Sunday, 20 April 2008

93: Barry Humphries – “Brian Graham”

“Just a Show” 1968/1969

“Brian Graham, a neurotic young Sydney executive with a guilty secret, appeared in 1968 in Just a Show. I played the character in a blond wig, navy blue shorts -and long white socks, a ludicrous uniform which was so much in fashion at the time. that nobody thought it was funny. The scene was a modern office, desk, abstract painting, intercom and three telephones which actually rang.” – Barry Humphries notes in “A Nice Night’s Entertainment: Sketches and Monologues” (1981).

Woman's voice on intercom: 'Mr Graham, Mr Graham. Call from Sydney on the red phone. Call from Sydney on the red phone.' BRIAN Picks up the recover.

Thanks, Cathy, put them through darling.
Hello, Grahamco Fertilisers Brian Graham speaking. Can I help you? Hello there Mr Friedman, my father passed your letter on to me and I've just been chasing up the order. All I can say is that we've put you people on priority and we're pushing it as hard as we can. You people aren't the only ones unfortunately so I'd be very grateful if you'd bear with us for another ten days at the very most.
I perfectly realise that, Mr Friedman, but we're erecting a new superphosphate plant and a new sulphuric acid plant to cope with our future commitments so you'll appreciate. . - - Look leave it with me Mr Friedman will you?
Can do . . . I appreciate that.
Can do . . . I appreciate that. I fully appreciate that. . .
[He repjaces one receiver and Picks up another. ]
Give me my father will you Cathy?
Hello Dad? I've just had Friedman on the blower. He's getting a bit cheesed over the big Agralux order. I told him that, and I think I fobbed him off till after the weekend but he sounded a bit ratty. I think you better give him a bell on Monday, Dad. Look Dad, I can't possibly work back again tonight. I've been living in the office for the last fortnight finalising that big Queensland phosphate deal. If1 don't get in a game of squash and a steak sometime tonight I might as well move the cot in here. Give us a break will you Dad, don't be corny I haven't seen Pam for three weeks. I'm not even faintly interested in Pam,. look if you don't believe me or something you can come along to the squash courts with me and check up. Look get off my back will you Dad have you had the green light from Southern Cross Minerals? If they step up exploration in the N.T. we ought to be able to cut freight costs on double and triple super as well as water-soluble phosphorus pentOxide. Has the lab got any word on Henderson's soil test? Well we're producing a microfine lime with an average particle size of five microns so we ought to be able to cover a layer of root nodule bacteria and correct soil acidity up to a point. With the new anhydrous ammonia distributors we can treat approximately forty-five acres with a sixty-five hp tractor and if Henderson's won't buy that we can do them a more accurate soil test with the atomic absorption spectrophotometer but tell them it'll cost them for Christ's sake or they'll be screaming.
I have not got a female in the office. I told you I haven't seen Pam Cunningham for three weeks Daddo you have to keep niggling about that? I was in the office all night Tuesday. I called Mum. I was probably snatching a coffee when you rang so don't take it out on Mum. Now will you let me get on with it? Look I won't leave the office till I've squared Friedman so tell Mum I won't be in for tea. Look Dad, I'm over twenty-one for goodness sake I don't know when I'll be in I migl1t take in a movie.
[He holds the receiver at arm's length.]
Look Dad. . . if you don't calm down you'll give yourself another coronary. Just give me Friedman's home number. Cathy hasn't got it Dad, if you remember you tore her phone book in half yesterday proving your strength in front of that guy from IC!. What is it? [Writing] Fair enough. OK Dad. Bye for now.
Cathy, get me Mrs Drew Farell will you sweetie?
Hello Josie how are we love? Is your bloke in? Where is he, down
having a few with the boys? I'd watch that one if! were you. Is that that gorgeous infant of yours I can hear in the background? Put him on to me will you sweetie? That you Bennie boy what you do at school today kiddo? Fabulous. What she say' What she do to my Bennie boy? Well you tell Miss Elliott your big mate Brian will be up 'there after her with a big stick if she bullies you any more.
I'm coming up on Sunday Bennie we'll kick a ball around. OK handsome, for sure, be good.
Josie? Isn't he just too dolly? Listen, I'll make it on Saturday.
I'll drive up early. The old man's in the usual tizz down here, I'll come up and cry on your shoulder, listen sweet, do you want anything brought up from the big smoke? Sure? Tell that lovely he-man of yours Roger let me have a case of Sea view Cabernet sixty-three. Ought to go nicely with that tired old avocado salad. I'll bring up a few bottles as a little prezzie'. Big deal eh?
Oh Josie, you remember that b40ke who was just leaving when I arrived the other Sunday, no the quiet one not the architect. Was he a bit gay? No no just wondered that's all. You know me old sticky beak. OK sweetie. Oh sweetie there might be two of us will that be OK? No one you know, he's an old mate of mine from way back in the travel business just down from Honkers. I think you'll like him. Righto back to your chores. Bye now.
[He hangs up, pauses, then slowly dials again.]
Is that Adele Model Gowns? Could I speak to Mr Hatcher, no
Mr Hatcher junior. Mr Graham calling.
[He whistles a cabaret tune.]
Hello Mr Hatcher . . . It's Gloria here.

