Magda Szubanski

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Magda Szubanski

Szubanski at Tropfest 2013
Magdalene Mary Therese Szubanski[1][2]

(1961-04-12) 12 April 1961 (age 62)
Liverpool, England
EducationSiena College
Alma materUniversity of Melbourne
  • Actress
  • author
  • comedian
  • LGBT rights advocate
Years active1986–present
Notable workEsme Cordelia Hoggett in Babe (1995) and its 1998 sequel
Voice of Miss Viola in Happy Feet (2006)
TelevisionFast Forward (1989–1992)
Kath and Kim (2002–2007)

Magdalene Mary Therese Szubanski AO (/ʒəˈbænski/ zhə-BAN-skee;[6] born 12 April 1961), known as Magda Szubanski, is an Australian comedy actress, author, singer and LGBT rights advocate.[7] She performed in Fast Forward, Kath & Kim as Sharon Strzelecki and in the films Babe (1995) and Babe: Pig in the City (1998), Happy Feet (2006) and Happy Feet Two (2011). In 2003 and 2004 surveys, she polled as the most recognised and well-liked Australian television personality.[8][7]

Szubanski has spoken openly about her struggles with intergenerational trauma, anxiety and suicidal ideation in her teens.[9] She became an activist for LGBT rights and, in 2017, advocated for same-sex marriage in Australia.[10] In 2015, Szubanski released her memoir, Reckoning.[11]

Early life and education[edit]

Szubanski was born on 12 April 1961, in Liverpool, England.[12] Her mother Margaret (née McCarthy) is Scottish-Irish and came from a poor family. Her father, Zbigniew Szubanski, came from a well-off Polish family and was an assassin in a counter-intelligence branch of the Polish resistance movement in World War II.[13][9][14][15] She is a cousin of Polish actress Magdalena Zawadzka.

She attended Siena College, Melbourne.[13] In 1976, as a Year 10 student, she captained a team on the television quiz show It's Academic.[16] Szubanski studied fine arts and philosophy at the University of Melbourne and, decades later, in 2016, attained a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Arts (degree with honours).[17]



Szubanski in character at the Kath & Kimderella film premiere, August 2012

Szubanski was a writer and performer of sketch comedy. In 1985, while performing in a University of Melbourne revue of Too Cool for Sandals, Szubanski, Michael Veitch, Tom Gleisner and others were talent-spotted by Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) producers, which led to The D-Generation television sketch comedy show.[18]

Szubanski was one of the creators and performers of the Fast Forward television sketch comedy for the Seven Network, in which she played various characters, including Pixie-Anne Wheatley, Chenille from the Institute de Beauté, Wee Mary MacGregor, Joan Kirner, Michelle Grogan. The character of Lynne Postlethwaite was first performed on the ABC's The D-Generation. It was originally written by John Allsop and Andrew Knight, but from Fast Forward on Szubanski co-wrote the sketches, and created and co-wrote her characters.

In 1995, she and friends Gina Riley and Jane Turner wrote, performed and produced the first all-female Australian sketch comedy television program; Big Girl's Blouse. When Riley and Turner developed sketch-characters they had created into the sitcom Kath & Kim, Szubanski joined them to play Sharon Strzelecki, a character she had previously created.[19] That same year, Szubanski hosted the 37th Australian Film Institute Awards.[20]

In 1999, Szubanski created, wrote, co-produced and played Margaret O'Halloran in the Dogwoman series of TV films, a detective style show based on the idea an expert "dog-whisperer" who, by treating problem dogs, inadvertently stumbles upon and solves human crimes.

Sharon Strzelecki is one of Szubanski's most developed characters

In 2009, she appeared on Who Do You Think You Are? where she explored her father's Polish Resistance activities as well as the story of her shell-shocked Irish grandfather and her sculptor ancestor Luigi Isepponi who assisted in making the Death mask for William Burke, half of the duo Burke and Hare, notorious grave robbers and serial killers.

From 3 September 2018, Szubanski recurred as Jemima Davies-Smythe on Neighbours. Her character officiated the first same-sex wedding on Australian television.[21]

On 8 April 2019, she appeared as "Guest Announcer" on Chris & Julia's Sunday Night Takeaway's season finale where she participated in a number of roles.

