“I’m really, really proud and quite humbled to be here,” Australian comic actor Denise Scott said, launching Professor Anne Pender’s new book, Seven Big Australians: Adventures with Comic Actors at Armidale’s Reader’s Companion Bookstore last night.  

I think it’s a really brilliant book,” she enthused, before quipping, “Which is great, because it’s really hard to launch a sh*t book!”

Denise described Anne’s patience in listening to hours of her stories in minute detail, declaring it “nothing short of a miracle” that Anne managed to take all these stories and detail from seven loquacious actors and turn it into a “compelling, unputdownable page-turner.”

Proving her point, Denise went on to read a number of her favourite excerpts from the stories of the seven different comic actors in the book from her well Post-It flagged copy. She was touched by the detail in the book of Carol Raye’s background, saying it effectively portrayed just how much of a cultural tide she was up against to make it as a successful female actor. She also highlighted Tony Sheldon’s story, struck by the honesty of his struggles as a young actor: “it’s an amazing read; gut wrenching and fabulous all in one go,” she said. 

Anne also managed to capture John Clarke’s story for the book just before his sudden passing. 

“Anne rescues really important stories in the development of [Australian] comedy and puts it into … well, a book!” Denise laughs. “But something that lasts.

“There’s so much in this book that’s just extraordinary.”

Anne explained the motivation behind the book was her realisation of just how much Australia’s pioneering comic actors have contributed to our sense of culture and identity, and a recognition that these stories were often missing from the historical record.  

Anne is currently working on a new project about Australian writers and actors in the United States, which was the subject of her Fulbright Scholarship last year.

More about Anne’s book, Seven Big Australians: Adventures with Comic Actors.