Hey Hey BOOM!
Have we grown up as a nation at all in the past 20 years? There’s never been an event more perfectly designed to answer that question than last night’s Hey Hey it’s Saturday reunion special.
The Jackson Jive skit that sent Australian conversations into melt-down from about 10.30 last night is like a smelly time capsule that’s been opened up, in front of 2.6 million of us, and a guest no less.
And in case there was any doubt about it, the guest’s face immediately give away what a stinker it was. The Hey Hey reunion specials should now be put reburied for good.
We’ve had lots of reason to examine Australian attitudes this year. The Chk Chk Boom girl Clair Werbeloff and the ongoing attacks on Indian students have exposed the ongoing current of racism in this country.
The Punch’s David Penberthy wrote in the wake of Werbeloff’s “fat wog, skinny wog” star turn that the racism in Australia is covered with a thin veneer of she’ll-be-right humour.
When the Jackson Jive guys came out onto the Red Faces stage last night, however, they showed us what was considered hilarious two decades ago in this country and a lot of people were very embarrassed.
Our own red faces were probably intensified by the reaction of Red Faces guest judge Harry Connick, who sat stony faced throughout the skit, awarded them a zero and promptly said that in his native United States white guys painting their faces black and dancing around like idiots was considered highly offensive.
His presence, and the subsequent apology from Hey Hey host Daryl Somers, probably gave the Jackson Jive skit some context, and made the reaction bigger.
But I reckon, Connick or not, the skit was stupid, not funny, and should never have been included in the show. Hopefully we’ve grown up enough in 20 years that white guys painting their faces black and dancing around like idiots should be considered highly offensive.
That the producers thought it was appropriate demonstrates why Hey Hey died 10 years ago and probably should have stayed dead.
When The Punch posted at 10.20pm, soon after it aired, the first comment we got was “you might have read too much into this.” By the time Daryl Somers made his apology to Harry Connick around 10.50pm we’d been flooded with comments on both sides.
Many people couldn’t believe that a dodgy black and white minstrel act would get to air in Australian prime time in 2009, while a huge number thought everyone should lighten up. It also brought out of the woodwork some seriously deranged racists, who’s comments would never make it onto a mainstream website.
It was clear in that 30 minutes at least someone at Nine worked out they were now in a storm of their own making that had got totally out of control.
Later in the night on the Hey Hey Facebook fan page, which had 300,000 members, the moderator was desperately trying to manage the backlash.
“We’re not telling people to shut up. But Daryl does read this board and it will not go down well with him and he could think again about doing anything else.” Here’s hoping.
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