Illustration by Sarah Olin
In one of Chris Lilley's appearances as Jen Okazaki -- one of six characters he plays in his new mockumentary series Angry Boys -- the Australian comedian, in a women's suit, pearls, and a straight black wig, is unscrewing the lid of a pink plastic penis and shaking it upside down. "This is for the parmesan cheese," he says, using a demure Japanese accent. "Take it off, shake it on your pasta."
In the absurd menagerie of television characters that Lilley has written and performed over the past six years, Jen is the most diabolic. An archetypal Tiger Mother, she exploits her teenage son, Tim, the world’s first gay skateboarding sensation, to create a merchandising empire of cock-shaped products (parmesan cheese shaker included) in Tokyo. Except Tim isn’t gay -- Jen forces him to act the part as a marketing tactic.
"I think people are too confused to know whether it's offensive or not," Lilley says. He's no stranger to impersonating ladies (see: Ja’mie King, the vicious, narcissistic private school girl who brought the word "fugly" back in 2005's We Can Be Heroes and 2007's Summer Heights High). "I wanted to do the nastiest character I've ever done."
Jen may raise eyebrows in the U.S. when the show premieres on HBO -- as will Lilley's blackface turn as spoiled, young California rapper, S.mouse. But his characters transcend knee-jerk reactions with their complexity. "I like things that are challenging to watch," Lilley says. "My mission was to make characters so real, you start believing they actually existed."
Indeed, some of Lilley's Angry Boys personas -- including a vulgar pair of teen twins; their grandmother who works at a juvenile correctional facility; and a bygone surfing legend with no testicles -- come to life offscreen. S.mouse performed to sold-out crowds in Melbourne and London earlier this year, and his singles -- "Slap My Elbow” and “Squashed Nigga” -- charted in both countries.
"It's been one of the most surreal things," Lilley says, reflecting on the live shows. "It's funny because it's not a comedy show -- it's partly me living the rap dream."
Angry Boys premieres January 1 at 10 p.m. EST on HBO.