The recent Wiggles interview on the Today Show is worth a look.

Give me the skivvy. Photo: News.com.au

Now in these matters I am no polemicist. Although I am used to politics, I am neither Team Sam or Team Greg. I have two young daughters who fall into the Sam generation, but most of our Wiggles collections (DVD’s, CD’s, books, toys and even videos) are hand-me-downs from the Greg era.

In fact the yellow Wiggle is a source of considerable confusion at home.

I am not even going to comment here on whether Sam had a fair deal or not or whether the Wiggles can and should expand to a quintet. The interview above is what some experts might call a PR disaster. But while we wait for the dust to settle, I think it’s worth commenting on just how refreshingly awkward Anthony’s performance was on the Today Show.

He broke all the rules: hesitant when he needed to be confident, confident when circumspection was the order of the day, and defensive when the interviewer Richard Wilkins was trying to help. Yes, he could have been better prepared.

But one complaint we do hear very often is how public life, and especially political life, appears to be entirely scripted. “There are no Bob Hawkes these days, no Paul Keatings”.

I fully agree. The current Federal Labor leader is about as spontaneous as the noble gases, and that is when she is talking about politics - her passion. Did anyone hear her commentating on the cricket during the Sydney Test?

The question of microscripted public life was addressed by Lindsay Tanner in his book Sideshow- Dumbing Down Democracy. Tanner said two rules now dominated Australian politics:

1) Look like you’re doing something
2) Don’t offend anyone who matters

Perhaps the sterility of official public relations has helped drive the success of public figures in the sphere of social media. As social media commentator Tommy Tudehope recently said on ABC radio: “...sites like Facebook and Twitter should provide an unadulterated, unscripted, and personal window into who a person is and what they believe in”.

Should is the operative word. As many users of can attest, most politicians use the twittersphere as just another avenue for broadcast and spin driven PR. Should a politician make a virtue of the fact that he or she spent the last hour and a half handing out certificates at the local primary school? That’s our job.

What would be my dentist’s equivalent tweet? Finally finished that root canal. Messy stuff. Better change the gloves…

Surely we are more interested in what our elected representatives believe or feel about a particular issue. However I am not one to preach. The pressures to conform to the PR norms are weighty. Less than a year into the job and I observe my Facebook status becoming more mundane by the day.

The outcry against the Wiggles makes me wonder: would people have preferred a more boring and buttery performance from Anthony the blue Wiggle? Were his raw, off-the-cuff remarks offensive? Or doth we protest too much?

If politicians and entertainers are to be more authentic, we’ll have to be prepared to be less gaspingly scandalised. Their ways and words are not so different to ours.

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40 comments

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    • marley says:

      06:22am | 23/01/12

      The interview doesn’t make me squirm because it’s raw and unscripted.  It makes me squirm because it shows a total lack of interest or concern for a guy who worked with them so closely for the last five years.  Off the payroll, out of sight, out of mind. Cold.

    • Kim says:

      07:43am | 23/01/12

      Yeah Marley! - he got cold, leftover potato.

    • DuffyMum says:

      07:58am | 23/01/12

      That’s exactly what was wrong with this interview and, tbh, the whole sorry saga. The only thing I squirmed about was watching Anthony digging this huge hole that kept getting bigger with every response he gave. But that is nothing compared to the perception that any staff member of The Wiggles is easily disposed of with any care or concern for the ex-employee’s feelings. The Wiggles portray themselves as one big happy family, but that doesn’t ring so true now. Yes, they are a business, but they are in a business that is built up on one fact - to make people (specifically children) happy. One word now comes to mind - FAIL!

    • SydneyGirl says:

      12:18pm | 23/01/12

      And that right on cue “I suffer from the Black Dog” from the Blue Wiggle smells.

      In the words of Mr. Knightley, “It was badly done, indeed!”

    • Kerryn says:

      07:11am | 23/01/12

      Can we end this whole saga please?  I can’t believe how stupid people are being, swearing never to buy Wiggles stuff ever again and so on and so forth. 

      Get over it people, Sam was never the yellow Wiggle.  Greg has and always will be!

    • DuffyMum says:

      08:39am | 23/01/12

      People are over it, or to be more precise, are over The Wiggles. The saga that is The Wiggles IS over (for those of us that have reached that point).

    • Yip says:

      09:49am | 23/01/12

      The Wiggles suck.

    • sir ronald bradnam says:

      07:55am | 23/01/12

      Well the shafted wiggle certainly got shafted. Funny I remember when he was introduced on Today Tonight and other informercial television 5 years ago, not once in any introduction or during the ritualistic handing over of the leaders yellow jersey (Bit like cycling really) was he ever introduced as Sam Moran the Salaried Wiggle he is just a hired hand and here to do a job only kids. Wiggles inc has showed itself for what it really is.

    • ibast says:

      08:24am | 23/01/12

      Interesting discussing between my 7 year old and my 4 year old.  My 7 year old grew up on Greg, but only ever got to see Sam in concert.  My 4 year old was definite Sam era but knew of Greg.  Both have lost interest in the Wiggles in the past 12 months.  Now they decided between themselves they want to go and see Greg in concert.

