Kath & Kim: articles

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ATTENTION ploise… Kath, Brett, Kim, Kel and Sharon (front)

Ladies on fire

You could feel it in your waters—comedy's foxy ladies Kath and Kim were bound to be a hit. Louise Crossen reports

THERE'S nothing like a wedding to boost the ratings, and it certainly worked wonders for Kath and Kim.

Last year 1.63 million viewers tuned in to the season finale to see Day become Knight, as Kath and Kel made their beautiful, sensual relationship a formality.

The eagerly anticipated connubials may have ended in disaster but, in a week's time, the foxy ladies of Fountain Lakes will return to the small screen in the second series of the comedy smash.

Kath and her petulant daughter Kim are the creations of Jane Turner and Gina Riley—two of Australia's most gifted comedians.

Riley reckons the wedding was "right up there with Scott and Charlene's".

"It was right up itself," she says with laugh.

Turner maintains the wedding was actually inspired by Kylie and Jason's onscreen nuptials in Neighbours. "Kel had a bit of a Scott hairdo on the big day and we gave Kath a Charlene do—a nice tight spiral perm!" she says.

Riley and Turner bounce ideas off each other at lightning speed, finish each other's sentences and occasionally lapse into character—the legacy of a close friendship that dates back more than 20 years.

They met at a community theatre workshop in their teens, going on to write and perform together on shows such as Fast Forward and Something Stupid.

Kath and Kim made their first appearance almost a decade ago on Big Girls Blouse, a shortlived sketch show co-starring long time collaborator Magda Szubanski.

The characters were drawn from reality docos like Sylvania Waters and Weddings but Riley reckons Kath and Kim transcend time and place.

"I think the characters are pretty much the same as they were 10 years ago," she says.

"But comedy is a lot different to drama, where the characters are always going on these big journeys of discovery.

"It's actually funnier if they never change."

Riley says she found the show's level of popularity "quite amazing".

"I mean, we thought it was funny, but we expected it to end up being a bit of a cult thing," she says.

"When the ABC asked us to do another series I think we sat down and freaked out."

The second series finished filming a couple of months ago but, as creators, writers, performers and executive producers Riley and Turner are hands-on every step of the way and are currently editing the last two episodes.

So what can fans expect from Kath and Kim's second outing?

"We just write what we enjoy, and what makes us laugh—although this series we've tried to give the other characters a bit more to do," Riley says.

"So it's probably the same but different."

And fans needn't fear Kath and Kim going soft in the second series.

"I really hate false sentimentality and schmaltz," Riley says.

"On this show we follow the Seinfeld mantra—no hugs and no lessons."

The foxy morons from Fountain Lakes have fans from all walks of life, although some commentators have argued that the show knocks ordinary Australians.

However, Turner says the show was never meant to be a piece of social commentary. "It is absolutely done with affection," she says.

"We don't think it's condescending, and we're not making judgments about anyone.

"It's more to do with being Australian and being suburban.

"I mean 95 per cent of us live in the suburbs, and it doesn't matter whether you're worth $2 or a million we all shop in malls, we all read the same magazines, we all go on diets and worry about getting old."

Riley says most "ordinary" Aussies have embraced the characters.

"I get people coming up to me saying they're such a Kath or a lot like Kim."

But it would take a brave soul to emulate the girls' unique sartorial stylings. We've already seen Kimmy in hipsters and G-strings, Kath in her "homeboy" range and spiral perm, and Sharon's parade of netball chic, but Riley says she loves playing dress up.

"I think Kim is a bit of a comment on the fashions of our time," she says.

"All of the stuff I wear on the show is off-the-rack from Portmans or Sportsgirl—these are the clothes that designers are forcing us to wear.

"But there are a lot of women out there who just shouldn't try and squeeze into midriff tops or hipsters.

"When I'm doing a scene in one of those tops there are actually three people in the shot—Kath, Kim and my stomach!"

Turner says all of Kath's clothes come from a local op shop.

"Our wardrobe designer gets everything from a giant second-hand shop—it's five floors of cast offs, so we always have plenty to choose from," she says.

"The more daggy we can make them, the funnier it is, and we'll do anything for a laugh."

"We're so hidden, and you feel free to do anything."

So what's next for the dynamic duo?

Riley says it's a case of wait and see: "We still have to drive this series into the ground yet!"

However, Turner says they've received "lots of offers".

"We've had an offer to make a movie, and that is a possibility," she says. "We'll consider everything, but one project at a time is enough!"

Kath and Kim, ABC, Thursday, 8.30pm

By Louise Crossen
September 11, 2003
The Courier Mail