The whole point of political correctness was to stop people being mean, and there’s nothing mean-spirited in what we do. We make light of whatever’s out there.
“Some people see the social satire, and then there are some people who laugh at people doing bongs and burnouts. I just try and make stuff that’s funny and familiar to people,” says Fenech.
He defends his un-PC approach by claiming it’s indiscriminate. The first episode of Fat Pizza: Back in Business pillories Indian, Asian, Middle Eastern, Maori, and disabled people, as well as the archetypal Aussie bogan.
“The whole point of political correctness was to stop people being mean, and there’s nothing mean-spirited in what we do. We make light of whatever’s out there. No matter the context or the material, as long as it’s silly, it’s funny. It’s as simple as that. It’s the mystery of comedy – if it’s funny, you’ll forgive it.”
There’s a new ethnic group in the fictitious Western Sydney suburb of Hashfield, though, whose representation might not be so readily excused. The “African kids” appear as a terrifying angry mob. Fenech describes them as the new “boogie man”, replacing the Lebanese gangs he so portrayed in the first season, which aired on SBS in 2000.
“Let’s face it – it’s the stuff that’s in all the tabloid newspapers that trades on all that fear. The African gangs are a big, scary thing for a lot of people in Australia because the media’s creating that idea, so don’t shoot the messenger. If you can’t see what the joke actually is, I don’t know what to tell you.”
The mental health profession also comes under fire, with a scene in which Pauly Falzoni is diagnosed with a range of disorders.
“I am a mental health ambassador for various charities during the year. There are people who need access to services that will help their lives. But I do think there are a lot of people putting their hand up to say they’re ill when they’re not. There’s a disorder for everything.”
It’s partly this commitment to controversy that has earned Fat Pizza its cult status over two decades. When original cast members Rob Shehadie and Tahir Bilgic (both noticeably absent this season) toned down their shtick for a family-friendly timeslot with Nine’s Here Come the Habibs in 2016, the show lasted two seasons.
Of course Fat Pizza’s most famous original cast member, Rebel Wilson, doesn’t appear either, having long since flown the coop for Hollywood.
“I wish Rebel all the best,” says Fenech. “But I don’t think she gives us enough credit. She was with Pizza for five years, and her style evolved over all the stuff we did together. I think she should at least send me a Christmas card.”