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The Aunty Jack Show (1972 - 1973)

Sketch series
13 episodes x 30 minutes

Series synopsis:

This sketch comedy series is presented by the outrageous motorbike-riding television hostess, Aunty Jack (Grahame Bond), and her subversive team of Thin Arthur (Rory O’Donoghue), Flange Desire (Sandra McGregor) and Narrator Neville (John Derum). Memorable characters from the series include the meat artist Kev Kavanagh (Grahame Bond) and Neil and Errol the singing tramps (Grahame Bond and Rory O’Donoghue). In the second series, Garry McDonald replaced John Derum and the iconic character of Norman Gunston was born.

Curator’s Notes:

When The Aunty Jack Show burst onto Australian television screens in the early 1970s, the medium would never be the same again. The series mocked every television genre from social documentary to nightly variety shows, while shamelessly satirising the television hostess by introducing the mustachioed biker Aunty Jack who outraged audience sensibilities with her rudeness, irreverence and violent threat to 'rip yer bloody arms off!’ if you didn’t watch the show. The high energy was maintained by a series of original songs composed by Grahame Bond and Rory O’Donoghue and performed by the multi-talented ensemble. Indeed, the Aunty Jack closing theme song ('Farewell Aunty Jack’) topped the music charts in 1974 and stayed in the Top 40 for over 20 weeks.

The shows were conceived by Grahame Bond, Rory O’Donoghue and Geoffrey Atherden, who had worked together on Architecture revues while students at the University of Sydney. When the young ABC director Maurice Murphy returned from the BBC, where he’d been sent to learn about television comedy, they presented their latest ideas to him and he leapt at the chance to produce and direct the first series. Maurice Murphy and Paul O’Sullivan completed the main writing team of Grahame Bond, Rory O’Donoghue and Geoffrey Atherden. Atherden went on to write Mother and Son (1984-93) and Grass Roots (2000, 2003).

The series was still resonating with the public in 1975 when Aunty Jack and her acolytes introduced colour to the ABC, beginning the 28 February countdown three minutes before midnight in their anarchic fashion. By starting early in this way, the ABC became the first television station in Australia to broadcast in colour, beating the other stations (and the 1 March 1975 starting date) by three minutes. After the second series ended, a collection of four comedy specials screened in 1974 under the umbrella title of Wollongong the Brave (1974).

The restoration and DVD release of The Aunty Jack Show was a project of the ABC, Maurice Murphy, Grahame Bond and a team at the National Archives of Australia (NAA). The NAA are responsible for the preservation of Commonwealth Government film, video and audio materials, including all productions of the ABC, and had successfully restored Seven Little Australians (1973) for DVD in 2004. In 2005, the ABC approached them about a DVD release of The Aunty Jack Show.

Jane Adam at the NAA worked closely with the producer-director of the shows, Maurice Murphy, and with Aunty Jack herself, Grahame Bond. She recalls that the existing 1-inch video masters of all the episodes were firstly copied to Digital Betacam. These masters contained the black-and-white versions as televised in 1972 and 1973. Although colour didn’t come to Australian television until 1975, the ABC had been filming in colour well before that date. The original field comedy sketches for Aunty Jack had been filmed in colour and preserved at the NAA where they were still in excellent condition after 30 years. The colour segments were copied and included on the DVDs. When three of the original shows couldn’t be found, it was Caitlan Hickie of ABC Archives who saved the day, finding tele-recordings of the missing episodes which were used to complete the series.

Titles in this series

The Aunty Jack Show – Series One 1972

Sketch comedy interlaced with musical sequences, featuring Aunty Jack (Grahame Bond) the self-styled queen of Wollongong and a cast of glorious misfits including Thin Arthur (Rory O’Donoghue), Aunty Jack’s much put upon sidekick as well as Flange Desire (Sandra McGregor), ...

The Aunty Jack Show – Series Two 1974

In this second series of the sketch comedy show most of the old favourites return from the first series. These include Neil and Errol (Grahame Bond and Rory O’Donoghue) the singing duo on the park bench, Kev Kavanagh (Grahame Bond) ...