Comedian Harley Breen, centre, stars in the four-part series Taboo.
Comedian Harley Breen, centre, stars in the four-part series Taboo.

Harley not too shy to tackle taboos

FEW people can make others see the funny side of racism, disability, mental health and terminal illness, but Harley Breen is a natural.

The comedian, who once called Bundy home, has a new show, Taboo, making its debut on Channel 10 tonight.

He's pictured in the centre of his cast from the show's pilot.

The four episodes feature people who have faced these issues first hand. They share their stories with Breen, who wants the public to focus on who they are as people and see past their circumstances.

"No one's normal," he said. "We're all a bit left of centre really."

The unique concept originated in Belgium and after Channel 10 aired their own version during Promo Week last year, critics raved about the hilariously honest and raw content.

"I'm interviewing people with a terminal illness and they're dying, but they gave me a whole week of their remaining life," Breen said.

"That's pretty full-on when you think about it."

Breen's ability to nail comedic timing and appreciate the serious side of these stories ensures he avoids blurring the line between a joke and going too far.

"I'm not laughing at them or encouraging bullying or anything. I try to bring a light side to an otherwise very dark journey," he said.

Breen appreciates that controversy comes with the territory of being a "white, privileged male who has it pretty easy" and hosting this kind of show. Comments on social media have already begun.

"I see the funny side to everything - you choose what does or doesn't offend you," he said. "We're all going to die, no one is off-limits, so why not make light of that?"

This is no word of a lie. Breen is known for poking fun at himself and filling his comedy routines with content about his own battle with mental health.

"I start a comedy show with 'If you don't have a mental illness, then get the f--k out'," he muses.

"I'm not going to claim to be this guy that tries to make the world a better place. I'm an entertainer and I'm not going to do something unless it's funny."

But beneath the larrikin persona Breen portrays, he is a genuine bloke who really likes to make people laugh.

He was once a carer for people with physical disabilities, further illustrating the kind of person he is underneath the layers of what he describes as "juvenile, schoolboy humour".

After hearing some of the devastating stories, Breen admits he struggled to keep the "funny'' going.

"Lucky I've got such a great family. I had a fair few mental breakdowns and ended up calling my dad daily to talk it out," he said.

The purpose of Taboo is to demonstrate that sometimes it's more offensive to avoid the pink elephant in the room.

Episode one of Taboo airs tonight at 8.30 on Channel 10.