FHM: Is Australia becoming more humourless and uptight?One of the mistakes reviewers and commentators seem to be making about Lilley's work is that they insist on reading him through the prism of "comedy". As a writer or actor he's regularly described as a comic genius, but he then confounds these assumptions by not being drop dead funny all the time.
CL: I don’t know… I’m not sure if I want to make a statement about that. You might be right.
FHM: I’m sure I’m right. It’s why you’re so successful, because your shows remind people of the way we used to be. We used to be unafraid.
CL: I see what you mean. But I also think there’s this really patriotic thing going on in Australia at the moment. That’s what I was trying to tap into with Daniel and his Aussie flag obsession, and the Southern Cross business. Younger people really identify with that now: you’re white, you’re Aussie and you’ve got to have your Southern Cross tattoo. When I was younger that didn’t exist. It was almost embarrassing – you didn’t want to be associated with that old school “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie” thing. It was cringeworthy – but for some reason now it’s back.
And that reaction is not about his comedy being more or less sophisticated, or the audience being more or less receptive.
As a playwright David Williamson has similarly confounded critics throughout his career. His comedies and dramas are always character driven, but the characters are often types or stereotypes. Lilley is dealing in the same kind of material, albeit in a different milieu.
The one thing on which all commentators concur is that Lilley is a big talent. As David Williamson might agree, it's a talent that deserves a better class of criticism from our cultural elites.