|Index||4 reviews in total|
Yesterday, I spent 290 minutes reliving my youth. ABC TV (Australia)
has released the first series of The Aunty Jack Show on DVD. Bliss.
Who - or what - is an Aunty Jack? As the name implies, a bit of a mixture. Massive of girth, with glasses, moustache, football boots and socks and sporting a golden boxing glove this monsterpiece of anarchy stalked across the screen of Australian TV in the very early 70s. The first series starred Grahame Bond (Aunty Jack), Rory O'Donoghue (Thin Arthur), John Derum (Narrator Neville) and Sandra MacGregor (Flange Desire). Whilst there are elements of both the Goon show and Monty Python, (although it predated Python) it is uniquely Australian humour, which fails attempts to translate it onto paper. (But that won't stop me from trying!!!)
Attacking the establishment. Sure, why not? Whilst Australia was still mired in Vietnam, Aunty Jack takes a stinging swipe at war by showing how World War I wasn't really the hell it was supposed to be with a performance by Colonel Passionfruit and his "Dancing Diggers" singing and choreographing their way across a nasty old minefield.
Sex? Well, check out "Stella the Starlet", the moustachio-ed (and completely armless) siren whose agent tries to win over a hard bitten movie director by showing that whilst Stella may not have arms, her rather ample bust is up to most tasks. Director: "But she'll have to climb a tree". Agent: "She can do it, she can do it." And for those brave folk who live in lovely Wollongong (an industrial city south of Sydney) there is a heartfelt rendition of the classic song "I've been everywhere man ... Wollongong Wollongong Wollongong ... " etc.
But truly the most bizarre memory I have from the original days of broadcast, and today proved to be as funny as I remember it, was Thin Arthur conducting a four piece chorus - in an elevator - and as the doors close, having to grab his music stand and run up to the next floor and wait for the doors to open to conduct the next musical passage - in a 10 storey building.
Not forgetting the original "origami opera" based on superhero Tarzan. (According to the interview with four of the original cast members/writers on the DVD, such was the enthusiasm of the cast that one young lady's role required her to leap from a fair height into a rather deep pool of water - she never told anyone she couldn't swim, but thought she'd "ad lib" once she got there.) The episodes on this double DVD include the pilot, Radio, War, Kulture, Anonymous, Family, Sex and Horror, as well as a retrospective "History of Aunty Jack" interview.
This isn't uniformly great stuff, but it was groundbreaking, and the entire cast, but particularly Bond and O'Donoghue, are extremely talented, wrote most of their own music and performed it live - which you don't get too much of these days.
I'd give it 3 1/2 out of 5, just on historical value alone.
And to give Aunty the last word: "Buy the VDV and watch it, or I'll come round to your house and rip your bloody arms off."
PS It's also fun trying to spot some of the very young faces of future stars of film and television.
It was 1972 and the Whitlam Labor government had come to power in Australia,
ending 23 years of conservative rule, and bringing in its wake an explosion
in the arts, a new permissiveness, and a damburst of alternative culture. In
1971 The Aunty Jack Show would probably never have made it to air. Even in
1972 it barely did.
Often unfairly described as Australia's Monty Python, Aunty Jack combined the surreal anarchic sketch comedy of Python with the regular character format and musical bent of The Goodies, and added a uniquely Australian roughness and distinctive local absurdity which made it one of a kind. Mainly the creation of Grahame Bond and Rory O'Donaghue, Aunty Jack spawned a dynasty of classic comedy series which basically defined Australian comedy for most of the 1970's (though TAJS itself ran only two short seasons)
Aunty Jack, played by Bond, was an enormously fat, violent (though often sentimental), crossdressing boxer who rode a black sidecar motorcycle, wore a golden boxing glove on one hand, and threatened the viewers "if you don't tune into the show next week, I'll come around to your house, and I'll rip your bloody arms off!" Imagine a cross between Divine, Queen Victoria, and a professional wrestler. Legend has it that after the first episode, the ABC's switchboard was so flooded with complaints about the transexuality and violence that the show only survived because of the pleas of some ABC executive's children.
Accompanying Aunty were Thin Arthur (O'Donaghue); a sort of fragile, vaudevillian sidekick; Kid Eager (Gary McDonald) Flange Desire, and Narrator Neville. The second season saw the first appearance of Norman Gunston (also McDonald) who would go on to become a massively successful character in his own right.
Both Bond, O'Donaghue and McDonald were musically gifted. O'Donaghue in particular possessed a superb falsetto voice which could range from a Cat Stevens like softness to an Ian Gillan scream. He and Bond wrote the often brilliant music for the show, including such memorable pieces as 'Tarzan, Superape' (their response to Jesus Christ Superstar), and the utterly ANTHEMIC closing theme, which went onto to top the Australian singles charts for 10 weeks when it was released in 1974.
Unfortunately copyright disagreements between Bond and the ABC means that the shows have never been rescreened in full, nor released in any form, and Australians who grew up in the 70's are left with fading memories of perhaps the most important and beloved Australian comedy of all time.
Often controversial sketch show starring the cross dressing Aunty Jack who would dress as a pantomime dame, wear one boxing glove and ride a motor bike, his/her catchphrase was "I'll rip yer bloody arm off". The show began life as a couple of pilot radio shows for kids which the ABC considered too scary for children.
Fantastic. I was blown away when I saw this and finally found the true
potential of Australian comedy.
I myself am working on a sitcom and have been very much influenced by this classic Aussie sketch comedy.
It has rhythm and a certain beat and manages to keep everything related and interesting. It was hilarious!
Grahame Bond is fantastic as the rude yet surprisingly sensitive Aunty Jack. Rory O'Donoghue is incredible as Thin Arthur, the well spoken, thin - hence the name - character. Garry McDonald plays Kid Eager, who is also very good, though I have not had a chance to see much of his episodes. John Derum was always my favourite as Narrator Neville. The actors all also play various other characters in various, hilarious sketches. Sandra McGregor was brilliant (I can't believe I nearly forgot her).
I recommend this classic that's not afraid to do something different, and still keeps it very funny. The Aunty Jack Show is a refreshing jolt that is a reminder of what Australian comedy can do. This classic is much better than some of the sh*t (excuse my french)that is televised today.
Utterly fantastic and a must see for people with a satirical taste in comedy. Great, and appropriate, acting, as well as writing. Do not miss this if you have the chance.
|Plot keywords||Main details||Your user reviews|
|Your vote history|