Australia: Tribute to Michael Jackson gives PC loons the jitters

Channel Nine apologises for Hey, Hey it’s Saturday blackface Michael Jackson sketch

We’re all wacist, dont’cha know…


Herald Sun/Siobhan Duck, Xanthe Kleinig

UPDATE: 8.34am: JULIA Gillard has defended the Hey Hey It’s Saturday blackface skit, saying it was done with good intent.

Andrew Bolt: TV network was stupid


The deputy Prime Minister, who is in the United States at the moment, said Hey Hey skits had always been done in the right spirit.

Michael Jackson, in the dock several times for pedophilia, changed his name to Mikaeel when he became a Muslim. As we all know, Islam condones pedophilia…

“I think Hey Hey It’s Saturday in its heyday was known for a sense of humour, obviously I think whatever happened was meant to be humourous and would be taken in that spirit by most Australians,” Ms Gillard said.

Her comments come as the Nine Network apologised after Australia was branded a racist backwater over the blackface skit.


But host Daryl Somers said the Red Faces send-up of Michael Jackson was just a “bit of fun”.

While Australians were divided over the merits of the sketch, US and UK media and websites called it a disgrace.

The backfiring skit also attracted more than 1000 comments on the yesterday.

And more than 30,000 people have also voted in our News Ltd online polls across the country, with most saying it was neither racist, nor tasteless.

A spokesman for the Nine Network issued a brief apology yesterday.

“It was never intended to offend and we regret any offence the Red Faces act caused,” he said.

More than 2.2 million viewers tuned in to watch the second reunion show, featuring the original Hey Hey team of Somers, Jacki MacDonald and Ossie Ostrich.

But it was a group of Sydney doctors — from mixed ethnic backgrounds — who wore afro wigs and black facepaint that was making headlines around the world.

Reprising its act from 20 years ago, the group’s Jackson Jive gig outraged guest judge Harry Connick Jr, who gave the act a zero.

He said if the skit had appeared on US television the broadcast would have been terminated.

Somers, hoping to secure a permanent future for Hey Hey, defended the show.

“It was just a bit of fun,” he said yesterday.

“It was a tribute to Michael Jackson and I think from an Australian audience point of view, they see the lightness of it. But as I said, I understood Harry’s feelings towards it.”

Connick said yesterday he harboured no hard feelings towards Somers, Australia or even the Jackson Jive performers, who also apologised.

But veteran entertainer Kamahl called for Hey Hey to be “flushed” after he, too, was mocked for his Malaysian heritage.

During the controversial sketch, a cartoon flashed on screen with the words “Where’s Kamahl?”

“It’s really just a desperate attempt at notoriety and publicity,” he said.

“I used to laugh along when I was a guest, but deep down I was thinking ‘why are people so unkind?’

“It’s just the same old rubbish. They are just trying to push the envelope. The Chaser may take it to another level but at least it’s witty. Hey Hey is devoid of any real wit. It’s desperate. It’s toilet humour and it should be flushed.”

Sam Newman, who ran into controversy when he painted his face black to impersonate St Kilda great Nicky Winmar, said the sketch would “arouse moralists”.

“The moral arbiters that run the country will be trying to turn it into something it wasn’t,” Newman said.

Acting Premier Rob Hulls said the skit was offensive, but denied Australia was racist.

Nine’s head of programming, Len Downs, said the controversy would have no bearing on whether it recommissioned Hey Hey next year. Neither the network nor the performers had meant any offence.

In the US, ChicagoNow columnist Kyra Kyles wrote: “Australian blackface performers need a gut punch . . . big-ups to Harry Connick Jr for reading these clueless fools the riot act.”

Newsweek roasted the parody on its website, adding that Somers seemed genuinely surprised at Connick’s reaction.

London’s The Guardian acidly referred to “an important breakthrough in race relations in the world’s most savagely self-parodic country”.

The Jackson Jive apologised.

Writing exclusively for The Punch website, spokesman Dr Suresh de Silva said they never thought the sketch would cause such outrage. “We all underestimated the reaction. The worst consequence is that the skit has raised the question, are Australians racist?

“We’re genuinely horrified that our mistake could cause people to think that.”

The group originally performed the skit as young medical students.

and Antonia Magee

Andrew Bolt comments:

Deva admits he would not have pranced around in blackface before an American audience, because, I assume, he realises that blackface there has a very, very different cultural resonance than blackface in Australia.

Yet what he, Somers and the Hey Hey team failed to consider was that in their Australian audience was indeed an American. Worse, that American was from New Orleans, in the American south, and he was now sitting right in front of them as a judge of the Red Faces segment. What on earth did they imagine Harry Connick Jr would think? And even if Connick were inclined to laugh it all off as a culture clash, what else could he do but protest? YouTube clips of him sitting there unprotesting in front of a black-face skit would have killed him back home.

That others overseas will now grab this as evidence of our racism is in part another manifestation of this clash of cultures. I doubt many American commentators will realise that black face isn’t for us an iconic symbol of racism.

Still, we can hardly complain if foreign commentators accuse us of racism, given they’re saying no more than we’ve so happily – and mischievously – said of ourselves for so long. Our Prime Minister, for instance, has falsely accused his own country of being so racist that we “stole” thousands of Aboriginal children. Baz Luhrmann’s tax-payer-backed Australia made the same false charges, and was widely watched overseas. In promoting the film on US television, Hugh Jackman even witlessly likened Australia to Nazi Germany.

No, Hey Hey wasn’t being racist, but we can hardly protest when our critics claim it was. We’ve worded the world up too well about our evil hearts, and through the same kind of no-nothingness that’s caused this latest fuss.

4 thoughts on “Australia: Tribute to Michael Jackson gives PC loons the jitters”

  1. Will all the PC people now tell the Australian media to stop referring to the English as ” Poms”?
    After all a majority of English object to the term.

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