After writing a piece comparing what outrage would have occurred had Sam Newman made the same gaffe on The Footy Show that AFL commentator Ken Judge made on 6PR, this column ended by suggesting that the hypocrisy Geiger-counter was starting to make a funny noise after The Chaser team’s Governor General mannequin sketch in their first show back.

Well a week and a bit later, The Age and Sunday Age couldn’t have taken a more breathtakingly hypocritical stance towards The Chaser and their poor “Make a realistic wish” sketch if they had strategically tried.

The Sunday Age’s editorial (June 7) said in closing:

There is nothing funny about children dying in real life, but black comedy often is offensive, sometimes deliberately hurtful. Without it, we wouldn’t have South Park, Little Britain, even Summer Heights High. At the risk of outraging just about everybody, we hope The Chaser returns, outrageously.

Earlier in the paper they had an in-depth piece on the issue that took a similar apologetic stance, “Is it wrong to laugh at dying kids? Three comedians say sick jokes have their place.”

Pass the bucket while we remind ourselves the closing line from the sketch “why go to any trouble when they are only going to die anyway,” and compare it to the newspaper’s stance towards 2008’s most controversial piece of television, Sam Newman’s — also poor — Caroline Wilson/mannequin piece.

We had “Sam Newman’s stupid antics get official rebuke“, there was “Nine deaf to women over the Footy Show“, a tub-thumping editorial “TV show segment demeans women“, written by Samantha Lane with no disclosure that she is a panel member of the only other live AFL based comedy show Before The Game and thus had a strategic commercial advantage in seeing a rival TV show being weakened.

Lane also followed up with “Club Director Alberti Sues Nine Network“, again with no disclosure, there was also “Footy Show watches as ratings slip“, “Sam sorry for sexist stunt” and of course we had the obligatory “vote now” button with the hardly neutral “Are you tuning out?” yes/no button.

Now to state the obvious, the Wilson piece didn’t work, (having spent nine years with the show – 1996-2004 – with the majority of time as Sam’s producer, I probably cumulatively came up with more ideas and sketches that didn’t work than anyone else in the show’s history, so that’s on the table,) but compare the two and decide for yourself which is worse.

Then factor in:

  • The Chaser sketch was not live, so it involved the team writing, debating, filming, editing and reviewing it. The Footy Show piece was live air and clearly only small elements of the cast knew about it.
  • The now infamous Footy Show episode was Newman’s second show back after recovering from a prostate cancer operation. A 63 year old should be sharp as a tack in that situation shouldn’t he? While in Lane’s above mentioned pious piece, she attacked host Garry Lyon for “allowing it to continue”. At that stage Lyon was not only happy that his co-host was back on the show, he was delighted that he was still alive.

No, attacking Newman and The Footy Show has now become more clichéd than critics accuse the show’s humour of being. The latest bandwagon jumper is Sam Stynes, the wife of the Melbourne Demon’s president Jim, who was given the opportunity to provide the address at the official luncheon yesterday due to it being “Women’s round”, and totally fluffed it by using the stage to pull out a mannequin of the Footy Show star and attack him over a 15 month old sketch that he had publicly apologized for.

Meanwhile The Chaser has two weeks off to get some new material in the can and regroup. Make no mistake, the ABC’s decision was pure business, rather morally based given the cash cow that their DVD and merchandise sales are for them.

They’ll ditch the unfunny taped pieces from overseas, go back to their local stock in trade material, and in all probability it will be cack-funny like most of their stuff used to be.

And when they return, they can be assured of a very sympathetic run from one particular section of the media, who have decided that while a ill-judged live sketch towards one of their staff members is worthy of a public outrage campaign, a taped piece lampooning terminally ill children and the organisation that tries to help them and their families cope, is black comedy and should be treated sympathetically.

“Racetrack” Ralphy Horowitz is a former producer at The Footy Show, Sunday Footy Show, SEN & 3AW.

Peter Fray

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