BOOK REVIEW: Seven Big Australians

How some of our top comic actors helped transform Australia's image

Book Reviews
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Adventures with Barry Humphries, Noeline Brown, Max Gillies and more Aussie comedians.

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THE lives and creative work of seven of Australia's best comic actors are explored in a new book.

Carol Raye, Barry Humphries, Noeline Brown, Max Gillies, John Clarke, Tony Sheldon and Denise Scott pioneered home-grown humour.

They transformed the image of Australia, intervened in political life and brought Aussie comedy to the world, creating figures including Mavis Bramston, Dame Edna Everage, Clarke and Dawe, and mesmerising impersonations of prime ministers.

In Seven Big Australians: Adventures with Comic Actors, Anne Pender offers vivid biographical portraits of the comics' childhoods, their struggles to enter the entertainment industry and the art they created over many decades.

Pender outlines the challenges of staying in the industry, the gruelling nature of daily life as a performer, the demands of working in multiple forms, script-writing under pressure and the exhilaration of performing.

"Comic actors have made a particularly strong contribution to cultural life in Australia over the last 60 years," Pender writes in the book's introduction.

"They have brought a range of memorable characters to the stage, television and film; they have transformed our image of ourselves, helped to overturn the crippling cultural cringe, and they have brought Australian humour and satire to the world."

Seven Big Australians: Adventures with Comic Actors, Monash University Publishing, RRP $29.95.

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