Friday 24 February 2017

Angry Boys, Australia’s answer to Little Britain review

Chris Harvey reviews the first episode of Australia's taboo-breaking answer to Little Britain

Chris Lilley as Gran in Angry Boys
Chris Lilley as Gran in Angry Boys

Comedian Chris Lilley is to Australia what Lucas and Walliams are to the UK. Angry Boys is its Little Britain. Lilley has a similar fondness for drag, outrageous caricature and testing the tolerance levels of his audience. References to "blacks" and "faggots" abound.

In Angry Boys, Lilley brings back some of the characters he first developed for the “mockumentary” series We Can Be Heroes (subtitled Finding the Australian of the Year) in 2006. In the first episode, we see the return of Daniel and Nathan, who appeared in the earlier series because Daniel had donated one of his eardrums to his teenage brother.

Lilley plays both, and both have become a little more broad since we first saw them. Daniel builds his sentences out of a small selection of words added to the “F” word. Nathan communicates mainly by way of a one-fingered gesture. Both are having communication issues with their mother’s new partner. In describing his life, Daniel introduced us to the concept of “Mainies” – driving up and down the deserted Main St in their mother’s Nissan Pulsar, which had been “modified” by the boys. “There’s different types of Mainies,” explained Daniel. “basic Mainies, which is just driving up and down checking out what’s going on, calling out to chicks or whatever.” Cut to shot of the Pulsar passing some middle-aged women outside a café. There were “BMX Mainies”, similar in concept, and “walking Mainies” - “that’s sometimes fun, too,” said Daniel.

Lilley’s best character was Gran. A warder at a nearby young offenders' institution, the delusional Gran told us about the ways she finds to “lighten things up a little bit” to combat depression among the boys there, introducing us to her notorious “Gran’s Gotchas”.

“Hey Trent,” she said, “we just found out you’re getting an early release, so congratulations, you’ll be going home this afternoon.”

“Er Trent, I just wanted to say before you go,” she told him after he had packed and arrived at the prison gate. “Gotcha.”

The tumbleweed moments that inevitably followed were typical of Lilley’s comedy. Not funny at the time, but increasingly ticklish in retrospect. His is humour of the slow-burn variety.

“Friday night song night” was a classic example. It consisted of Gran entertaining the boys with a selection of pop hits. “Take it like a man, baby,” she sang to her disinterested charges.

Gran also showed off her unthinking racism. “Two teams,” she announced in the exercise yard. “Dark skins, light skins.” Is that racist humour? Or mocking same? It’s a fine line, but Lilley steps over it as far as he can.

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