Kath & Kim: articles

Glenn Robbins

Glenn Robbins as Kel Knight… Kath & Kim's polyester posterboy.

My life as a dag: The Glenn Robbins story

With his hair slicked forward and a dancing style that sits somewhere between hilarious and creepy, it's difficult to believe Glenn Robbins doesn't play Kath & Kim's polyester posterboy Kel Knight for laughs.

"I play for the reality of the character," he says. "I don't play for the comedy, I play for the drama. You know you're doing comedy, obviously, but you don't push it sketch-comedy style. It has to be a bit more rigid, the characters have to be more three-dimensional."

Just as Kath and Kim evolved out of the sketch work of their creators, Jane Turner and Gina Riley, Kel is the stepchild of Robbins's work in the same genre. A standout member of the ensemble in shows such as The Comedy Company (1988-90), Fast Forward (1989-92), Full Frontal (1993-97) and Something Stupid (1998), Robbins specialised in dags much the same way Turner does slightly demented suburbanites.

Robbins worked with Kath & Kim co-stars Riley, Turner and Szubanski on two of those four programs and he says the women have a rare connection. "They work on another level they don't let many people into. Not that they keep people out of it, but there is an energy between Jane, Gina, Magda and Marg Downey," he says. "I think it comes back to a sensibility and an understanding, and it's more what's not said than what is said, when you're working with the girls."

Robbins is a singular talent. His versatility as a performer and his range as an actor is impressive and he's at ease in roles as diverse as the cartoonish outback adventurer Russell Coight and Pete, the estranged husband of Rachael Blake's Jane in Ray Lawrence's acclaimed character study Lantana.

Despite the differences between such characters, Robbins says they pay similar dividends. "To me it comes back to achieving the precision of what you're attempting that is very satisfying, and doing that in the simplest way possible," he says.

"What happened with Lantana was that Ray really didn't want us to act, he didn't want us to perform. He said, 'Let the characters and the script do the work for you,' so when you found that level there was this tremendous sense of confidence given to you."

Trust, he adds, is the key, whether it is on the set of Lantana, discussing the week's headlines on the talk show The Panel or on the set of Kath & Kim, neatly combing his part between takes.

"When you trust, you become vulnerable, and when you become vulnerable all those nice emotions come out," he says. "The opposite happens if you shut down and play it safe. You don't get to explore all those different levels that you can when you work in an environment like this."

By Michael Idato
September 15, 2003
Sydney Morning Herald