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TV & Radio

Oct 8, 2009

The world sees red over Hey Hey's blackface

Whilst reanimating the fetid corpse of Hey Hey it's Saturday, the show's producers decided to also revive some ol' fashioned 20th century bigotry, by putting on a Minstrel Show. Pundits across the pond didn't quite see the funny side.

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Because Australia doesn’t cop enough flack for being a racist backwater, the good folk propping up the reanimated corpse of Hey Hey it’s Saturday decided last night that no nostalgia trip into the country’s murky cultural past would be complete without reviving some ol’ fashioned 20th century bigotry.

And so it was that, amidst three hours of tired puns, dubious puppetry and that very special Daryl Somers-brand of awkward ad-libbing, was this:


Yes. They put on a Minstrel Show.

And it seems a few people got a little offended.

And by “a few people”, we do mean “pretty much the entire world”.

Naturally, the fallout started pretty early on the pulse of the people, Twitter. Ironically, Daryl Somers himself had anointed #HeyHey and #Plucka as the “official” hashtags prior to the show, which ended up providing a neat little way of collecting the world’s grievances over the stunt.

The show’s 10:30pm finish time (which was more like 10:50pm, because three hours just wasn’t enough time to contain all that fun) meant it ended just in time for those across the pond to wake up to clips of the “sketch” buzzing around the social media web. It didn’t take long for the outrage to begin — and it came thick, fast and dripping with scorn and sarcasm.

In The Guardian: Harry Connick Jr weirdly unimpressed by Australia’s blackface Jackson 5:

In Australia, of course, it is perfectly acceptable, and we thank the nation for yet another important contribution to the annals of human culture.

For The AV Club: G’Day, Blackface!

In case you were wondering what the country of Australia in 2009 has in common with fictional 1960s advertising exec Roger Sterling, well, apparently, they share an unbridled love of blackface. Really, they just can’t get enough.

Still Fresh And Funny In Australia: Blackface, scoffs The Awl:

You know what never gets old for the folks on Prison Island? Blackface! Oh, how they chuckle!

And you know you’ve really cocked-up when the world’s leading media industry gossip snarkers, Gawker, project some of their particularly acidic bile in your direction:

Wow, an American is being the voice of cultural sensitivity? Australia must be really messed up.

And the fallout continues, from the likes of New York mag, Movieline, dlisted and more.

For the 1980s anachronism Hey Hey, it was a harsh lesson in just how differently the media works in 2009: just because your target demographic is slack-jawed suburbanites and pensioners, the whole world is now watching.

And once again, the whole cringe-worthy affair has hammered home just how out-dated the show really is.

On the upside, the international scorn virtually guarantees this is the last time we’ll ever see Hey Hey rear its tired, shoe-polished face on our screens again.

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58 thoughts on “The world sees red over Hey Hey‘s blackface

  1. Stivette J.B. Smythe

    O H G I V E M E A B R E A K !!! Get a life and liven up you painful catbum faced killjoys!

    LET ME LAY IT OUT FOR YOU SIMPLY. Firstly; The show was fun, I still have a smile on my face – didn’t know how much I missed seeing it until the last two weeks and was never even a die hard fan. Thanks HeyHey and Jackie/Ding Dong/Ozzie it was great you came back last night and joined the crew.

    NOW, the “incident” – I didn’t even think anything of it again until Daryl handled it perfectly by inviting Harry Connnick to explain and “have his say”. Not that most of us needed to have it explained – but given that he is American, a friend of Hey Hey and THIS WAS LIVE TELEVISION it was the right thing to do since he was upset. It’s no big deal – he’s cool, and we’re cool. And Journos can you HOLD THE SUPERLATIVES PLEAESE ! … I would hardly call it factual run a headline within 60 minutes of the show saying “Hey Hey Condemned” – give me a break! Your headline should have read “I Hereby Condemn Hey Hey”.

    Let’s all take a deep breath and remember this was not a Hey Hey skit or send up but an act on the often distasteful but often hilarious Red Faces.

    One loveable Aussie trait is that we don’t take ouselves too seriously and while respecting other people WE STILL LIKE TO POKE FUN AT OURSELVES and others. If you want and need everything dumbed down, controlled and your humour censored by government and/or religious leaders then move to Iran and leave us 2 million or so other viewers to have a laugh. Like yelling out at the football that your team are playing like a “bloody bunch of poofs” (while sitting next to your gay friends) – this innocent skit was just an “Aussie bitta fun”.

    Now for the more important issue – when is channel nine going to listen to us all and bring this fantastic show back. Chook Lotto was such a laugh and Plucka as usual was a hoot – the weird thing is I don’t even know why I love this show but that I guess is part of it’s magic And NO it is NOT a FLEETING infatuation…. Come on Nine and come on ADVERTISING EXECS – give them a run for a couple of years and we’ll show you we mean it!

    Daryl and Team – 2 million aussies know this was just a little hiccup caused by a small oversight re one of your guests – and the fact it is LIVE TV. Like spilling wine on an old friend at a party – the shirt dries, the party goes on – and after a few days we are remembering the party and not the spilt wine. Well done – we LOVED THE SHOW!

  2. Pedro

    The intention of the act was not to be racist, but humorous. To those not in the know, it unfortunately came across racist and that was the problem.

    Harry Connick may have had a point to make on this but made it poorly. Those who found it funny enjoyed the impersonation of the Jackson 5. Those who found it offensive thought it was parodying black people for being black. I don’t believe that was the intention.

    The trouble with the comments by Connick Jnr are they polarised people.

    I can understand why blacks could get their backs up over impersonations by whites – for a long time whites mimicked blacks for their skin colour and implied they were inferior, which is the great shame of the white person.

    Personally, I don’ think this act was racist. I say this keeping in mind that racism effectively insinuates that one race is superior over another. While there are some stuck in the dark ages who still hold this view to be true, I think a vast majority of Australians (and I mean a huge majority of Australians) are now are enlightened enough to know this premise is false.

    As such, if a white person being parodied by a black person, or a black person is being parodied by a white person, so long it is the character of the person and not the skin colour or race which is the punch line, I would not have a problem.

    One good thing to maybe come out of it is it could put the spotlight back onto the plight of our own indigenous Australians. It seems that ever since the apology everyone has moved on from their plight. Maybe this will put the spotlight back on it.

  3. Liz45

    I didn’t know anything about this until I heard it spoken about on ABC this afternoon. The usual comments were there; the ‘this is political correctness gone mad’ to ‘we don’t know how to laugh at ourselves, rah rah’?
    This is my idea of political correctness, which in no way resembles racism. To refer to the woman chairing a meeting as ‘Chairperson’ is being politically correct, and not calling her ‘Chairman’ should be obvious. However, sending up black people’s blackness and in a frivolous or demeaning manner, encouraging others to laugh at their blackness and snide beliefs of being less or lower than the rest of us, is racist! That’s it! It’s not rocket science, it’s not too hard for anyone with just the average IQ to understand – it’s racist! It called on the judges via the audience to laugh!

    As a woman who grew up as a blonde, I took exception to all the ‘blonde jokes’? They inferred that I had no intelligence; that worse than that I was stupid and a bimbo, thus entitled to be raped, villified, laughed at and treated as less than human, and certainly not entitled to equal pay for equal work. I found and still find those attempts at sexist humour offensive. Now all the idiots out there, the fellow travellers of racist attitudes and behaviour, if you can’t identify with black peoples’ reality, you probably won’t identify with mine. Perhaps the fact that I’m white just might be the difference! God knows how I’d survive as a black woman!

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