The DIY Cartoons Exposing a Side of Australia We Know Exists but Don’t Want to Talk About
'Big Lez Show' creators, Jarrad Wright and Izak Whear talk us through the exploding global popularity of DIY Australian cartoons.
It's vulgar, it's crass, it's sidesplittingly funny and it's cringe-ingly political incorrect, all at the same time. This is the world of DIY underground Australian cartoons which have taken over the world. And you can thank 2007 Labour Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for it.
It's unlikely Kevin '07 was thinking The Big Lez Show and Darren and Damo when he launched his 2008 Digital Education Revolution; inwhich laptops were given to high school students across the country.
But culture is what culture becomes and here we are with several brutally crass Aussie cartoons as arguably our greatest cultural export of the minute. Make no mistake, this is the Australia of today as seen through the wide-eyed lens of regional teenagers with a mastery of MS Paint. Where once they doodled harmlessly away in textbooks, Kevin Rudd gave them the chance to bring their characters to life and share them moments later on Facebook and Youtube. Ten million plays doesn't lie. The Big Lez Show, created by three kids from Tweed River High school, has become a global phenomenon with cult-followings as far afield as Ireland, the USA, Canada and England. We asked two of the show's creators, Izak Whear and Jarrad Wright, to talk us through the recent boom in Australian-made cartoons.
VICE: First, tell us about the genesis of the Big Lez Show.
Jarrad Wright: Really it was me and Izak being mates in school in class and shit. And obviously we'd get bored, nothing to do there, so we started drawing characters, making fictional characters, making stories, and making comics with textas and pens, and then it became a hobby and opened up another universe with all this shit happening with all these characters we built up.
Then we became friends with Tom (Hollis) and everything all leapt out. He brought on new characters like Sassy (the Sasquatch) and Clarence and the Choomahs, and we put all our ideas together and that's where we're at now.
Back at school the laptops came in and it moved from comics to figuring out how to make moving pictures using MS Paint and Adobe Premiere to edit it. It grew from there and now we're charging with the Mike Nolan Show getting better and better, growing the show and we grow with it as it keeps evolving.
How does something like the Big Lez Show go from a high school classroom to millions of youtube plays?
I remember making the first couple of short episodes for shits and gigs to show mates and stuff. We were like, 'make this yeah,' put that in fuck yeah, and then we brought it all together and sent it out over Facebook and Youtube for fun. Next day school mates were full watching it in class and laughing coming up to us saying it was soooo funny.
From there it spread to the skate park next to school. The skaters were laughing imitating Big Lez to us and stuff and it pretty much spread from one classroom to one skate park to other schools then all of a sudden you're hearing down in Kingscliff, a suburb near here, they're hearing it. It kept spreading to Sydney, then you're hearing it's over in the mines (in West Australia), then England, Canada and America. Me, Tom and Izak got new info that it's in fucking Ireland now! It's just like, holy shit.
Back in the day when we first made the Facebook page just watching the number of likes going up, you can't even fathom 100 people in a room liking it. I don't even know how many it's up to now [469K at the time of writing]. I can't even think about it now. It's too daunting. It just grew by itself we didn't do any promotion. It grew like wildfire.
Comedy Central recently picked up the Mike Nolan Show. How did that happen?
Izak: They sent us an email on my last day at Uni. I came home and told the fellas we got an email from Comedy Central. It was so exciting and shit that they wanted to talk to us.
That's been really fun, our first real big project working together in the same room. We got told to make the spin-off show, sat down and figured it out, and smashed it out for a couple months working all day, starting in the morning, finishing at night time. It's been great, we got a real system going right now.
Jarrad: We full-on work together in a systematic way now that works so perfectly. We're all individually focused and every bit of detail has a bit of us in it.
What are your other favourite Aussie cartoons?
Izak: I remember first watching the Yolo video and that was the funniest thing ever. Me and all my friends were quoting that for ages. And the Damo and Darren one (also by Michael Cusack) at the train station. Funny as fuck.
Where is the humour in Australia coming from right now?
There's so much vulgar humour, just all the swearing and stuff. You see it when you go out, it's relatable because you see so much of it.
Jarrad: Like last night me and Tom went for a skate and across the road at the pub there's some bloke talking to his mate like (Jarrad puts on his bogan voice), 'Yeah fucken this an' that, fucken, high-rises, fucken...' You hear that echoing off walls and you're like holy shit!
Everywhere you go there's people making content for you and you're just having fun with it all. Once you step back and observe the culture and humour and the way of life here, it's just so funny! When you step back and have a look you can bring that to life and point it out and have a laugh. The more you point it out the more you keep seeing it everywhere.
Anything else we should check out?
Izak: Yeah we watched Dead Kelly's The Legend of Borry the other day. Dead Kelly is fucking sick, so cool. It's just brutal. It's sick 'cos it's so brutal.
Jarrad: We listened to their music first and we watched the first episode the other day. They're bringing your brutal imagination to life in a funny cartoon way. Obviously in Dead Kelly they'd talk to their mates with that language and imagination, and they know certain personalities that would deal with certain situations in an Aussie humour way, like: 'Bozza will take fucken care of it, fucken, driving trucks and he's got six guns or whaterver' (laughter). We do the same thing with our characters, just make characters out of people who can't really deal with the world.
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