On 9 March 2021, Szubanski was announced as the host of the Nine Network's revival of The Weakest Link. Initially due to premiere on 4 May 2021, it instead premiered on 25 May following a tight production schedule.[22][23][24]


Szubanski performed in the 1995 film Babe as Esme Hoggett. She reprised her role in the 1998 sequel, Babe: Pig in the City. She then teamed up again with director/producer George Miller to voice the role of Miss Viola in the animated films Happy Feet and Happy Feet Two.

In 2007, she had a minor role as Mrs Lonsdale, the housemaid in The Golden Compass to Lyra Belacqua.

Musical theatre[edit]

In 2007, Szubanski ventured into musical comedy, taking on the role of William Barfee in the Melbourne Theatre Company production of the hit Broadway musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Variety described her performance as "sensationally good".[25] Australian Stage said, "Magda Szubanski as the Eric Cartman-esque William Barfee steals the show."[26]

In 2008, she again participated in some gender-blind casting, taking on the role of pint-sized gangster Big Jule in a major stage production of Guys and Dolls.

In 2010, she appeared in the first Indigenous musical film Bran Nue Dae as Roadhouse Betty alongside Geoffrey Rush, Ernie Dingo, Missy Higgins and Deborah Mailman. The film was directed by Rachel Perkins, daughter of the Aboriginal activist Charlie Perkins.

In 2012, she again teamed with Rush to appear in the Stephen Sondheim musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.


In 2020, Szubanski was the painted subject of Wendy Sharpe's Archibald Prize entry, a portrait painting competition held by the Art Gallery of New South Wales. In Sharpe's painting, Comedy and Tragedy, Szubanski is depicted as Sharon Strzelecki, standing amongst flaming buildings during an air raid.[27]

The painting achieved finalist status in the competition; and in an interview with AGNSW, Sharpe commented:

After an intense conversation with Magda in my Sydney studio, I decided to change my original concept for the portrait and painted her as a despairing version of her comic character/alter ego Sharon. Magda is haunted by her father’s traumatic experiences in World War II in the Polish resistance, and by current world events.’ [27]

Other projects[edit]

In 2004, Szubanski advertised the airline Jetstar.[8] Szubanski became a spokesperson for the dieting company Jenny Craig in November 2008.[28] Szubanski joined Jenny Craig weighing 110 kg and had been diagnosed with sleep apnoea.[28] By July 2009, she had lost 36 kg to weigh 85 kg.[29] She later regained weight, then was dropped as a spokesperson for Jenny Craig. However, subsequent weight loss led to her being re-signed as their spokesperson. She was later again dropped from Jenny Craig. She was also featured in commercials for Telstra in 2014. In 2019, she appeared in an Uber Eats ad in her Sharon Strzelecki character with a "Kim", referencing fellow Kath & Kim character Kim Craig, but who turns out to be Kim Kardashian.


In 2015, Szubanski released a memoir, Reckoning, in large part about her father, Zbigniew Szubanski who was a World War 2 Polish Resistance assassin, and dealing with themes of intergenerational trauma, possible genetic inheritance of traumatic memory and Szubanski's struggles with her own sexuality. The book won the TBA[30] and $40,000 Douglas Stewart Prize for Nonfiction[31] and "Book of the Year" and "Biography of the Year" at the Australian Book Industry Awards. Reviewer Peter Craven, in The Australian, said it would "dazzle every kind of reader" and described it as "a riveting, overwhelmingly poignant autobiography by a woman of genius. It is a book about how someone might live with the idea of killing the thing they love. It is a story of love and death and redemption and a daughter's love for her father. It is an extraordinary hymn to the tragic heroism at the heart of ordinary life and the soaring moral scrutiny of womankind. Every library should have it, every school should teach it."[32] Richard Ferguson in The Sydney Morning Herald wrote, "This is documentary writing of the highest order and Szubanski has given life to an incredible war story…Reckoning, this tale of war and suburbia, sexuality and comedy" and referred to Szubanski as an A-grade non-fiction writer.[33]

