Posts Tagged ‘ Harry Connick Jnr ’

Can someone Gong this please?

On Monday morning I had an breakfast meeting with an old colleague, while I was getting ready and on the way, I became aware of something happened the night before, what surprised me is that this was the first time where I didn’t hear about something from my sources before it was broadcast, and unfortunately, it has become one of those things that’s become round table debate in places I regularly frequent, and as a result I have been brought into it a number of times since it happened.

During Sunday’s taping of the ‘Hey Hey its Saturday’ reunion show’s, its usual talent segment known as Red Faces, where talentless hacks perform various skits akin to the ‘Gong Show’ where a panel of judges rate the performance with the staple character Red Symonds, usually votes lower than all others. The skit originally appeared on the show 20 years ago, and on that occasion won the competition. This time around, the skit, somewhat updated, managed to offend guest judge Louisiana singer, Harry Connick Jnr.
The skit in question involved 6 Medical professionals in Blackface, and one in Whiteface, impersonating the Jackson 5 and Michael Jackson performing a rendition of  ‘Believe it’ with accompanying ‘dance routine’. While the skit was cut short after about a minute and half, and by all accounts was on par with the standard Red Faces skit, in being ridiculous and unfunny, it has managed to cause quite a stir on both sides of the Pacific, and in the United Kingdom.

Like most things that occur outside the continental United States, it took a day and a half for mainstream US news services to start covering the event, but American bloggers where quicker to jump on the story, most quickly condemning Australia of being Racist and backwards, and that the Australian response to the skit was to ‘laid back’ for a skit that would have been down right illegal if shown in America.
Australian’ talk back radio and Daytime Television callers where equally divided on the skit, were some agreed with the American online response, and others whose response boiled down to the standard Australian Response of ‘Harden up Sunshine’.

There are a number of things both sides of the pond have failed to grasp while shouting their various opinions at each other, and my hope tonight is to alleviate a little of the confusion.

Firstly, even though it is like all other Red Faces skits, poorly written, choreographed and generally badly performed, its intention was not to be offensive, or racist, but was supposed to be a humorous homage to Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5. Unlike other countries in the world, Australia never had a ‘Blackface’ period like those in America or South Africa. Australian media that depicted indigenous individuals generally utilized indigenous actors. To that end, the notion of ‘blackface’ never gained the negative connotation that it does in other countries, as it was only ever used in comedy, which it did at its zenith in the 80’s before more recently focusing on jokes targeting redheads.

On the opposite side of the table, in America, blackface, was almost always used in a derogatory context, or in those used in film, used as at the time, it was illegal for African American individuals to be on film. Its Zenith was in the 30’s before it started becoming acceptable for black actors to be on screen. This day and age, thanks in no special part to the Civil Rights movement, it is generally illegal for blackface to be performed. As mentioned in the below video by Harry Connick Jnr, if Hey Hey had been aired in America and the skit went to air, not only would the show had been cancelled, but the performers who did the skit arrested, but the network that aired it, sued.

Understandably, Connick Jnr., was offended by the skit, going as far as saying that if he was aware that it was going to be on, he would not have agreed to be on it, as would have been his upbringing, being the son of a Louisiana lawyer in the middle of the civil rights movement, and having a number of African American band members in his band. So far I have only heard one Australian that seemed to understand it, Channel Seven’s US Bureau Chief Mike Amore stated, “How can I explain to my African American son that that was funny?” 

This is not Political correctness gone mad, this is a case of our world being an international one. 20 years ago, we didn’t have the internet, content like the below skit would never have been seen in America, and we wouldn’t have the dialogue we do now, but to that end, if Harry Connick Jnr. had been replaced by a different regular, like John Farnham, it is doubtful that it would have made as much waves and received as much press as it did.

Also, our last post was our 100th post on the blog