      Maybe the PR wasn’t as bad as some believe.

    • Nathan Explosion says:

      08:39am | 23/01/12

      Glad Greg is back. Never really got the appeal of Sam; he didn’t even do magic!

    • Blind Freddy says:

      08:50am | 23/01/12

      The Wiggles and McDonald’s toys - forced on the children by half-witted adults. There are a bunch of talentless child exploiters. . . . . . just sayin’.

    • Jackie says:

      09:17am | 23/01/12

      Bah Humbug, should we expose Santa while we are at it? The Wiggles are talented guys, the kids love singing & dancing with them, I tried reading Tolstoy to my 4 year old but alas, she was more interested in Dorothy the Dinosaur…

    • Blind Freddy says:

      09:30am | 23/01/12

      The false dichotomy. The Wiggles or Tolstoy- nothing in between?

    • Muttley says:

      10:06am | 23/01/12

      Lol, talentless? Yeah, you try creating dozens of dvd’s and a huge catalogue of songs that capture the attention and imagination of virtually all children of a certain age. These blokes are very clever and very good at what they do. But i guess you’ve written more songs? Perhaps performed to more kids? Made more millions?

    • Shane From Melbourne says:

      11:19am | 23/01/12

      If child can’t read Tolstoy by 4 then they are a failure. Mind you Tolstoy is a boring as batshit for adults as well. Try Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire…...

    • Jackie says:

      12:11pm | 23/01/12

      thanks for the suggestion Shane, i did try Ibsen but she was understandably disappointed upon discovering “A Dolls House”, was not about dollys, kids these days?

    • Eva says:

      09:17am | 23/01/12

      I can’t believe the wiggles are still going and appealing to either the parents or children. My children went to see them as toddlers and now they are fully grown, driving cars and riding motorcycles. Doesn’t that sort of thing get old and stale?

    • iansand says:

      11:10am | 23/01/12

      There is an unlimited supply of 3 to 6 year olds coming through.  The real genius of the Wiggles concept.

    • Dan Webster says:

      09:28am | 23/01/12

      I fell for the whole Wiggles BS. How sad to see the real motivation behind the Wiggles. Just another money making machine for those involved. “Hey kids make sure mum and dad buy this…”

      The blue wiggle is showing his colours….... (what a wanker)

    • Allison Brown says:

      09:45am | 23/01/12

      The Wiggles is no different a money-making machine than Angry Birds or Ben 10. Or the estate of Michael Jackson for that matter.  What really animates my six year old is mention of Julia Gillard - the totem tennis gets a real workout if he sees her on the morning tele.

    • Peter R says:

      09:55am | 23/01/12

      Nicely said Dominic but I agree and disagree.  While the value of oratory and the unscripted word is a joy, what is clear from this incident and the comments above is that unscripted, if it comes out wrong does enormous damage to your brand.  The comments above dont address your key points but rather reflect strong belieifs around the Wiggles Brand.  There will be consequences just as when Gambaro speaks on issues unscripted and yes Julia too.  Oratory is heaven when it all too rarely presents but scripts are safer when dollars and votes are on the line.

    • CJ says:

      10:01am | 23/01/12

      I’m still seething over The Beatles’ dumping stand-in drummer Jimmy Nichols after he filled in for a tonsilitis-stricken Ringo during their 1964 tour of Australia. How DARE they?

    • Markus says:

      10:01am | 23/01/12

      I seriously can’t believe the media have made such an issue out of this whole situation.

      Sam was hired to fill a role for such a time as Greg could get back to health and return to his role as the yellow Wiggle. Sure there was no timeframe on this, and it doesn’t make it any easier to leave a job you were clearly passionate about, but he was fully aware of the situation.

      He was not involved in the writing of any of the songs prior to his arrival, and only has writing credit on 3 songs since.

      Compare his departure to that of the original cast of High-5 to get some perspective on what being ‘shafted’ really is.

      The best thing Anthony could have done would be not even dignify this faux-outrage disguised as journalism with a response.

    • marley says:

      10:30am | 23/01/12

      It’s not the fact that he was let go.  That happens.  It’s not the fact that he was the hired hand, and earned less.  That’s fair enough, he didn’t create the Wiggles.  It’s not any of that at all.  It’s the way an employee who did his best was treated at termination - let go with no notice, and the people he works most closely with don’t even have the courtesy to check up with him afterwards.  You can’t sell yourself as a “feel good” organization and then appear so totally insensitive on TV, and not expect to get some blowback.  And deservedly so, in my opinion.

    • ibast says:

      10:58am | 23/01/12

      “I seriously can’t believe the media have made such an issue out of this whole situation.”

      Just the Telegraph being the tabloid muckraker it is.  The New Idea has more credibility than that used dunny role.

    • fairsfair says:

      11:00am | 23/01/12

      As an employer, don’t you have the right to forego a notice period upon supply of a payout? Didn’t they give Sam a payout?

