Ranking the Chris Lilley series, from ‘We Can Be Heroes’ to ‘Jonah from Tonga’

It's possible that you will disagree

Rejoice! Australian comedian Chris Lilley is to make a new show for Netflix, a 10-parter that he’ll shoot later this month with his long-time producing partner Laura Waters. What the project will be about is anyone’s guess, but we know he’s a very funny dude, whether your favourite Lilley creation is wholesome teacher Mr G from school-set mockumentary Summer Heights High or identical twins Nathan and Daniel from the controversial Angry Boys. But which is the best Chris Lilley show? There’s only one way to find out – and that, my friends, is through some list-based good times for you and me. 

5) Jonah from Tonga

Lilley knows his way around a spin-off – he could keep ideas spinning for years; the man’s a light entertainment yoyo – and this show, centring on naughty schoolboy Jonah from Summer Heights High, was perhaps one too many. It’s something of a comedy carbuncle, attempting to elicit sympathy for confused Jonah, who is in fact too annoying – too shouty, too offensive, too dislikable – to sympathise with. To the back of the queue with you, Jonah.

4) Angry Boys

Coming in at number four, it’s Lilley’s most divisive comedy yet, a mockumentary (the comedian’s preferred format, and one that every one of his shows follows) that charts the exploits of unruly male characters such as S.Mouse, a hopeless rapper who’s somehow had a hit record. Lilley was widely criticised for appearing in blackface as S.Mouse, while the show as a whole was met with a lukewarm response because, put simply, there weren’t enough laughs.

3) We Can Be Heroes

The show that kickstarted Chris Lilley’s career, this 2005 comedy follows a cast of characters who are bidding to be named ‘Australian of the Year’, introducing Ja’mie – and heralding her creator as a serious talent. The Sydney Morning Herald declared: “If you want a show that skewers the nation’s pretensions and aspirations, while providing laugh-out-loud comedy, this is the real deal.”

2) Ja’mie: Private School Girl

In fact, such was Ja’mie’s popularity that she was awarded two spin-offs, first in 2007 with Summer Heights High and again with this series, which  aired in 2013. The follow-up saw the snarky school girl develop an even more acidic tongue, at one point telling another character to “go fucking fist yourself.” She’s by far Lilley’s best-loved character, and there was a sick kind of pleasure to be taken in her often jaw-dropping, caustic putdowns. Never change, Ja’mie.

1) Summer Heights High

Well, what else could it be, eh? It was the near-the-knuckle nature of many of the jokes that garnered the most attention –  Lilley made no concessions to good taste as he filled the screen with characters who were either obviously monstrous (like the brilliantly bratty Ja’mie) or grotesquely offensive by accident (Mr G meant well, but man was he tactless). Despite this, though, they were weirdly relatable and, often, even likeable. And that’s Lilley’s gift.