Barrett was born in Bondi, Australia, the son of George and Marguerite Barrett. He left school at 14 to do a few odd jobs before taking on a trade as a butcher around the eastern suburbs of Sydney. He gave up his trade when a hind of beef fell on him and injured his shoulder. While he was on worker's compensation, he completed three writing courses at the WEA (Workers' Educational Association). When his sickness benefits ran out he worked in various jobs, DJ, barman, or went on the dole. His first writing job was gag writing for disc jockeys on Radio 2SM. He also signed on with a casting agent and started acting in commercials and television series and appeared in what he says are 'two classic A-grade clunkers'; the movies Bullamakanka and The Empty Beach.
Les Norton's Hawaiian holiday should have been just like in the tourist brochures: balmy days, blue seas, palm trees swaying in the moonlight. Instead, one of Norton's old friends turns out to be the biggest brothel owner in America. Through her, Les meets Mitzi Moonkiss and the Japanese Yakuza - lesbian geisha girls - and every time he puts his head out the door some boofhead US marine is looking for a fight. And somewhere in the middle of all of this, a crazed serial killer is on the loose with a bayonet. Aloha, Les.