Pizza: articles

Toppings of pizzaz with the works

THE dialogue is ordinary, the acting pedestrian and the premise far-fetched. So why has Pizza become a show that pulls celebrities with ease and one of the highest rating shows ever on SBS?

Its creator (and director, editor, writer and star) Paul Fenech, can’t definitively pinpoint the comedy show’s appeal but he does offer a partial solution.

“We had that many good looking chicks, the stars and the bad taste,” he jokes.

The first series of Pizza, following the dubious exploits of Pauly, Sleek the Elite and Bobo, was hardly an artistic triumph, particularly next to some of Fenech’s very accomplished short films.

But it found an audience of up to half a million with its irreverence and snappy, low budget smarts, an unheard of outcome for the niche network.

It even received a peer Logie nomination as Most Outstanding Comedy.

Fenech admits after the first series, SBS “couldn’t say no” to a second.

Yet even he is surprised at the comedy’s success. “On the one hand you have low expectations of what you make but on the other hand there’s no edgy comedy on Australian TV at the moment and there’s always a place for it,” he says.

There’s seemingly a place now for celebrities to lampoon themselves. Curious cameos have become a mainstay of the program.

So why do they do it?

“We ask them, we bulls… them, we tell them we’re hip and then we tell them the whole episode’s going to be about them,” Fenech laughs. “A lot of them just like to have fun with their own media identities.”

The lot includes a veritable B-list who’s who, from original Wog Boy Nick Giannopoulos to Greg Evans and Playschool’s Benita Collings to Bernard King.

Fenech admits being “amazed” at what some will do for the Pizza cause.

Bob Ellis playing the Prime Minister is arguably not-so-devilish but former Chantoozie Tottie Goldmsith revelling in drug taking, bondage and professional wrestling certainly is.

“It’s a very funny scene but I couldn’t imagine anyone with her profile doing something like that,” Fenech says.

“And I did get to call Anthony Mundine a pussy.”

Such colloquialisms litter the series, giving it something few Australian shows can call their own: “edge”.

Fenech says he just wanted it to sound natural. “A lot of the feedback I get -- and it’s ridiculous that people would ever say this -- but they go ‘Mate, that show’s really realistic’.”

The show’s success will lead to a stage version of the show, from September 28 at the Enmore Theatre.

Fenech says it will be “just like the TV show, a tonight show meets sketch comedy meets everything else”.

The show will feature George Kapiniaris and special guests Bessie Bardot, Mario Fenech, Big Brother’s Andy and TV show regular Annalise Braakensiek.

Pizza returns Monday August 27 at 8.30pm on SBS

By Michael Bodey
August 23, 2001
The Daily Telegraph