Nakkiah Lui Photo: Thomas McCammon
Nakkiah Lui Photo: Thomas McCammon

Beloved sketch show going out on a high note

WHEN Nakkiah Lui answered a call out for a new comedy show, her idea to stand out from the crowd could have been a total flop.

The budding playwright decided to film her own sketch in her bedroom and sent the video to the ABC in the hopes of landing her first ever TV writing gig.

"I'd only been writing for theatre for two years and my mum sent me this ABC call out that said 'Are you a black fella? Do you think you're funny?'. I was like 'Well, at least one of those things are true'," she says.

"I put a lot of effort into my application - I've always been a bit of a nerd - and I thought 'I'm going to make a video'. I filmed myself with my laptop camera and I did a sketch called 'A culturally appropriate guide to stripping'. I did a little strip tease, but it wasn't sexy. I think I was wearing a singlet, some undies and stockings.

"I sent this in and thank God it went down really well. When I think about it now, it was a totally bananas thing to do. The people who saw that are still my bosses now. If that wasn't funny and they didn't like it, I'd just be labelled a crazy person."

Lui went on to become one of the founding writers and cast members of that sketch show, Black Comedy.

Nakkiah Lui in a scene from Black Comedy.
Nakkiah Lui in a scene from Black Comedy.

"I hope that this show has opened the doors up for other Aboriginal comedy shows," Lui says.

"It's been a real training ground for new talent. Not many shows do open call outs for people who've never written for TV in their life and never acted on screen."

With its unapologetic comedic exploration of what it means to be Aboriginal in contemporary Australia, the series went on to critical acclaim and served as a launching pad for fresh talent.

"It's blackfella humour for everyone and I'm really proud of that," she says.

Steven Oliver and Aaron Fa'aoso in Black Comedy, ABC
Steven Oliver and Aaron Fa'aoso in Black Comedy, ABC

 

"We operate like a meritocracy - if it's funny, we'll do it.

"What I love about sketch comedy is it's quick, fast and funny. You can engage with some spicy content and you can do some really absurd stuff. The regular rules don't apply. The only two rules are don't outstay your welcome and be funny."

 

A scene from Black Comedy.
A scene from Black Comedy.

 

On that note, Black Comedy is going out on a high this week with its fourth and final season. Lui has a new character, Nancy, who is the fastidious owner of the Aboriginal Percentage Investigative Agency.

"Nancy finds out what percentage of aboriginal people are, down to the last decimal … she has a commitment to the mathematical truth," she says.

"Something like being asked how Aboriginal you are is a question a lot of people get asked, and the answer carries a lot of trauma and history; it's hurtful. I would never go up to someone who says ''m 100% caucasian' and say 'Are you sure?'. This questioning of your identity, a lot of times you keep that in and it eats at you. It makes you feel less than.

But in that sketch, you make a joke about it and it allows viewers to think thank goodness I'm not the only person who's been asked this. To talk about these things out loud is cathartic, and by making fun of it you also send a little message to anyone who's asked that."

Lui makes her directorial debut in the final season, helming three of the six episodes.

"Moving into co-producing and directing roles, you get to be part of the bigger decisions across the board," she says.

"One of my favourite things about doing this show is working with people at the top of the game in their craft - people like Claudia Carvan, Deborah Mailman and Toby Schmitz. You get to watch these amazing actors do really funny things. To work with them still blows my mind."

Season four of Black Comedy premieres on Wednesday at 9pm on ABC-TV.


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