Actor and friend Geoffrey Rush launched her book and wrote in The Guardian: "I was absorbed in preparing for King Lear when I read the book. The classical stature of that particular father-daughter relationship didn't go unnoticed. Magda grew up in the shadow of a difficult reckoning — the summation, the questioning, the Elizabethan sense of settling the bill with one's parents. As she phrases it: her father needed to forget— she needed to remember. The only way forward was back. Her book riffs a major life in a reflective minor key. I've got lost in Joyce's Dublin, Woolf's Bloomsbury, the Bronte Sisters' Yorkshire moors. Now I'm enthralled with Magda Szubanski's Croydon, Australia's own collective sub-conscious suburb, the architecture of which she deftly anoints as Bauhaus's "bastard child"...Reckoning is really a non-fiction novel – and its invitation into Magda's story is infectious."[34] The Premier's Award[clarification needed] judges[who?] described Reckoning as 'warm, clear, wise, funny and deeply intelligent. The amplitude of Szubanski's writing is particularly impressive. Her voice has a light surety, while constantly giving narrative and moral weight to the larger themes of grief, family, migration and finding one's place in the world'."[35]

Children’s Literature[edit]

Szubanski is the author of “Timmy the Ticked Off Pony”, a series of children’s books illustrated by Dean Rankine.


In 2019, Szubanski was appointed an officer in the general division of the Order of Australia (AO) "for distinguished service to the performing arts as an actor, comedian and writer, and as a campaigner for marriage equality."[36]

LGBT rights activism[edit]

Szubanski has been a vocal campaigner for LGBT rights and for same-sex marriage since coming out publicly.[37] She is patron of the LGBT group, Twenty/10.[38]

During the same-sex Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey, Szubanski was interviewed on several TV shows advocating for a "Yes" result.[39] The co-chair of Australian Marriage Equality[who?] rated her crucial in the success of the "Yes" campaign.[40] Some[who?] have credited her contribution to the same-sex marriage survey as having been "crucial"[40] to the outcome. Her appearance on Q&A[41] is considered by some[who?] to be pivotal in the debate.[42] Her National Press Club address, entitled "What It Feels Like To Be An Unwilling Human Guinea Pig In A Political Experiment", spoke of the pain as well as the joy experienced by LGBT people throughout the duration of the survey.[citation needed]


In 2020, Szubanski and Will "Egg Boy" Connolly raised $190,000 for bushfire affected communities and together with trauma experts co-founded "Regeneration", a creative arts project to provide mental-health support.[43]

In 2013, Szubanski became the Patron of "Twenty10".[44]


In the 90's Szubanski did blackface for a television show which aired on the Seven Network. [45]

In 2019, Szubanski was involved in a campaign targeting Christian preacher and rugby league football player Israel Folau after he called on homosexuals to "repent of their sins and turn to God". Szubanski prominently launched an appeal to fund opposition to Folau. After Szubanski was criticized, Folau called for an end to on-line attacks on Szubanski.[46]

In 2020, the Commissioner for eSafety, Julie Inman Grant, told senate estimates that Szubanski had been the target of " right-wing extremist attacks" after she appeared in a COVID safety ad.[47]

In April 2021 Szubanski faced criticism and calls for her to hand back the award which had appointed her officer in the Order of Australia (AO) after she criticised the appearance of Jenny Morrison, wife of the Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison. Commenting on the Morrisons in a photograph of the Prime Minister signing a condolence book after the death of Prince Philip, Szubanski compared the Prime Minister's wife's appearance to a character in a fictional religious extremist society of sex slaves from the series The Handmaid's Tale.[48][49][50][51][4][52]

Personal life[edit]

On 14 February 2012, Szubanski came out in a statement supporting same-sex marriage and stated that she "absolutely identifies as gay" in an interview on Australian TV current affairs program The Project.[53][54] Szubanski has described herself as "culturally Catholic".[55]



