Australian Screen

Australia’s audiovisual heritage online

The Naked Vicar Show (1977 - 1978)

Variety series
21 episodes x 60 minutes

Series synopsis:

A variety show with sketch comedy, guest musical performances and commentary on news and politics of the day, filmed in front of a studio audience.

Curator’s Notes:

The Naked Vicar Show started life as a half-hour sketch show for ABC Radio One (now Radio National). It was written by Tony Sattler and Gary Reilly, who had been writing sketches for the ABC’s then-fledgling youth radio station 2JJ (now Triple J), and performed by Ross Higgins, Kevin Golsby and Noeline Brown in front of a studio audience. The show was first adapted for theatre then television, picked up by commercial broadcaster ATN 7 and the Reg Grundy organisation after rejection by the ABC. Sattler and Reilly were not happy with the contract Grundy offered and decided to produce the show themselves through their company RS Productions. The TV series retained many features from the radio version, including the core creative team and format.

The Naked Vicar Show creates a vision of suburban Australian culture. Sketch characters such as Ted Bullpitt and Narelle became audience favourites, spawning popular catchphrases like ‘You’re not taking the Kingswood’, 'You’re not wrong, Narelle!’ and 'Piss off, Bruce!’. Lois and Narelle’s discussions of 'chop and Tia Maria tasting parties’ and Ted Bullpitt’s obsession with his Kingswood car, his caravan and his greyhounds, send up the trappings and tastes of Australian working and middle-class suburban existence along similar lines to Edna Everage (see The Adventures of Barry McKenzie, 1972), and later Kath and Kim (2002–07) and The Castle (1997).

The show follows the format pioneered in Australia by The Mavis Bramston Show (1964–68), in which Noeline Brown also appeared for a time as title character Mavis. Each show begins and ends with Brown, Golsby and Higgins sitting on stools reading spoof news items from scripts directly to the live audience. Wearing semi-formal wear, this harks back to their origins on the radio and to The Mavis Bramston Show, or even further back to live radio in the 1930s and ‘40s, where actors wore cocktail suits and read their lines in front of packed theatre audiences. In 1977, when The Naked Vicar Show began, Channel Seven had another sketch comedy in its line-up, The Paul Hogan Show (1973–84), although that series moved to the Nine Network the following year.

The image of the naked vicar is a carry-over from the series’ radio beginnings. It was a publicity image for the radio show, featuring a cooperative member of its sound engineering team. Noeline Brown describes in her autobiography, Noeline: Longterm Memoir (2005), how Tony Sattler and Gary Reilly came up wth the title. They had read the story of a cleric who had been found dead of a heart attack, naked in a European brothel:

The official story given to the press was that the priest had answered a telephone call from a distressed parishioner and had run all the way to the address on the other side of town, causing him to overheat. When he arrived, panting, at his destination, he had been forced to remove all his clothes. The Naked Vicar Show was born.

Sattler and Reilly went on to write and produce the spin-off sitcoms Kingswood Country (see Kingswood Country – There’s No Place Like Rome, 1980) and Bullpitt! (1997-98), that revolved around Naked Vicar character Ted Bullpitt. Reilly also wrote and produced the sitcom Hey Dad..! (1987–91, see Hey Dad..! – The Double Date, 1989), which featured Julie McGregor. A 'best of’ compilation DVD of The Naked Vicar Show was released in 2007.

Titles in this series

The Naked Vicar Show – Series 2 Episode 2 1978

A variety show with sketch comedy, guest musical performances and commentary on news and politics of the day, filmed in front of a studio audience.