He was used for a laugh during “that” skit on Hey Hey It’s Saturday (now simply known as HHIS apparently) the other night, and he’s been quoted in print and on TV since, but there’s more to Kamahl’s argument against the skit than just one line quotes.

Crikey spoke with Kamahl this morning to get the full story:

Q: Were you watching Red Faces on Wednesday night?

A: No, I didn’t watch Red Faces at all, I saw part of the show earlier, but I didn’t see Red Faces until the subject came up afterwards and I saw it on YouTube.

Q: What was your initial reaction to the skit?

A: I thought it was unfunny, tasteless and given that Michael Jackson passed away not so long ago that was in very poor taste.

And always, whenever they do the “blackface” thing I don’t think it helps my basic insecurity, which is, always, that western civilisation uses the word black always with the negative aspects of life.

The only time black is good is when your bank balance is black. But every other time black is, “blackday”, and black this and black that and “blackface”, it reeks with negativity.

Q: What do you think about the reference they made to you during the skit?

A: I thought the timing was a bit unfortunate. They were sort of framing me in the same picture as such.

Put it this way, as an artist, as a reasonably respected member of the community, I would have preferred a better position (chuckles) at a different part of the show perhaps.

Given that I have reached a couple of milestones in my career this year, namely, this is my 40th year since I got my first hit record, and it’s some 50 years since I did my first television show, I thought they might have made something of that, instead of going the other way.

Q: Were you asked to join the reunion shows?

A: I was not asked to be part of the show but I was invited to be in the green room. I was invited, there was no airfares or accommodation provided and I didn’t think it warranted that.

Q: Have you been contacted by anyone from Hey Hey it’s Saturday since Wednesday?

A: Not from that show, only from Channel Nine News, to which I am going again today. They did a new item yesterday and I am now going to the morning news.

Q: You were a regular on Hey Hey back in the day. Why did you keep going back?

A: It’s like being a solider going into the mine field, oh I like that! Did you like that line? It’s like a soldier having to go into a mine field.

Q: So why did you keep going back?

A: Because I’m a soldier!

Q: 69% of Herald Sun readers said in a poll that the skit was neither racist nor tasteless. What do you think about that?

A: Oh well, that’s their opinion, obviously they are the Anglo-Saxon readers. The thing is to me, that was not a show of respect, it was derisive.

Q: The people who performed the skit were from mixed race backgrounds…

A: And so what? So it doesn’t excuse them. I don’t think it was a calculated attempt to be racist or anything like that. But what I’m saying, the unfortunate outcome of it is, it’s negative not positive. That’s the way I feel, I’m not saying I’m right in thinking that, that’s the way I feel.

The reason Harry Connick Jr. was so upset, to him, it reminded him of the past and how the negroes and the black people were treated, they were made to look like they were idiots.

And because I’m hypersensitive, it is not an advantage to be a black person in this world, it is not as great an advantage to be a woman because, there are prejudices. You know, I still have difficulty if I know it is a woman pilot, it’s a silly thing to say, but that’s in the back of my mind, this stupid notion, that if you’re man you are stronger and better and more intelligent, which is a whole a lot of nonsense.

Q: Well, that’s a whole other issue that I probably don’t want to go into right now. You were involved with Hey Hey when this skit was done 20 years ago…

A: I don’t think I would have been happy about that, never!

Q: Then why do you think it’s a issue today and not back then?

A: Because nobody brought it up. The thing is, I wasn’t going to jump up and down, and as I said to you, the reason this came up is because Harry Connick brought it up. And I agree with him 100%. That’s the only reason, because if you do something right or wrong, just because you did something wrong and nobody said anything about it, it doesn’t mean it’s right.

Q: Do you think Hey Hey is going to last?

A: It’s a show a lot of people enjoy and love. If I’m asked to appear on it, I’m not so sure.

I think if they are a little more sensitive to some of the people’s feelings. Humour, you know, some people do things to get a laugh, but I think there should be some sort of guidelines in how far you can push the envelope.

Q: Do you think that, as unfortunate as it was, that this incident will make our country, maybe a bit more socially aware about such issues in the future?

A: Frankly, as I said, the skit was not aimed to be racial, it just has been perceived by some to be like that. I think that, from my point of view, it was a harmless joke but it did create some harm and a lot of controversy.

Q: I guess what I was trying to say was, have we learnt our lesson?

A: Hopefully, hopefully! But it may not change anybody else’s mind really because, people in show business will do anything for a laugh, sadly, at the expense of others.

Q: Well on that note, thank you Kamahl.

A: But, and my last line as always…Why are people so unkind? Why couldn’t they be a bit more kinder? [chuckles].

Peter Fray

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