Are you cold?
Take my leather jacket as I turn this on
Fleetwood serenade you into my sweet arms
Never seemed to care about most other girls
You’re not other girls
Oh my babe
Whiskey town is ours just for tonight
The newest Australian icon in America isn’t a rugged outdoorsman in the vein of Crocodile Dundee or Steve Irwin, but an obnoxious private schoolgirl from Sydney who uses the word “quiche” when she means “hot”.
Ja’mie King, the television character written and played by Australian comedian Chris Lilley is now a cult figure as widely recognized in the U.S. as she is in Lilley’s homeland, thanks to HBO.
“I get stopped on the street all the time,” said Mr. Lilley after being interrupted by a man who wanted to take his photograph while talking to The Wall Street Journal.
“In America, most people come up and say ‘Ja’mie!’ but in Australia, they might mention other characters [he has played].”
Mr. Lilley, who lives in Melbourne, said he had never attempted to appeal to an international audience with the character of Ja’mie, a catty teen who is the most popular girl in her final school year at fictional Hillford Girls Grammar.
“I’ve been surprised every time that Americans like it,” said Mr. Lilley.
“I usually just do what I think I funny. I’ve never catered to it, people just get it.”
Mr. Lilley’s latest show “Ja’mie: Private School Girl” airs on HBO on November 24.
The character was first introduced to Australian television viewers in 2005 in the mockumentary series “We Can Be Heroes: Finding the Australian of the Year,” and was then reprised in Mr. Lilley’s next series, “Summer Heights High.”
Set in a public school with Mr. Lilley playing all three lead characters, “Summer Heights High” became the best-selling TV series on DVD in Australian history, and a cult hit in the U.S. after it debuted on HBO in November 2008.
Following its success, HBO then screened Mr. Lilley’s next program, a look at the lives of average boys and men called “Angry Boys”, in 2012.
After “Summer Height High,” HBO wanted Mr. Lilley to write a spin-off show based on one of the other characters, a camp high-school drama teacher known as Mr. G, a project that he declined.
Mr. Lilley said the network also asked him to make an “Angry Boys 2,” but he again refused.
“Whenever I’m asked to do something I don’t want to do it,” Mr. Lilley said.
“I’m probably trying to be a bit rebellious.”
Now aged 39 years, Mr. Lilley began his comedy career in his twenties performing stand-up gigs in Sydney while working as a childcare worker and a retail assistant.
His television writing and acting abilities, playing a diverse array of male and female characters of all ages in each of his four programs, has earned him a cult following.
“Chris’s shows have a younger skewing audience which is devoted and passionate about his work,” said HBO programming executive vice president Casey Bloys.
“We love his brand of humor and are among his biggest fans.”
Other fans of Mr. Lilley’s work include British comedian Dawn French, who said in 2009 that watching “Summer Heights High” was one of the best nights of her life, and fellow Australian comedian also best known for playing a woman, Barry Humphries.
Mr. Humphries, currently performing in the U.K. as Dame Edna Everage and other characters in his “Eat Pray Laugh” farewell tour, told The Wall Street Journal that he thinks Mr. Lilley is a “wonderful, original writer and an enormously gifted actor of astonishing bravery and perception.”
Mr. Lilley said he wanted to reprise the role of Ja’mie, which he plays with a brunette wig, a school dress and minimal make-up, because he thought she was amusing.
“Ja’mie was really fun to write and to play, and I wanted to expand on that world which I had already built,” he said of his latest show.
“I went to school on the north shore of Sydney and knew girls like that.
“They were like that when I was at school, they don’t change.”
Asked where the word “quiche” came from, Mr. Lilley said he wanted the character to have a “ridiculous” code word to use, as some teens are inclined to do.
“I wanted her to have a word and just thought it would be funny because it has no meaning, it’s a silly word,” he said.
“I always find it hilarious that I’m in that [teenage girl] world. It always makes me laugh.”
Matthew Allen Where You Go I Go Too