Seven Big Australians: Adventures with comic actors by Anne Pender

Reviewed by
June–July 2019, no. 412
Desley Deacon reviews 'Seven Big Australians: Adventures with comic actors' by Anne Pender

Seven Big Australians: Adventures with comic actors

by Anne Pender

Monash University Publishing, $29.95 pb, 292 pp, 9781925835212

Seven Big Australians: Adventures with comic actors by Anne Pender

Reviewed by
June–July 2019, no. 412

Nowadays every second young person seems to want to be a stand-up comic, an occupation that perfectly represents the ‘gig’ economy in its precariousness and occasional nature. Anne Pender gives us mini-biographies of seven Australians who succeeded, often spectacularly, in the risky business of being a comic long before the idea of a ‘gig’ economy entered the collective mind. Beginning with Carol Raye, Pender relates, in forty or so pages each, the life stories of Barry Humphries, Noeline Brown, Max Gillies, John Clarke, Tony Sheldon, and Denise Scott – in other words, members of the two cohorts who rode the national theatre and television wave from the 1960s to the recent past.

Pender, a professor of English and Theatre Studies at the University of New England, is the author of One Man Show (2010), a biography of Barry Humphries. The essays in Seven Big Australians, based on in-depth interviews with her subjects and careful research, demonstrate an empathy that makes them quite engrossing. A good part of their charm comes from the details that Pender elicits from her subjects about the upbringing. The men especially suffered. Their lack of interest in sport and ‘manly’ occupations made them outsiders (Humphries’ headmaster farewelled him with the words, ‘I hope you’re not turning pansy’); in some cases their parents regarded them as ‘no-hopers’ (Clarke). Here, the pathos is underlined by photos showing them looking hapless, usually in fancy dress.

Desley Deacon reviews 'Seven Big Australians: Adventures with comic actors' by Anne Pender

Seven Big Australians: Adventures with comic actors

by Anne Pender

Monash University Publishing, $29.95 pb, 292 pp, 9781925835212

From the New Issue

You May Also Like

Leave a comment

If you are an ABR subscriber, you will need to sign in to post a comment.

If you have forgotten your sign in details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to ABR Comments. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.