Last night on A Current Affair, Kamahl revisited a complaint he levelled at Hey Hey it’s Saturday two years ago in which he complained about being the target of gags.
In 2009 following the now-infamous Jackson Jive “blackface” sketch, media turned to Kamahl for comment. Having been a regular on the show this made sense. At the time he said “Hey, Hey is devoid of any real wit. It’s desperate. It’s toilet humour and it should be flushed.” Ouch.
Last night Kamahl again took aim at Hey Hey and Daryl Somers for years of ethnic comedy.
“How can somebody treat a person with this sort of background like that? With such disrespect?” he said.
“They didn’t do it to John Farnham or any of the others. All of their favourites they put on a pedestal, with respect.”
But Molly Meldrum, who was the target of gay innuendo and Jackie MacDonald, who was subjected to repeated “folks are dumb where I come from” gags, may not agree.
Everyone, including Kamahl, appeared to cop it on the chin as part of the show’s robust comic tone and won audience affection for being good sports. Hey Hey never purported to be Midday. It embraced its favourites with affection and yes, some cheeky, vaudeville comedy.
Comedy in the 1970s and 1980s applied different rules we would never accept today. Whether it was Hey Hey, Are You Being Served?, Kingswood Country or The Comedy Company, it is easy to look back now and frown upon what we laughed at. In many ways, we’re embarrassed about what society accepted as a source of comic mirth.
But that was then and this is now.
If Kamahl had such a problem with the show’s comedy, why did he participate in it so many times? He even traded off the “Why are people so unkind?” line himself.
Kamahl told ACA it was a catch 22, in order to promote his albums and tours he had to cop the gags.
“I wanted the exposure, but the quality of it was never what I had hoped for,” he said.
That exposure saw him beamed into lounge-rooms across the country when Hey Hey was a top-rating primetime show. Indeed, there are very possibly millions of Australians who are familiar with Kamahl principally because of Hey Hey -that has no doubt generated plenty of gigs ever since.
Hey Hey‘s only real crime was in 2009 when it failed to realise we had moved on, reviving gags about blackface and the weight of Red Faces contestants. Its enthusiasm for nostalgia got in the way of contemporary thinking.
But it has apologised for this. Why are we revisiting it?
Last night host Daryl Somers gave ACA a statement that said, “I am very fond of Kamahl and have the greatest respect for him and always will. And I think this is all rather silly.”
Last night, Kamahl conceded his wife had told him he was biting the hand that feeds him.
ACA host Tracy Grimshaw even added, “It’s a shame. You just wish he had spoken up sooner.”
First rule of comedy: timing.