Pizza: articles

Good fun with a bad taste

FROM the box, to the stage, to the big screen, it’s now Pizza with the lot, writes MICHAEL BODEY.

It’s easy to dismiss the Pizza comedy TV series as puerile, chaotic and out there and, to be fair, its creators would wear those terms as badges of honour.

But political? Even the writer, director and star of new film, Fat Pizza, isn’t too rapt with that idea.

“Ssh, don’t tell anyone,” Paul Fenech whispers, before laughing.

Then he reverts to serious director-speak, realising any notion that his work is political would kill it.

“Look, the Australian way is to have a go. Every Australian looks at things and they’ve got an opinion,” he says.

“With Pizza, part of the whole ethos is the underdog factor and in most of our mainstream cinema or TV there’s no underdog point of view. The ‘70s were good for the underdog but in the ‘80s the underdog got locked in the kennel.

“You call it political but to me that’s the average person, the guy driving around in his trades van, he knows what’s going on, he doesn’t believe the BS. To me, it’s just a working-class attitude.”

Fenech should know what’s political. His salacious, energetic scripts for the SBS TV series, and now the film, push the limits of good taste and comment. The movie script was even given a going-over by the lawyers. Just in case.

And technically, Fenech laughs, he can be charged with treason for writing one particular scene.

Who cares though? Such freewheeling irreverence is the core of Pizza’s appeal.

It’s why stars like model Annalise Braakensiek jumped aboard the TV series and returned for the movie.

She admits she didn’t know what she was getting herself into, adding: “But I loved it, I thought it was so fantastically politically incorrect.

“I actually didn’t think it’d take off because it was so politically obscure.”

Channel V’s Jabba, who plays Davo Dinkum, is also wary – and not convinced his masters will approve.

“Channel V’s such a commercial world and this is the exact opposite,” he says, before adding quickly: “It’s a character, it’s not me smoking bongs in the film.”

Braakensiek has warned her mum off the risque film, which is another way of saying the adventures of a group of hyped-up delivery boys will appeal to the same people that turned Pizza into an SBS cult hit.

All the regulars return for the big screen – Bobo, Sleek The Elite, Davo and Claudia Macpherson – as well as a string of cameos, including Kamahl, Merv Hughes and the late Bernard King.

“It’s like Communism, everyone gets a go on Pizza,” says Fenech. “Hopefully we’ll be more successful.”

Fat Pizza feels like an extended TV episode and in many respects it is.

Fenech, who already has the feature Somewhere in the Darkness and some terrific short flicks to his name, was content to film a third Pizza TV series before a philanthropic fan stumped up for the film.

“There was a sneaky man with a big amount of money who wants to remain nameless,” Fenech admits.

“It was an opportunity to happen really quickly and I didn’t stooge around, we just got it out there.”

“We’ve done so much Pizza, it’s pretty easy to write,” he adds. “We also did 150 stage shows last year, so it’s constantly evolving.”

But even Fenech doesn’t know how far he can push the franchise.

“We’ll just see how this one goes,” Fenech says. “If people want more, we’ll give them more. If they’re sick of it, we’ll go away.”

By Michael Bodey
April 10, 2003
The Daily Telegraph