Hey Hey faces the music

hhuIn the lead up to the first Hey Hey reunion there was a huge section of the audience screaming for live variety back on television. And they were right. They got it with last week’s seamless reunion show.

And there was another part of the the audience who reminded us the show had ended its 28 year run because it had arguably passed its use-by date. After the second reunion show, they may also have a point.

hhwThe Red Faces ‘Jackson Jive’ revival, which saw 5 men in black face -and one in fake white- might have been better left to the archives, particularly given the show had Harry Connick Jr. as a guest.

Connick Jr., who hails from New Orleans, sat grim-faced through the sketch, scoring it 0 points.

A polite Connick Jr. said, “Man if they turned up lookin’ like that in the United States….”

“You’re right actually,” replied Daryl Somers.

“It would be like Hey Hey, there’s no more show,” said Connick Jr.

hhvThe issue was so significant it resulted in an on-air discussion between Connick Jr. and Somers later in the show.

“It didn’t occur to me afterwards. I think we may have offended you with that act,” said Somers. “And I deeply apologise on behalf of all of us. I know that your countrymen …that’s an insult to have a black face routine. So I do apologise to you.”

“Thanks Daryl,” replied Connick Jr. “and I just want to say on behalf of my country, I know it was done humourously, but we’ve spent so much time trying not to make black people look like buffoons, that when we see something like that we take it really to heart. And I know it was in good fun and the last thing I want to do is to take this show to a down level, because you know how much I love this show and this country….. I feel like I’m at home here.

“If I knew it was going to be part of the show I definitely wouldn’t have done it,” he said.

“But thankyou for the opportunity. I gotta give it up to Daryl, because I told him at the break, ‘Man, you need to speak up, as an American. Not as a white American or as a black American, but as an American I need to say that.’ So thanks for giving me the opportunity.”

For better or worse, Hey Hey remained true to its history on both of its reunion specials.

Yes it brought back broad variety, spontaneity, madcap live television. It took us back to simpler times before recessions, terorrism and when the word entertainment became closely aligned with SMS votes and eliminations. To have strided into the GTV9 studio like they had never left was an achievement in itself.

hhsBut amid the nostalgia both shows were also punctuated by jokes about people’s appearances and race, particularly with the cartoons and subtitles scrawled on the bottom of the screen. Last week an overweight Red Faces singer had to endure the words “Deflate him” supered over his performance and references to “Super Mario.” The boy who smeared Vegemite over his body was branded “It’s Michael Jackson.”

Surely a contestant going on Red Faces knows they are in for a ribbing.

hhtBut the question in comedy, as other television shows are currently finding, is where to draw the line. While we are seeing a number of incidents of media running stories on distatesful comedy before the audience has had a chance to respond, it is also worth asking what post-mortems the Hey Hey team did after its first show before staging the second.

Hey Hey was also at pains to point out it had progressed to a modern era, with email, Facebook and Twitter. But does that include its comic sensibility too -or would that be a sell-out?

For Nine the questions it faces will be driven more by economics than morality, or any lack thereof. How will it package the show moving forward? Dismissing unanswered questions about its on-going cast, the show proved it has legs and an audience, which would seem to override politically incorrect hiccups. After all  The Footy Show is still here…

Meanwhile it seems clear there remains a ferocious majority of Middle Australia that adores Hey Hey and a polite minority happy to acknowledge its comedy as part of their youth.


  1. racism = clare werebiloff , what ever happened to that dear girl, working for the media or t.v. somewhere, lets rehash that blatant in your face racism at its best, whats the difference between her and hey hey, clare’s was not a badly timed and executed comedy sketch ,hey hey was, but everyone laughed clares views off as a joke and promoted her to the world of media work, so that obviuosly means that harry connick jnr is the real racist in this story or ossie ostritch, take your pick, dont forget its only a opinion that i am allowed to have in this day and age i hope ossie ostritch is not offended by my views

  2. Why are airheads complaining about a skit that was performed on the show somewhere in the 1980s?

    I thought they know better. But they don’t.

  3. the words that come to mind when I think of the so-called “Jackson Jive” is Jack Ass.

    I don’t think they were trying to be offensive so much as they were being insensitive. Then again, Australia is different than the US.

  4. @Amerie Well without tar on their faces how else would we have recognised they were the Jackson Five? Until reading it in Wikipedia most Australians would not have even known what blackface Minstrel shows were, it would have just bypassed the audience. Seems to me it’s just political correctness gone mad.

  5. Would everyone please give a warm round of applause for Amerie, official spokesperson on behalf of all black people everywhere. They, and they alone, have the authority to determine what is, and is not, “offensive to black people”.

  6. As a black person this was not funny to me I have no problem with them performing as the jackson 5 or wearing afros .But the jive talking at the begginging and the tar on their faces was unnecesary.When have you ever heard the jacksons talk like that.None of the Jacksons are that dark.This show has a history of minstriel shows.they were still doing them in the 70’s and 80’s .This crap is offensive to black people and if you find this funny then something is seriously wrong with you.

