There’s no doubt that the sayings Thank God you’re here! Grandma’s been raped and Punk You are now among Australia’s most popular catchphrases, thanks to the controversial ABC comedy program Summer Heights High.
Created and performed by comedian Chris Lilley, this mockumentary takes you on a hilarious journey through the lives of flamboyant drama teacher Mr G, the pretentious Ja’mie King and dropkick student Jonah Takalua.
The show explores and pushes the boundaries of many relevant issues including xenophobia, homophobia, sexual assault and drug abuse.
Summer Heights High is one of the most popular series ever to hit the ABC, peaking at 1.6 million viewers and averaging 1.22 million.
Lilley said he didn’t expect the show to reach such big numbers.
It’s been good. You make something and you want people to see. I didn’t expect it to be more than the last series, he said.
The series took three months to shoot, but years of research in schools around the country to get a feel for the various personalities that inhabit a playground.
I’ve spent a lot of time in schools researching for the show and discovered a lot of guys like Mr G -“ not necessarily drama teachers, Lilley said.
With that character it was more about being the outcast in the staff room, and a complete egomaniac who had been brought up by a showbiz mum to think he was this wonderful thing, but who went into teaching because he was scared of the real world.
The show has drawn criticism, with some community groups labelling it contentious because of the way it has dealt with rape and drug issues and the abuse of a boy with Downs syndrome.
But people will get a better understanding of the show after they watch it on DVD, Lilley said.
It’s all pretty simple -“ when a show is popular the newspapers try to stir up trouble, Lilley said.
The only thing that really annoyed me was that it tainted the experience of the show for some people.
The DVD is interesting because the way we shot the series was quite improvised. So there is a lot of material on there that didn’t make the cut. We’ve got three hours and 48 minutes of extra scenes.
And what’s next for the talented comedian?
I haven’t worked it out yet -“ but I have lots of ideas that have been sitting around for a while, Lilley said.
Ja’mie is going on to year 12 and is going to have a big year. I’ve got lots of ideas and have to choose one.
Summer Heights High is out now on DVD . Details: www.summerheightshigh.com.

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