Words by Elizabeth Narwastu Art by Angharad Neal-Williams
In my head, I imagined Melbourne almost like sunny California with beaches and skyscrapers, sunbathers and fashion bloggers.
I first arrived in Melbourne in winter, 2015. When I took a peek out of the aeroplane window, all I saw were rows of suburban houses. I thought that the whole of Melbourne would look like the CBD. I felt like I was thrown into the cold, lonely suburbs with nothing to do after 5PM, besides staying home and staring at my computer.
Despite having above-average English skills based on test results, I barely understood what people were saying to me when I first arrived here. There was this distant yet respectful gap between international and local students where things were pleasant, but apart from that, I couldn’t tune into the same frequency. The self-checkout machines at Coles and even Maccas were like an oasis that helped me avoid customer service (God bless them! I was having problems with being shy).
One day, my Indonesian friend showed me that there is this YouTube series made in Microsoft Paint which was hilarious. His housemate from Tasmania was the one that introduced it to him. He was like, “Aye mate you gotta watch this sick as show”. After that, I watched it out of curiosity (and peer pressure). The Big Lez Show is a story about Lezlie, a humanoid alien banished from his home planet, Kingdom Cum, and landed in Australia with his brother/nemesis, Norton.
He adopted a human son, Quinton, to get money out of child support and is friends with Sassy and Donny who are heavy drug-using Sasquatches. The show also features Mike Nolan, a jack of all trades. The series tells the story of Lezlie, Sassy with the sasquatch gang and Mike Nolan’s adventures in fighting their nemesis, the Choomahs and also their adventures of using recreational drugs.
This web series was first uploaded on YouTube in 2012 by three mates when they were still in high school. Jarrad Wright and Izak Whear used to draw Lezlie and Sassy comics on their notebooks when they were bored. Then they met Tom Holls and decided to find a way to make Lezlie and Sassy come to life.
They used their government-issued laptops to animate the still drawings of the characters and then turned it into a web series on YouTube. Their channel now has more than 500,000 subscribers with an average of 1 to 2 million views per episode.
I instantly became obsessed with this YouTube series because of its raw humour, originality, vulgar language and the do-it-yourself spirit. At that time, I was doing my bachelors degree in Animation, and I understood the amount of time and effort the animators needed to put into making a 5 minute episode, especially using humble softwares such as Microsoft Paint and Audacity.
I watched all the episodes from season one and then found myself starting to understand more about the nonsense the characters were saying because of the help of the visuals. It became a routine to hang out at my friend’s house to watch (and rewatch) The Big Lez Show. I find out the best way to make friends is to have the same sense of humour or at least being able to laugh at my classmates’ jokes. After the third season, I could finally understand the difference between “Yeah, Nah” and “Nah, yeah”.
By watching The Big Lez Show, I somehow could make sense of Australian humour, its intricate accent, identity and the culture as well. If we look at the stills from Australian movies such as Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), The Dressmaker (2015) or even Crocodile Dundee (1986), we realise that it tends to show the same setting, which is sceneries of the outback.
I always feel that the outback is still very other-worldly and it fits the theme of The Big Lez Show, which is a cartoon about a humanoid alien and his sasquatch mates. I would sometimes describe Australia as an alien country with weird looking animals, different terms in their English language and other-worldly nature with almost ‘Jurassic’ looking forests.
It was alien to me during the first time I moved here, but now I can finally feel at home here. The moral of this story is: if you want to learn an intricate accent or language when you move to a new country or you are experiencing culture shock, watch their cartoons or movies.