from Macquarie University in Sydney, when he graduated in 1997.
In 2003, Lilley made his debut in Big Bite, a Seven Network comedy programme, in which he portrayed extreme sports enthusiast Extreme Darren and the high-school drama teacher Mr G, a character that he continued in Summer Heights High. Big Bite was nominated for Best Television Comedy Series at the 2003 Australian Film Institute Awards, marking the first time a comedy programme from a commercial television network had ever been nominated at the Australian Film Institute Awards. It did not win. The producers co-credited Lilley; however, the show lasted only one series before being spun off into a comedy/variety programme. Lilley was a recurring guest on the programme, but it was cancelled after only a few episodes.
Lilley appeared in the film satire Ned, based on the Australian outlaw Ned Kelly. He appeared as the "MSN Butterfly" in a series of television advertisements and Cinema for MSN. He has also appeared on the Hamish & Andy radio show.
We Can Be HeroesEdit
After the cancellation of Big Bite, Lilley created We Can Be Heroes: Finding The Australian of the Year, a six-part series on the ABC, in which he portrayed various characters nominated for the Australian of the Year Award. The series was co-written with Ryan Shelton.
Lilley portrayed several characters in the series: Phil Olivetti, a self-obsessed police officer; Ricky Wong, a Chinese Australian university physics student from Melbourne; Pat Mullins, a 47-year-old housewife with a dream to roll on her side from Perth, Western Australia to Uluru, Northern Territory; Daniel Sims, a teenage boy who donates an eardrum to his deaf twin brother, Nathan (both Daniel and Nathan later appeared in "Angry Boys"); and Ja'mie King, a narcissistic girl attending a private high school in Sydney (Ja'mie later appeared in "Summer Heights High" and "Ja'mie: Private School Girl").
Lilley was nominated for Best Comedy Series and Best Lead Actor in Television at the 2006 Australian Film Institute Awards, and won the Best New Talent and Most Outstanding Comedy Program awards at the Logie Awards of 2006. He also received a Rose d'Or award in Switzerland for Best Male Comedy Performance. Following the series' success, it was sold to other countries under the new name The Nominees.
Summer Heights HighEdit
In the series, Lilley played the series' three main characters at a public school including Ja'mie King, Mr G and Jonah Takalua. In March 2008, Lilley released a single, Naughty Girl, based on the series and performed in character as the Summer Heights High drama teacher, Mr G.
At the 2008 Logie Awards he was nominated for four awards including Most Outstanding Actor and Gold Logie for Most Popular Personality on Television, and won the Silver Logie for Most Popular Actor and the Logie Award for Most Outstanding Comedy Program.
The series was sold to the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Lilley embarked on a promotional tour of the United States in October 2008 to promote the U.S. broadcast of the series, which began to air on HBO on 9 November 2008. The BBC began showing the programme on BBC Three in June 2008.
When asked about whether there would be a second series, Lilley stated, "I never thought about it in the beginning because it was always a one-off thing. I'm not into just cashing in and rolling off into a second series that is not as good. I really enjoyed making the show, so the thought of writing and going back there again is really fun and exciting, but I haven't made a decision on what to do next."
The series Angry Boys aired on ABC in Australia and BBC in the UK in 2011 and HBO in the US in 2012. The 12-part comedy series featured six vastly different characters. In Angry Boys, Lilley plays multiple new characters in his third mockumentary series. The show introduces: S.mouse!, a US rapper; a Jen Okazaki, manipulative Japanese mother; Blake Oakfield, a champion surfer; Ruth "Gran" Sims, a guard at a juvenile detention facility; and her grandchildren, South Australian twins Daniel and Nathan Sims (who also featured in We Can Be Heroes). Chris Lilley was awarded the inaugural AACTA Award in 2012 for Best Comedy Performance in Television for Angry Boys.
Ja'mie: Private School GirlEdit
Ja'mie: Private School Girl, which aired in 2013, is a six-part half-hour comedy series. The series is produced by Melbourne-based production company Princess Pictures and Chris Lilley and is a co-production between the ABC in Australia and HBO in the US. It has been pre-sold to BBC Three in the UK. On 8 September 2013, Lilley revealed that the returning character to the series is Ja'mie King, from We Can Be Heroes and Summer Heights High, and also revealed the title of the show. Lilley won the 2014 Silver Logie for Most Popular Actor for his performance in Ja'mie: Private School Girl.
Jonah from TongaEdit
On 26 November 2013, Lilley confirmed that he would be reviving Jonah Takalua for a new show in 2014, titled Jonah From Tonga. Jonah had been introduced in Lilley's 2007 series Summer Heights High. At the conclusion of that series, Jonah was expelled from Summer Heights High School. In this series, his father, Rocky Takalua, has sent him back to his homeland of Tonga to live with his uncle and their family in order to get Jonah's life back on track.
The six-part series was produced by Princess Pictures and Chris Lilley in conjunction with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The show was originally posted online on the ABC iView service, available for viewing by Australian residents, and on BBC iPlayer in the United Kingdom, from 2–4 May 2014, before airing on ABC1 from 7 May 2014 and BBC Three from 8 May 2014. In New Zealand Māori Television screened the first episode on 29 July 2017, but then withdrew later episodes.
In March 2018, it was announced that Lilley had been signed by Netflix to create a 10-part series, with the titular character not yet disclosed. Filming begun at the Bond University campus on the Gold Coast, Queensland.
On 10 April 2019, a trailer surfaced online showing a number of new characters. The show is called Lunatics and features a group of eccentric characters with different talents or oddities. Alongside the series order announcement, it was confirmed that Lilley would star in the lead role. Lunatics was released on 19 April 2019 exclusively on Netflix.
