One of Australia's most famous comics, Chris Lilley, is rapidly losing his anonymity in the United States. Best known for such cult mockumentaries as "We Can Be Heroes" and "Summer Heights High," Lilley now has a third series, "Angry Boys," which premieres Jan. 1 on HBO.
Not only does he write all his own material, but Lilley, 37, also takes on multiple characters -- male, female, old, young, Caucasian, Asian and Polynesian. In "Angry Boys," he plays identical twin brothers, a surﬁng champion, an American rapper, a Japanese mother, a manager of a skateboard professional and a tough juvenile center worker nicknamed Gran. A modern-day Peter Sellers, he offers biting commentary on contemporary life while making viewers laugh uncontrollably.
The self-effacing comic is down to earth and admittedly a little overwhelmed by all the recent attention. Lilley spoke to The Huffington Post about "Angry Boys," his U.S. fans and what it was like to see his face up in Times Square.
How do you come up with all the different characters for your shows?
It's just a long process. I just write the scripts for quite a long time. Usually they evolve from the framework of the series. This one was about Daniel and Nathan [the identical teen brothers] and the heroes they had on their wall -- their posters -- and the idea of jumping into that. That opened up a new category of characters. It just sort of evolved over time.
Do you research the characters? If you decide to write about teenage boys, do you then hang out with some teenagers?
Yeah, I went to a lot of small country towns. I'd already played the characters in "We Can Be Heroes," but I wanted to make sure my observations were current. I went to country towns and arranged to hang out with families. People are just willing to tell you everything, and I filmed the interviews.
It's so funny that people open up to you.
In the early days, people were like, "Who's this weirdo?" But now people go, "Oh, I know what he's doing," and they're still quite willing to talk about it.
You play different ethnicities on your shows. Have you experienced any problems because of that?
I think in the context of a comedy show, you understand what it's about. I think my sort of comedy is about being a bit provocative, and I like something that's a bit confronting and shocking, so I think the racial stuff just works in that context.
It must be so wild to be on HBO.
It's really strange. I did "We Can Be Heroes," and I thought, "Oh, it'll be this weird little cult thing," which it was in Australia. It had a really small audience. And then I got a call from HBO, and they said, "Come on over." I didn't really know what HBO was, just vaguely -- "Oh, it's a TV thing" -- but I didn't get what they did. They just sat me down and said, "Whatever you do next, we want it to be an HBO show." They were just straight on-board. And I stupidly said, "Oh no, I'm doing a show about an Australian high school. I don't need you." They told me they wanted to buy it and still wanted me to do something for them.
It was really exciting, but I was sort of ignorant to the enormity of it. I think having been in the States a little while ago and seeing the Times Square billboard and a billboard on Sunset Boulevard, just seeing how they're getting behind it, it's pretty exciting. The whole thing is pretty surreal. Not what I expected.
I heard you have some celebrity fans.
It's so weird. I've been contacted by Selena Gomez, Katy Perry and Russell Brand. I met Guy Pearce, and he said, "Oh, Adam Sandler loves your stuff. He tries to get everyone to watch it. He's always giving the DVD to people." I was like, "That's so weird." I'd be terrified if I had to meet all these people.
Were you recognized much when you were in the States?
It's all about "Summer Heights High," people calling out to Mr. G. [a character from that series]. I was taking a photo of myself in front of the billboard in L.A., and this girl drove past in a car and screamed out, "Mr. G! What are you doing?" It was a bit awkward. I didn't want her to think I was loving myself too much.
Any plans to do a U.S. version of any of your shows?
No. That's initially what I got asked to do. The idea of remaking something for America does not appeal to me at all. I get the reason to do it, because it opens up the audience, but I'm much more interested in being true and doing what I know and love.