Barry Humphries and Nicholas Garland, The Complete Barry McKenzie, Allen & Unwin

The name Barry McKenzie probably doesn't mean much to the average young Uni student, seeing that this comic strip hails from Britain in the late 60s and early 70s (it featured in Private Eye). But the complete adventures of Bazza are surely as educational as anything on your Uni reading lists—so at $12.95 this bumper volume is an enlightening experience too cheap to pass up.

The name Barry Humphries is of course familiar to all, and it would be safe to say that Bazza was Humphries' first great success story. The classic stereotype of the 'ocker' which is constantly recycled even now (probably best known through Monty Python's 'Bruces' sketch and, to a lesser degree, Hoges's TV shows) made its debut in the frames of Humphries' and Garland's first strips. This makes them (at first) rather painful reading for any full-blooded Oz, and throws some light on the Poms' hatred for our species. Barry McKenzie is a caricature of what the Poms in the mid-60s thought Australians were like. So he's not very much like you or me (me, at least).

Barry is, essentially, a lovable bastard, and his dialogue reveals him to be satisfied with the simple things in life—urination, inebriation, and copulation. He does a lot of the former, especially in the early episodes, as Barry Humphries doubtless wanted to show off all the great euphemisms he'd 'found' (i.e. made up) for this bodily function: pointing Percy at the porcelain, training Thomas on the terracotta, syphoning the python, etc etc. He also gets pissed a lot, and there's plenty of 'chundering' (an obscure Sydney surfie term which was dying out until Humphries passed it into British slang via this strip), but, unfortunately for Barry, he doesn't manage much fornication. (Any, in fact. Apparently Barry fans used to write in and ask when he was going to get any—it's a bit like Charlie Brown and the little red-haired girl, isn't it?)

But despite the groan quality of much of the language (some of it is really bad—the authors must have relied on the Poms' ignorance) this book has plenty of laughs. It's full of weird characters and bizarre plots (which tend to consist of lots of digs at late 60s British society), and Nicholas Garland's drawings are superb. If you don't give a shit, uh, I mean a damn, about choice phrases like 'choking a darkie' (ugh) and 'yer don't look at the mantlepiece when you're poking the fire' (groan!) then dive in—just remember you've been warned. It's a horrible wildly exaggerated caricature of Australians, but nevertheless, you can't say you know everything about Oz culture without having read it.


First published in Togatus, 5 April 1989.
This page: 28 February 2000; last modified 8 May 2018.

©1989, 2000 Rory Ewins