Year Title Role Notes
1986–1987 The D-Generation Various characters
1988 The D-Generation Goes Commercial Various characters
1989–1992 Fast Forward Pixie-Anne Wheatley, Chenille, Joan Kirner, Mary McGregor, Maggie T & Satan's Brides
1992 Bligh Betsy Bligh
1993 Full Frontal Various characters
The Making of Nothing Judith Gates/Kim Borrodale
A Royal Commission into the Australian Economy Mr Cardigan, Mr Trouser, Bill Kelty
1994 Big Girl's Blouse Herself, Sharon Karen Strzelecki, Lynne Postlethwaite [19]
1995 The Search for Christmas Herself
1996 The Genie from Down Under Doris
1997 Good Guys, Bad Guys Bella Bouvier
1998 Something Stupid Various characters
1999–2001 Farscape Furlow
2000–2001 Dogwoman Margaret O'Halloran
2002–2007 Kath & Kim Sharon Karen Strzelecki, Lorraine Craig
2006 Magda's Funny Bits Mary McGregor, Chenille, Sharon Karen Strzelecki, Lynne Postlethwaite
2009 The Spearman Experiment Host
2010 Who Do You Think You Are? Herself
2014 Rake Helen
Legit Anne Jefferies
It's a Date Mary-Angela
2015 Open Slather Various characters
Stop Laughing... This Is Serious Herself
2016 Anh's Brush with Fame Herself Series 1 Episode 1[56]
Q&A Herself (19 September 2016)[57]
2017 Q&A Herself 23 October
2018 Neighbours Jemima Davies-Smythe 11 episodes
2019 Chris & Julia's Sunday Night Takeaway Herself: Guest Announcer Season Finale: 14 April
2019 My Life Is Murder Miranda Lee Episode: "Old School";
Series 1 Episode 7
2021–2022 Weakest Link (Australia) Herself [58]
2022 After the Verdict Margie
2022 God's Favorite Idiot Bathroom God
2022 Magda's Big National Health Check Herself Documentary[59]


Year Title Role Notes
1995 Babe Esme Cordelia Hoggett
1998 Babe: Pig in the City Esme Cordelia Hoggett
2002 The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course Brozzie Drewitt
2005 Son of the Mask Neighbour Betty
2006 Happy Feet Miss Viola Voice
2007 Dr Plonk Mrs. Plonk
Goodnight, Vagina Mrs. March Short
Little Deaths Iris
The Golden Compass Mrs. Lonsdale
2010 Bran Nue Dae Roadhouse Betty
Santa's Apprentice Beatrice Voice
2011 Happy Feet Two Miss Viola Voice
2012 Kath & Kimderella Sharon Karen Strzelecki
2013 Goddess Cassandra Wolfe
2017 Three Summers Queenie
2018 The BBQ The Butcher
2019 Ride Like a Girl Sister Dominique
2020 100% Wolf Mrs. Mutton Voice




  • Won the 'Most Popular Comedy Personality' award at the 1991, 1992 and 1996 Logie awards
  • Won the Australian Film Institute's award 'Best Actress in a Supporting or Guest Role in a Television Drama' award in 2002[60]
  • Nominated 'Best Family Actress' OFTA Film Awards 1999
  • Nominated for the 'Most Popular Actress' award at the 2005 Logie Awards, for her role in Kath & Kim
  • Nominated for 'Best Actress in a Supporting or Guest Role in a Television Drama or Comedy' award in 2003 at the AFI Awards
  • Nominated for 'Best Actress in a Supporting or Guest Role in a Television Drama or Comedy' award in 2004 at the AFI Awards
  • Nominated for 'Best Female actor in a Musical' at the 2006 Helpmann Awards for her role in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
  • Nominated for 'Female Actor in a Featured Role' at the 2006 Green Room Awards for her role in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
  • Nominated Silver Logie 'Most Popular Actress' in Kath & Kim 2008
  • Nominated for 'Best Actress Supporting Role' Film Critics Circle of Australia Awards 2014 for 'Goddess'


  • Winner – Awgie Award for sketch comedy BIG GIRL'S BLOUSE
  • Winner – Awgie Award FAST FORWARD Writing team best Comedy/Revue/Sketch, 1990, 1991
  • Winner, Nielsen BookData Booksellers Choice Award, 2016 award
  • Winner, Book of the Year, Australian Book Industry Awards, 2016 award
  • Winner, Biography of the Year, Australian Book Industry Awards, 2016 award
  • Winner, Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction, NSW Premier's Literary Awards, 2016 award
  • Winner, Indie Award for Non-Fiction, 2016 award
  • Winner, Victorian Community History Award Judges' Special Prize, 2016 award
  • Shortlisted, Matt Richell Award for New Writer of the Year, Australian Book Industry Awards, 2016 award
  • Shortlisted, Dobbie Literary Award, 2016 award
  • Shortlisted, National Biography Award, 2016


  • Winner, Liberty Voltaire Award for Free Speech, 2018[61]
  • Winner, Excellence in Women's Leadership Victoria, 2018[62]
  • Officer of the Order of Australia (AO), 2019[36]
  • Nominated, Victorian Australian of the year, 2017[63]
  • Australia Post, Australian Legends of Comedy stamp series, 2020[64]


