Why Kath and Kim is an exceptional piece of popular culture
Delighting audiences since the early 2000s, it is difficult to scroll through your newsfeed without a spicy Kath & Kim meme coming your way.
One of the most eccentric and lovable pieces of television to ever come out of Australia, there is no doubt that Kath & Kim is important. But just how important? Beyond giving the nation a good chuckle, the show single handedly dispelled any questions about the credibility of women in comedy. Women are funny, and I can prove it with three words: Kath, Kim, and Sharon.
I am undoubtedly the world’s biggest Kath & Kim fan. I might have met the whole cast, and I might have bawled my eyes out, at age 15... Watching the program religiously since its television debut in 2002, the comedy was immersed into my childhood. Not understanding the double entendres and tongue-in-cheek wit, my Kindergarten heart fell in love with the silly accents, funny walks, and ill-fitting sparkly shorts. The comedic genius of Gina Riley, Jane Turner, and Magda Szubanski left the country in absolute awe. So why must women keep needing to prove their talent?
Over the past few years, ‘women in comedy’ has been a controversial talking point. The recently released Bad Moms received mixed reviews. Bridesmaids was labeled a chick-flick for no other reason than it allowed chicks a speaking role. And this year’s all-female Ghostbusters had Hollywood originalists everywhere with their knickers in a knot. Kath & Kim managed to supersede these confines, and made people really “look at moi”
2002 was an interesting time for popular culture. Steven Bradbury chucked the world’s first ‘Bradbury’, Pauline Hanson resigned from One Nation, and ‘The Ketchup Song’ was topping the Australian charts #neverforget. Providing a homegrown alternative to Australia’s globalising culture, Kath & Kim made a huge impact.
But the humour of the show so obviously resonated with the masses. Satire is incredible, and there is certainly a place for it, but what was so wonderful about Kath & Kim was its refreshingly self-referential approach to comedy. The suburbs were mocked. Daggy dance moves were mocked. Judgy and greying retail workers were mocked. To take the monotony of daily life and churn it into a relatable and charming comedy is no easy fete. And yet it was clearly what the people wanted. Why laugh at anyone else when the most ridiculous person in the room is the one in the mirror?
Cameos from incredibly esteemed celebrities like Geoffrey Rush, Michael Buble, Barry Humphries and Kylie Minogue (!!!!!) were not uncommon, and reinforced that the work and talent of the team was something to be recognised and praised.
A snazily accessorised single mother, an unemployed stay-at-home daughter, and a desperate and dateless second best friend: these women knew what they wanted. As they navigated motherhood, romance, and hat decorating tafe courses, their individuality was always in check. Hornbags, hunkaspunks, and hot-to-trot, Kath & Kim taught me that it is perfectly fine for a woman to think she is the bee’s knees.
There is so much that is exceptional about this show. Not only was it almost entirely written and produced by women, but these women were by no means cookie-cutter. Szubanski, Turner and Riley were all in their 40s, with diverse bodies and sexualities. Low and behold, not only are Australia’s finest comedic talents chicks, but they are top chicks!
Comedy does not always need to be controversial, it does not always need to be big-budget, and it definitely does not need to only feature the talents of men. The cast and crew behind Kath & Kim managed to subtly place themselves in Australian popular culture history. So get frocked, pop on some footy franks, and crack open your finest bottle Chardonnay (the H is silent), because I’ve got one word to say to you: “Women are SO funny”.