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Chris Lilley

Chris Lilley

Born Christopher Lilley in Sydney, New South Wales - various sources listed his birth date on either April 15 or 25 in 1974 or 1975 - he earned his college degree at Macquarie University, where he also began performing stand-up comedy. After graduation, he got his first television exposure in a series of comic advertisements for MSN in which he played a man-sized version of their butterfly logo. Shortly thereafter, he was cast on "The Big Bite," a sketch comedy series that also served as a training ground for such future top Australian comics as Andrew O'Keefe. "The Big Bite" gave audiences their first taste of Lilley's ability to disappear fully into outrageous characters, including Mr. G., who first appeared on the series. Spectacular ratings and critical acclaim, as well as the first nomination for a comedy series on a commercial network from the Australian Film Institute, could not save the show from an early dismissal, though Lilley and his characters were late spun into "The Hamish and Andy Show" (Seven Network, 2005) a short-lived comedy/talk show built around the comedy team of Hamish Blake and Andy Lee.Lilley made his feature film debut in 2003's "Ned," a satirical comedy that spoofed the life of 19th century Australian outlaw Ned Kelly. He returned to television in 2005 for the show that put him on the map: "We Can Be Heroes: Finding the Australian of the Year," which was a mockumentary in the style of Christopher Guest's films like "Waiting for Guffman" (2001). In addition to creating and co-producing the show, Lilley played all five of the main characters, a diverse group of misfits who were each being considered for the title of "Australian of the Year." Among them were rapping country boy Daniel Sims; Pat Mullins, whose physical disability inspired her to roll from one major city to another; and Ricky Wong, an exuberantly nerdy Asian physics students. The standout character from the series, however, was Ja'mie (pronounced Jah-MAY) King, a 16-year-old girl from South Africa whose exceptional charity work hid a monstrously over-inflated ego. Ja'mie proved to be one of Lilley's most popular creations, and he played the role on several other series, including an amusing appearance on the radio program "Today, Today," which yielded irate calls from listeners complaining about her arrogance. "Heroes" was exceptionally popular with both viewers and critics, and won Lilley several nominations from the Australian Film Institute, as well Most Outstanding Comedy Program and Best New Talent at the 2006 Logie Awards, Australia's top television honors.Lilley revived both Ja'mie and Mr. G for his second series, "Summer Heights High," which again utilized the mockumentary approach to observe the human condition at its worst at a public school in Melbourne. In addition to his two long-running characters, Lilley added a third to the mix - Jonah Takalua, a 13-year-old Tongan with a penchant for menacing students and teachers. Lilley's scripts for "Heights" took no prisoners - in addition to Ja'mie's casual racism and cruelty and Jonah's bullying and foul mouth, there was also Mr. G's delusions of grandeur, which caused him to be openly hostile to his disabled students. One episode featured the character touching a pupil with Down's Syndrome in an inappropriate manner, which garnered criticism from community groups. Despite the controversy, "Heights" was wildly popular with audiences, and Lilley netted two more Logie Awards for Most Popular Actor and Most Outstanding Comedy Program in 2008. That same year, Lilley made the jump to American televisions when HBO announced that it would broadcast "Summer Heights High" as part of its primetime lineup in November. The series earned praise from Stateside journalists for its quirky and daring humor, and for Lilley's versatility in multiple roles. Despite calls for a second series, Lilley was reluctant to commit, citing that he did not wish to produce a follow-up that would not match the quality of its predecessor.
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