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  2. ^ Szubanski, Magda (2015). Reckoning. Text Publishing. p. 82.
  3. ^ Cain, Sian (23 November 2016). "Magda Szubanski: 'Some of the things my father told me were unbearable'". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  4. ^ a b Lambert, Tarla (15 April 2021). "'They are really going to come for me now': Magda Szubanski Defends Comments Made Against Jenny Morrison". Women's Agenda. Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  5. ^ Taylor, Josh (21 October 2020). "Magda Szubanski Targeted By Coordinated 'Avalanche of Hate' From Rightwing Extremists over Covid Mask Ad". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 June 2021.
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  9. ^ a b McMahon, Kate (15 February 2012). "Magda Szubanski had suicidal thoughts over sexuality". Retrieved 11 March 2014.
  10. ^ "'Human guinea pigs': Magda Szubanski calls same-sex marriage survey 'political experiment'". SBS News. 29 November 2017. Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  11. ^ Herbertson, Lisa (16 November 2015). "Magda Szubanski gets serious as she releases autobiography called Reckoning". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  12. ^ England & Wales, Birth Index: 1916–2005 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2008. Original data: General Register Office. England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes. London, England: General Register Office.
  13. ^ a b Craven, Peter (10 November 2007). "There's something about Magda". The Age. Retrieved 11 March 2014.
  14. ^ "New Australian Who Do You Think You Are?®: Magda Szubanski". Blog. 26 November 2010. Retrieved 24 November 2016.
  15. ^ Szubanski, Magda (18 March 2014). "Reclaiming Fear". The Moth. Retrieved 23 March 2014.
  16. ^ Burnstock, Tammy. "It's Academic – Episode 40: Curator's notes". Australian Screen. National Film and Sound Archive, Australia. Retrieved 11 March 2014.
  17. ^ Systems, Student Management (28 June 2006). "Student Information System". Retrieved 16 September 2018.
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  34. ^ Rush, Geoffrey (14 October 2015). "The chameleon comedian who charmed a country: Geoffrey Rush on Magda Szubanski". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  35. ^ Wyndham, Susan (20 May 2016). "Magda Szubanski's memoir Reckoning finds its place in the world of winners". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  36. ^ a b Derkley, Evahn (25 January 2019). "Australia Day 2019 Honours List". Retrieved 12 May 2021.
  37. ^ Quinn, Karl (15 February 2012). "Gay-gay-gay-gay - Magda comes out". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  38. ^ "Who We Are - Patron Magda Szubanski - Twenty10 Inc GLCS NSW". Twenty10 inc GLCS NSW.
  39. ^ Moran, Rob (24 August 2017). "Magda Szubanski in tears on The Project over marriage equality vote". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  40. ^ a b Lallo, Michael (15 November 2017). "Marriage equality: Magda Szubanski's crucial role in yes victory". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 16 March 2018.
  41. ^ "Szubanski challenges Archbishop in Q&A same-sex marriage episode". ABC News. 24 October 2017. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  42. ^ Palin, Megan. "Magda Szubanski nails same-sex marriage debate on Q&A". Retrieved 12 June 2021.
  43. ^ "Unlikely partnership between Magda Szubanski and 'Egg Boy' helping to heal bushfire-hit communities". ABC News. 15 March 2021.
  44. ^ "Our Patron and Ambassadors". Twenty10 inc GLCS NSW. Retrieved 6 June 2021.
  45. ^
  46. ^ "Israel Folau defends Magda Szubanski, calls for end to online attacks". SBS News. 7 January 2019. Retrieved 12 June 2021.
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  52. ^ Maley, Jacqueline (2 May 2021). "When is it OK to Criticise a Prime Minister's Spouse?". The Age. Retrieved 3 June 2021.
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  54. ^ "Magda Szubanski 'absolutely' identifies as gay". The Daily Telegraph. 15 February 2012.
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  56. ^ "Anh's Brush With Fame - Series 1 Ep 1 Magda Szubanski : ABC iview".
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  58. ^ "Weakest Link returns with new host Magda Szubanski". Retrieved 26 June 2021.
  59. ^ "Magda's Big National Health Check". ABC iview.
  60. ^ "Australian Film Institute, Past Winners, Television 1986–2006" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 November 2007. Retrieved 20 November 2020.
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  62. ^ "2018 State Award Winner Magda Szubanski". Retrieved 26 April 2019.
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Further reading[edit]

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