Lunatics features six different characters, all played by Lilley, which include: fashion retailer Keith Dick; estate agent Quentin Cook; 7-foot college student Becky Douglas; 12-year-old Gavin McGregor, who is an heir to an earldom; ex-pornstar Joyce Jeffries; and South African Jana Melhoopen-Jonks, a celebrity pet psychic who is also a lesbian.
Lilley's series Summer Heights High gained significant controversy, criticism and media scrutiny for its portrayal of such issues as mental disabilities, homosexuality, sexual abuse, and racism. Even before Summer Heights High aired, some community groups complained about a "rape joke" and Mr G's inappropriate "touching" of a boy with Down syndrome. The Herald Sun reported that parents and some teachers have considered the possibility that the show is influencing children to misbehave at school. Students were reportedly imitating Jonah and Ja'mie, repeating lines that were bullying, racist, and homophobic. Education Union branch president Mary Bluett stated in response that the show was "clearly tongue-in-cheek". After episode three, in which a character called Annabel dies after taking ecstasy, the family of Annabel Catt, a girl who died taking drugs at the 2007 Good Vibrations Festival in Sydney, complained that the program had been lampooning Annabel's death. ABC apologised to the family, stating that the situation was purely coincidental and assured them that the filming of the episode in question had been completed eleven days before her daughter's death. ABC thereafter began to display a message before each episode stating that there is no link between the series' characters and people in real life.
On 29 July 2017, Lilley was the subject of criticism after posting a remix on his Instagram account of a music clip entitled "Squashed Nigga", starring the character S.mouse from Lilley's 2011 TV show, Angry Boys. The music video featured an indigenous boy lying on the ground with his arms splayed. On 24 July 2017, the court case based on the death of Elijah Doughty had ended in controversy and was the subject of pro-Aboriginal protests. Just like the real case, Lilley's music video described an Aboriginal boy being run over and killed. It was reported that many who criticised Lilley's bad timing were blocked from his Twitter account, with Lilley later deleting his social media accounts.
Lilley's series Jonah from Tonga was called "racist" and resulted in protests from academics and Tongan youth concerned at the inaccurate and demeaning portrayals of Tongan culture. There was also criticism of his use of brownface. The creators of the 2004 ABC TV documentary series Our Boys stated that Lilley drew inspiration for the Jonah character from their work. The subject of Our Boys recalled being "absolutely embarrassed, full of hate, angry and exploited" by the "racist" Jonah character that was based on him. The series' director, as well as a teacher at Canterbury Boys High School also felt that the character "exploited" the Tongan students who Lilley had met while visiting the school after seeing Our Boys on television in 2004.
Many major US civil rights organisations wrote to HBO expressing their "deep concern" over Jonah From Tonga. These included the NAACP, National Hispanic Media Coalition, American Indians in Film/TV, Empowering Pacific Islander Communities and The Asian Pacific American Media Coalition (which itself includes the Asian American Justice Center, Asian Pacific American Advocates, Japanese American Citizens League, Media Action Network for Asian Americans, National Federation of Filipino American Associations, and more).
Following the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, BBC iPlayer removed Jonah from Tonga from its online streaming service. On 11 June 2020, Netflix confirmed it had removed four of Lilley's series from its streaming service, also in response to the Black Lives Matter protests and movement. In the weeks following these events, Lilley posted multiple videos of content involving the Jonah character to his YouTube channel.
- The Monday Dump (2001)
- Young Lions (2002)
- Ned (2003)
- Big Bite (2003)
- Hamish & Andy (2004)
- We Can Be Heroes: Finding The Australian of the Year (2005)
- The Panel (2005)
- Summer Heights High (2007)
- The Spearman Experiment (2009)
- Angry Boys (2011)
- Ja'mie: Private School Girl (2013)
- Jonah from Tonga (2014)
- Stop Laughing...This Is Serious (2015)
- Lunatics (2019)
- “Naughty Girl” (2007, ABC Records) – Mr G
- Summer Heights High Official TV Series Soundtrack (2007, ABC Records) – Mr G, Jonah Takalua
- “Slap My Elbow” (2011, ABC Records) – S.mouse
- ”Squashed Nigga” (2012, ABC Records) – S.mouse
- Angry Boys Soundtrack (2012, ABC Records) – S.mouse
- "Learning To Be Me" (2013, ABC Records) – Ja’mie King
- Chris Lilley Theme Songs (2014, ABC Records)
- Lunatics Soundtrack (2019, ABC Records)
- The dates 10 November 1974, 15 April 1975 and 25 April 1975 appear in sources
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- "Paris Hilton Invites Famous Pet Psychic into Her Home to Read Her Dog Squad's Minds". PEOPLE.com. Retrieved 9 July 2019.
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- "Rumored as Gay Chris Lilley Still Not Married? What About His Girlfriend and Dating History?". LIVERAMPUP. 23 September 2016. Retrieved 9 July 2019.
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- Gupta, Prachi. ""Jonah from Tonga": HBO forgets the first rule of brownface".
- "The Brownface Controversy Surrounding "Jonah From Tonga"".
- Maddox, Garry (28 June 2020). "'I knew that Jonah was me': former Tongan schoolboy reveals anger and pain about Chris Lilley character". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 7 July 2020.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 November 2014. Retrieved 2 November 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- EDT, Dory Jackson on 4/11/19 at 12:13 PM (11 April 2019). "After Chris Lilley is accused of blackface in 'Lunatics,' here's a look at his other controversial characters". Newsweek. Retrieved 11 July 2019.
- Bakare, Lanre on 10/06/20 at 6:13 PM (11 April 2019). "Netflix pulls The Mighty Boosh and The League of Gentlemen over blackface". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 June 2020.
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