A comic strip that follows the adventures of Barry McKenzie, a dinky-di but innocent 'ocker' who resides in the London suburb of Earl's Court with his fellow Australian mates. Their lives are filled with much beer drinking, insulting (and being insulted by) pompous Brits, and the pursuit (largely unsuccessful) of women. Barry Humphries's dialogue, 'rich' in colloquial speech, celebrates all manner of grotesque behaviour and attitudes.
After he comes into a small inheritance, Barry McKenzie (aka Bazza) decides to visit England with his aunt, which leads to many humerus and some not-so-humorous incidents with Poms from all persuasions and classes. As Andrew Pike and Ross Cooper note: 'The narrative offers a 'vigorous parody of the Australian "ocker," anti-intellectual, xenophobic, obsessed with beer and sex but never capable of relating positively with women, using a vernacular of prodigious vulgarity and inventiveness, and totally oblivious of anything beyond his own narrow conception of the order of things' (1980, p. 340).
In 1964, Nicholas Garland and a friend devised a strip about 'Alan Merryweather', a strong-jawed northerner who came to London. Although the strip was accepted for Private Eye magazine by editor Richard Ingrams, comedian Peter Cook (one of the magazine's financial backers) thought the central character should be changed to an Australian, with the theme of the strip being an 'innocent abroad.' Cook suggested Barry Humphries as the writer and subsequently introduced him to Garland. Interestingly, Humphries had previously made a 'gramophone record that included the plaintive monologue of an Earl's Court Australian who huddled together with his mates in an Anglophobic ghetto, drinking Foster's lager' (More Please, p.228).
The strip was re-named 'Barry McKenzie' (a combination of Humphries' Christian name and Australian fast bowler Graham McKenzie's surname). Garland recalls, however, that 'McKenzie's chin was taken from "Desperate Dan," and his double-breasted suit, striped tie and wide-brimmed hat were inspired by a group of middle-aged Anzacs [he] once saw marching down Whitehall during a Remembrance Day parade.' According to Humphries, the 'Barry McKenzie' strip was met with 'stunned indifference' when first published in Private Eye, but over the next few months he and Garland, along with Ingrams, nursed the strip along. 'The drawings became surer and my balloons bigger,' writes Humphries. 'Our hero had started soliloquizing rather in the manner of one of my long-winded stage characters... 'Bazza' spoke [however] in an invented idiom; a synthetic Australian compounded of schoolboy, [National] Service, old-fashioned proletarian and even made-up slang' (More Please, p.231).
Regarding their collaboration, Garland also recalls that 'in all the time we worked together we rarely spent very long deciding on the direction a new episode might take. Barry would introduce a new character or situation without necessarily knowing how the story would develop. He was more interested in setting up a joke or making an opportunity for himself to jeer at some element of English life that he found particularly repellent or fatuous.' Garland has also confessed that he 'usually drew in a tearing hurry,' as he and Humphries were paid only £15 per episode between the two of them and he 'could not [therefore] afford to spend too much time on the strip.'
Although Garland joined the Daily Telegraph as the paper's first political cartoonist in 1966, drew a weekly political cartoon for the New Statesman from 1971 to 1976, and contributed to the Spectator, he and Humphries continued to produce the 'Barry Mackenzie' comics for Private Eye until 1974. The series ended after a disagreement with the editor Richard Ingrams concerning the episode drawn for 8 March 1974, which according to one contemporary report included 'rather explicit lesbianism.' Although amendments were made, the series was subsequently cancelled, with Garland claiming that Ingrams had become bored with the strip.
(Information also sourced from British Cartoon Archive, University of Kent. Sighted 25 September 2009.)
In his autobiography, More Please (1992), Barry Humphries writes, 'The comic strip ran, with a few interruptions, almost until the end of the decade and spanned that period of the sixties to which the Press attached the epithet "swinging"' (p.231). This conflicts with Kent University's British Cartoon Archive, which records that the comic strip ceased either with the 8 March 1974 issue of Private Eye or the preceeding issue.