Though she's unlikely to take it as a compliment, Lilley says his sister and her friends were part of his inspiration for Ja’mie, as well as the Sydney girls he grew up amongst once his private school went co-ed.
He tells interviewers that his sixteen-year-old niece and her circle provided more up-to-date inspiration for the character, from their self-choreographed (and self-important) contemporary dance pieces to their teenage parties, at which he made a point of being a fly on the wall.
Lilley spoke to Pacific Islander families and interviewed groups of Tongan and Fijian school-age boys, as well as to their teachers.
The way he tells it, he’s never experienced anything but warmth and good humour from the Pacific Islander communities about his representation of Jonah and his family.
It’s about finding “the rhythm of reality”, according to Lilley.
Creating Jonah Takalua also took a great deal of first-hand research.
Surprisingly, given his skills in composition, Lilley wasn’t a stage school brat, but as he tells it, an authority-avoiding low-achiever often taken out of class for one-on-one attention.
That 2005 series garnered awards of its own, and introduced recurring Lilley characters Daniel and Nathan Sims, rural twins one of whom is deaf, and Ja’mie King, a toxic, bigoted Queen Bee at an expensive private school girl.
After spending weeks filming with Ja’mie or Jonah, being presented with Lilley himself must be unsettling.
It’s uncanny enough for us to watch him, a man whose face and voice are simultaneously so many characters, interviewed as himself. Perhaps unsurprisingly given his own experiences at school, authority figures and the kids who struggle with them recur often in Lilley’s comedy.
Anyone who’s seen MTV’s monstrous , a reality show in which super-wealthy teens bully their parents into spending the GDP of a small nation on their birthday parties and throw tantrums when Beyoncé isn’t available and the brand new Mercedes they’ve been given isn’t the right shade of cream, will recognise Ja’mie King.
As for Lilley's use of Facebook, it explains Ja’mie’s unrelenting chorus of ILYs, FMLs and YOLOs.