  7. Malik & David spot on. I learnt a long tiime ago that if I was offended, it was up to me to get over it. Its TV turn it off if your offended.
    Harry Connick Jnr is acting like a junior.

  8. The term “racist” has been used so many times to bash any and all disagreement (“if you don’t agree with me, you’re a racist!”) that it has lost its meaning. It’s like chanting a word over and over again until you can’t remember what it means. In Europe, anyone who doesn’t agree with the dicatates of political correctness is instantly stigmatized as a “racist” whatever their social/political opinions may be. Personally, I thought the act was a little tacky and that H.C. Jr. came across as a bit of a drama queen to tell you the truth…

  9. Tyler (10:16pm),

    Spend a few moments understanding the historical context for “blackface” & you will see why Connick Jr was right to express his distaste and why his performance from MADtv and that of Robert Downey Jr in that unfunny movie is different. Yes, it is different. If you cannot see that difference I’m afraid that you’re part of the racial problems that seem to plague this country. Not to mention the fact that we’re only adding to our international “reputation” (stemming from Cronulla, the treatment of Aboriginals & attacks on Indian students).

  10. Actually Tyler racist has no “e”.
    However one point people rarely think about because they are too busy being offended is this.
    If somebody says or does something that offends you, that is Your problem. What we have here in Australia is a group of very self-centered individuals running round saying
    “sir sir he has offended me, punish him, punish him, his opinion differs from mine”.
    Was it in good taste? That’s a matter of opinion. To all those who were offended, “grow up the world does not revolve around you”. If your offended by something, your the one who has to build the bridge and get over it.

  11. Wow! Reading most of the comments here with lines like, ‘this is Australia, not America,’ blah, blah scare me. I recognise most of the regular names on this site & I’m really getting to know you all now. Let’s just say I wouldn’t want to meet most of you in person – we could start another ‘Cronulla’ from this site!

  12. Kay..im 27.

    My point is, Hey Hey is on and it has rated. If there are comedy programs on Aust TV that were actually any good then they could be used as a yardtsick against Hey Hey.

    Unfortunately S&S, GNW, Rove rate really poorly and the humor is sporadic or non existent (i.e Rove). Rove is the worst and his laugh at anything studio audience is even worse..Kevin Rudd PM thing is sooo not funny, but they keep dragging it on. Hungry Beast is total and utter crap, undergraduate, political science major crap.

    Please someone show me this cutting edge humor that puts the Hey Hey style of humor to shame.

    Now I realise some Aust drama could be considered humor based on how laughable it is, but i’m talking about shows that were designed to make us laugh.

    I am not saying what Hey Hey did was right but just saying” it’s sooo not 2009 humor and” it’s sooooo a dinosaur” is fine, if you can show me the alternative, this cutting edge 2009 humor.

  13. I can’t believe the poor comments some people have mentioned regarding the Jackson Jive being racist,interesting to note that most of them are non Hey Hey fans interesting that It’s these sorts of comments that continue to keep society from making a step foward…………On more of a positive note well done to Daryl and the gang on another great show,no surprise the ratings were great.Now Channel 9 is up to you,obvious choice if you ask me.Money or not

  14. Lol, has the whole world gone mad? There was absolutely nothing racist about that act. I personally found it lame and unfunny like the rest of the show, but to suggest that it displays racial prejudice is just absurd. If you saw something racist in the act, then that’s your own doing, because there is nothing inherently racist about painting your face a particular colour and dancing.

    Dictionary.com (courtesy of Random House) lists three definitions of racism. I have edited them to make them more concise.
    1. Belief that race determines cultural or individual achievement
    2. A policy of government based on fostering such a doctrine
    3. Hatred or intolerance of another race

    The act in itself meats none of these definitions, unless you want it to.

    On another note, the reason why this act is considered largely acceptable in Australia and not in the US is that deep racist undercurrents still exists within American society (hence why the election of Barack Obama was such a big deal). Here in Australia racism exists within certain bogan trash minority groups, but the election of a black Prime Minister wouldn’t be seen as so revolutionary. This is why most of us feel completely comfortable with entertainment like this, because we know that neither the show nor the performers would ever attempt to impart a racist message. Most of us therefore understand that painting your face black and dancing is just that – painting your face black and dancing. If certain reactionary groups want to read some kind of racism into this, they should feel free to. The rest of us will just sit back and watch in peace, because after all – the colour of one’s skin should never be cause for concern!

  15. tasmanian devil

    David, here’s an idea. Why don’t you stop posting articles about these pathetic controversies and then we can all pretend that they didn’t happen and live in happiness. It’s really irritating having to endure people complaining about them. Firstly, I fail to see how the act was in any way racist. It was simply an act featuring people parodying a Jackson Five performance. What part of it was racist? What part of it portrayed black people in an offensive way? I think that sadly we have become so politically correct that even just a mention of black people or anything else “offensive” for that matter gets perceived as racist, sexist etc.
    Jane Doe: “So which person is he?”
    John Doe: “He’s that black guy over there.”
    Jane Doe: “That’s racist!”

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