Well what about you last night! I bet you don't remember. You were well away by the time Vera arrived. Suckin' away at the old gin bottle - what sort of a hostess are you? And who was butterbox - who brought her? Where'd you dig him up from? Sydney eh, big deal. No I don't mean that matelot, had that years ago darling, I mean the number in the nursery curtains and the Minnie Mouse shoes. You 'should have seen her eyes when Trixie did her dreary old Judy Garland bit in her mother's tired old halter-neck silver lame fish tail. If that bitch trots that old number out again she's not coming to my next forties nostalgia party and that's for sure. And I'll tell you another charming little number I'll be scratching off the list: that bit of rough trade from Cyprus with the taxi, don't want Lil arriving.
Did you get those tickets for Marlene ? You got comps? Get you! What you have to do for that? When for? Of pooh, I told you I was probably going down the country this weekend. Josie and Drew's place. Andrew Fatell and his wife. He's not so Bessie Boring dads, he's always sending us up but I think it's a bit of your old still waters there, methinks he protests a bit too much that one - glass houses and all that jazz.
Josie's all right, she's brilliant. Well, yes, she is a bit of a drear I suppose but their house is camp in a fifties kind of way: split level, Grant Featherston chairs, stinky little Dickerson orphan - the full rubbed pine bit. I only go up there for the hoot.
[The phone rings.]
Hold on.
Hello Grahamco Fertilisers Brian Graham speaking. Oh. Dad.
I'm up to my eyes here.
I'll have to go I've got the old cockroach on the line. See you at the sauna at half past eight. You can give us a squeeze with your eyes.
Yes Dad, sorry I've been on the blower to Friedman again about that multigrade limestone order. Look I'll be in for dinner tomorrow night, Dad. Well why does Mum have to carry on like that? I didn't know she was having someone else to dinner. Look I've met Isobel, she's a drag. . . she's a bore. Just leave me alone, can't you? I can't help it if you were married at nineteen, I'm not you! Listen can you hear me, there's no one else in this office.
I'm alone.
[He slams down phone. Buries. head in hands. Another phone rings. And rings.]


Barry Humphries built his career in the late 50s and 60s out of satirical monologues. He exposed the fatuousness and clichés of vast swathes of Australian society. He began by caricaturing the older Australian suburban generation of his relations, with his Moonee Ponds housewife Edna Everage and his hum-drum nostalgic Sandy Stone. He then turned to his own contemporaries, mocking the laddish surfers, self-satisfied beatniks and trendy media-operators. Brian Graham was a character performed in Humphries’s 1968 tour across Australia and then in London in 1969.
The frustrations of Brian Graham must therefore have presented themselves as some new stereotype to Humphries.
If you want to be a little high-toned and critical, one could point out that Brian Graham is himself three different performances:
1 – the dutiful son as businessman, presenting a cracking façade to his family
2 – the genial fag to his off-screen hag
3 – the camp poisonous bitch
Which is the real Brian Graham? Does even he know?
Whether Humphries was in anyway influenced by “The Boys in the Band” (performed in early 1968) I can’t tell. But the character is certainly similar to those.

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