The most I’ve laughed was when Steve and I were learning to rollerblade in Melbourne back in the 90s. It was that painful laughter when you can’t breathe, you can’t stand up (and not because you hit the concrete hard), you just want it to end but it goes on and on and you think you might actually die from laughing.
Everyone knows I love Seinfeld but other obsessions are the Office (UK version only) and Kath & Kim – the Australian version only (some humour does not adapt to other cultures). And Kath & Kim was the source of another of those moments when I thought I might die from laughter. We were in Alice Springs for my company’s annual conference – it had been a difficult week to put it subtly and a few of us went to dinner to recover. Colin, who was president of the company at the time, relayed the latest episode, The Moon, which had Kath and Kel stuck at Melbourne airport for their honeymoon when traffic controllers went on strike over a GST-related dispute. It was the “perfect honeymoon” as Kath and Kel bought matching Coogee jumpers (possibly the worst ‘fashion’ trend in history), hung out in the Internet café, Australis and Sanity records and attempted to gain access to the Qantas Club lounge using a Video Easy card. Perhaps it was the hard week we’d had, the wine, Colin’s telling of it or all of the above but we were almost evicted from the restaurant for laughing too hard for too long and causing a public disturbance.
[As a side note, Colin’s wife Tracy who was with us that night is running for mayor of the Southern Downs Region and I wish her all the best – she would be exceptional in the role.]
Kath & Kim, like many archetypal shows, united its audience beyond the season finale partly because of its unique vernacular which is understood and appreciated by devotees to the exclusion of others, much like Seinfeld. Ultimately, Kath & Kim was successful as the humour or “y’umor” as Kath called it, was dedicated to the essential characteristic of Australian, and British humour and that is self-deprecation.
Australian humour tends to be dry, full of extremes, anti-authoritarian, self-mocking and ironic. There’s no need to pretend people are perfect; we’re not and making fun of foibles, quirks and idiosyncacies is our way of showing we care, we like you. It’s not for everyone but it is why we love Kath & Kim which relentlessly ridicules the worst aspects of Australian society and ‘culture’.