      Whether or not Sam loving parents think that is sufficient is of no consequence - it is dependent on what was in his contract and if they did anything that breaches the agreement, Sam has the right to go back to them with his concerns (personally of via the appropriate legal channels).

      Re the workmates checking up with him - I don’t get it sorry Marley. Sam might have been a massive jerk for all we know. There may have been massive personality clashes off stage. They might have been desperate to get rid of him. Nobody knows. Nobody should care as it is not of anyone else’s concern.

      I am with Markus on this one. It is such a non-issue.

    • iMitchy says:

      11:03am | 23/01/12

      His contract was up - so he knew that it was going to be either stay or go.

      And by the way, Sam earnt less because he didn’t receive royalties for songs he hadn’t written. For the songs that he did write, I heard late last week that he is expected to earn $100K per year in royalties indefinately.

      Consider that most employment contracts have a clause that stipulates that anything an employee creates or develops on company time or with company resources during employment belongs to the company.

      He got a sweet deal that is nothing to be scoffed at.

      The Wiggles are awesome.

    • marley says:

      11:19am | 23/01/12

      @fairsfair - I’m not disputing the reasons for his firing, nor the compensation he’ll get for it.  As you say, leave that to the lawyers. 

      But I don’t think you can go on TV,  come across as a ruthless and uncaring employer who’s just sacked a long-time employee (and yes, that’s how Anthony did come across to me) and then blame the media for picking up on the contradiction between your public image and the way you run your business.

    • St. Michael says:

      11:23am | 23/01/12

      @ fairsfair: “As an employer, don’t you have the right to forego a notice period upon supply of a payout? Didn’t they give Sam a payout?”

      You can - if the employee agrees to it.  If they don’t agree, it can be seen as a summary dismissal, which is meant to be resorted to for misconduct like fighting on the job, drunkenness, ripping off $10,000 from the till, or shagging the boss’s daughter (or all of the above).

      Unfortunately there ain’t going to be any case in Fair Work Australia about this one, because FWA is forbidden to adjudicate dismissals where the employee was earning more than about $113,000 per year.  Which Sam, at $200K per year, was not.

    • fairsfair says:

      11:29am | 23/01/12

      I saw the interview in real time Marley and I admit thinking jeez Anthony, are you trying to come across that way. I agree in some respects, but at the end of the day - they shouldn’t really even have to talk about it with the media. It is what it is and they were probably just over it before it began.

      And also - Anthony answered that question several times and Richard Wilkins kept asking it. RW used the term “hired hand” and I think Anthony just agreed to it so that he would STFU.

      It is just a mountain out of a molehill.

    • marley says:

      03:23pm | 23/01/12

      @fairsfair - I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on this.  It’s not like they stumbled into that studio or were railroaded into it.  They went in of their own free will, made a hash of answering some fairly basic questions (no doubt why those questions were repeated) and have no one but themselves to blame for the negative fallout.

    • fairsfair says:

      04:18pm | 23/01/12

      I do agree with you Marley - they could have handled it better, but my issue is - why worry about any fallout. It is the media that is dwelling on it and if anything, beating it up.

      I have just re-read my posts too and they sound a bit efficious, which was not my intention sorry smile

      I thought blue Wiggle handled it poorly, but Yellow Wiggle 2.0 was handsomely paid out - I don’t see any issue from that front and I also can’t blame the Wiggles for expecting Greg to be welcomed back with open arms and for it to be the focus and it to be celebrated. He was a founding member and he left due to illhealth - I am surprised that he is not the focus of all this and it is not a overall positive story. He has overcome his illness and returning to the workforce, doing something that he was really good at and trained for. We don’t know what happened behind closed doors - but surely Sam was offered his understudy and other miscellaneous role back, be probably declined to accept it. It would be hard to take a severe step backwards but isn’t that show business (is that what they say wink)

    • FWG says:

      10:09am | 23/01/12

      I can understand your sons attitude Alison, the very sound or sight of her I want to heave a brick at the telly, the only thing that stops me is the cost of replacing the damm thing.

    • Real World says:

      10:47am | 23/01/12

      The guy was let go because he wanted more money and the company didn’t believe he was worth it. It happens every day, get over it.

    • Felix says:

      02:37pm | 23/01/12

      Sorry, not the case.

      In short, it was poorly handled by the original members who perhaps should have seen the public rection coming. Nothing wrong with the plan, just the execution.

      As for Sam Moran - he has maintained a dignified silence throughout the whole thing. Claims like “I heard he will earn 100K pa for eternity” are patently ridiculous.

    • Shaw Natsui says:

      11:47am | 23/01/12

      They certainly ‘wiggled’ out of the agreement.

      One potato, one potato, potato, potato….......potato.

    • holden says:

      02:08pm | 23/01/12

      If I had young children now I would consider taking them to a hospital, or a nursing home, or anywhere where they could meet, and bring pleasure to, someone who lacked visitors.
      They would learn much from that.                The Wiggles? If you only knew.

    • Jena says:

      07:29am | 27/09/12

      huh? you would take your kids to thwe hospital .. I don’t get it

 

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