Hey Hey It Sucks

Channel 7 is planning to air a special celebrating the 50th anniversary of Hey Hey It’s Saturday, but I reckon they should give it a miss.

If you’re too young to remember, Hey Hey It’s Saturday was a comedy variety show that ran for 30 years on Australian TV. For much of Australia, Hey Hey was like a lovable member of the family, but over time it became an embarrassing uncle who dropped by every Saturday night to laugh at his own tired jokes for two hours. Tedium, however, was the least of the show’s problems.

Hey Hey It’s Saturday was racist, sexist and downright horrible. The only female on the show, co-host Jackie MacDonald, was cast as an idiot. Host Daryl Somers would introduce her each week, and the soundman would play the opening line from the show tune “Doin’ What Comes Naturally” (‘Folks are dumb where I come from’), which was Jackie’s cue to look directly into the camera for the millionth time and do her bimbo face.

Crude sexual jokes were routinely made at her expense, and at the expense of any other female who appeared on the show. If a female guest should happen to have large breasts, the cameraman would zoom in while the voiceover man, John Blackman, sniggered like a schoolboy. But overt sexism was the least of the show’s problems. Let’s talk about the racism—the blatant, revolting, in-your-face racism.

In 2009, I was living in the United States and apologising to Black people for something called ‘The Jackson Jive’. In October of that year, Hey Hey Its Saturday aired a return special (the show had been cancelled for a decade) featuring an act where men in blackface sang a medley of Michael Jackson songs, the lyrics altered for cheap laughs. Incredibly, these six men had done the same disgusting ‘Sambo’ routine on the show 20 years earlier. Fortunately, for Somers and Co.—and anyone else who somehow didn’t fucking get it—American musician Harry Connick Jr. was on hand to explain why blackface is not funny. Watch:

This moment in TV history served to cement any doubts the world had about Australians being racist. In fact, we were so racist, we didn’t even know it. An entertainer from another country had to point it out. Make no mistake, this was big news around the world and it did enormous damage to Australia’s reputation. For the next year, a month didn’t go by without a Black person asking me what was up with Hey Hey It’s Saturday. And now Daryl and the boys are coming out of retirement once more to celebrate the 50 years since the show’s inception (22 of which were spent off the air).

In March this year, Somers had the gall to tell the Murdoch press that Australian comedy had been neutered by political correctness and cancel culture, saying, ‘It is a shame because showbiz does not get much of a chance. A lot of comics can’t work much because what would have been just tongue-in-cheek previously now can easily get them into trouble,’ adding, ‘Our humour was never meant to offend anybody. It was always about having fun; good, clean fun, and we don’t have a show like that, that is reflecting the fun anymore.’ That same month, Somers was forced to make a statement apologising to singer Kamahl (who has not been invited back for the 50 years special) after the Malaysian-born Australian condemned the show for the bullying he received. ‘There were a number of instances where I felt humiliated,’ he said, ‘but I didn’t want to raise any objections or protest about it. I kept smiling and pretending all was OK.’ He tolerated the bigotry for the sake of having a career.

Watch the video below. It’s utterly appalling. And yet Somers and Channel 7 are still planning to unabashedly celebrate the show that every Australian with half a brain is deeply, deeply ashamed of—and to that, I say: Fuck off, Daryl.

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