Behind the scenes of Australian comedy

Posted by | April 08, 2019 | Arts, Humanities, Research | No Comments
Anne Pender in front of a bookcase holding her newly released book on Australian comedians

UNE’s Professor Anne Pender has dedicated years getting to know Australia’s best-loved comic actors. Awkward stage moments, biggest fears, childhood memories – there’s no topic left unturned in Anne’s meticulous and personal approach to researching Australian comedy.

Anne, a UNE English and theatre studies professor, critic, biographer and theatre historian, first threw herself into a biography of Barry Humphries, spending years researching his life and work for the book ‘One Man Show: the Stages of Barry Humphries’.

That project sparked an idea for two even more ambitious books.

“I realised that many actors of Humphries’ generation and the one that followed, had contributed enormously to the Australian cultural landscape, imagination and to our sense of ourselves,” she says.

With the help of an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship grant, she undertook a project exploring the lives of 80 Australian actors, and has just published a new book focused on comedy, entitled ‘Seven Big Australians: Adventures with Comic Actors’.

Seven Big Australians looks at the lives and work of Carol Raye, Barry Humphries, Noeline Brown, Max Gillies, John Clarke, Tony Sheldon and Denise Scott.

“I love learning first-hand about the lives of people who dedicate themselves to experimenting with their art in theatre and television,” Anne says.

“’Seven Big Australians’ records what it’s like to work as an actor in Australia and the difficulties these actors have faced in making a career where there’s no clear pathway and forging ahead with their own creative ideas for comedy in spite of the pressures on them to make a living.

“I spent five years following each actor around, attending their shows and talking to them about their lives and careers. I interviewed them before and after their performances, during the breaks between long seasons of productions and on tours in Australia and overseas.”

Anne says the book highlights the pioneering role the actors have played in various forms of comedy – revue, musical theatre, stand-up comedy, one-person shows, impersonation, political satire, sit com and mockumentary.

She hopes readers find it inspiring and simply enjoyable.

“I think readers will enjoy discovering the childhood experiences and influences on each of these well-loved comedians, and connect with the stories of struggle and triumph that have shaped Australian comedy,” she said.

More about Anne’s book: http://www.publishing.monash.edu/boo…/sba-9781925835212.html

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