an NFSA website

The Chaser's War on Everything (2006 - 2009)

Variety series
50 episodes x 30 minutes

Series synopsis:

The Chaser’s War on Everything is a weekly satirical variety series combining pre-recorded material, performance and commentary in front of a live studio audience. The series is best known for pranks that capture politicians, media personalities and the general public off-guard or unawares.

The Chaser team as seen on camera are Chris Taylor, Julian Morrow, Andrew Hansen, Craig Reucassel and Chas Licciardello, with additional member Dominic Knight working primarily behind the scenes. Charles Firth, another founding member of the team, provided regular ‘Firth in the USA’ segments in series one, before leaving the group.

Curator’s Notes:

The Chaser team have been something of a cross-media brand, bringing their signature approach to radio, live performance and the internet, as well as print and television. They gained their name from their first collaborative work, a fortnightly satirical newspaper founded in 1999. Broadcast veteran Andrew Denton helped facilitate their expansion into television, producing The Election Chaser (2001), The Chaser Decides (2005) and CNNNN (2002) (see CNNNN: Chaser Non-stop News Network – Lunchgate), all at the ABC. For The Chaser’s War on Everything, Julian Morrow took over from Denton as executive producer.

The Chaser newspaper’s best-known edition (2003) ran then prime minister John Howard’s home phone number on its front page after his dismissive response to large anti-Iraq War demonstrations, along with the headline ‘John Howard doesn’t listen to the people – so call him at home on … ’. This use of a prank to make a satirical point and the resulting attention from mainstream media (and police) typifies the Chaser team’s approach to television. Most famously, their Canadian motorcade stunt at the 2007 APEC Summit satirised heavy security surrounding the event, made international news and resulted in arrests, although charges were later dropped (see The Chaser’s War on Everything – APEC Episodes, clip two).

News and current affairs have provided fertile territory for Australian television comedy. Topical weekly shows on our screens have ranged from chat and game show formats (Good News Week, 1996–2000 and 2008–current; The Glass House, 2001–06) to direct satire (The Gillies Report, 1984–85). We’ve also seen current affairs television satirised in Working Dog’s mockumentary sitcom Frontline (1994–97). In terms of pranks, The Chaser probably have their closest recent bedfellow in John Safran’s irreverant documentary work.

The Chaser’s War on Everything complements its topical content with more general comedy. Its mixture of pre-recorded segments and performance for a studio audience is reminiscent of the D-Generation’s Late Show (1992–93, see D-Generation – Series 1 Episode 1), a professed influence on the group.

The show proved a hit for the ABC, with ratings that increased dramatically between its first and second series and in particular in the wake of the APEC incident. Its third and final series, however, ended in controversy. Returning in 2009 after a hiatus, the group initially intended a shorter season of ten episodes. This was reduced to eight by a two-week suspension issued by the ABC in response to a controversial sketch featuring terminally ill children. The sketch prompted widespread condemnation in the media, extending as far as the prime minister. The ABC also removed its head of TV comedy from her position for what its managing director called an ‘error in judgement’ in allowing the sketch to go to air. The Chaser team issued an apology but stated they did not agree with the ABC’s ban.

The Chaser team also produced an ‘international edition’ of 20 episodes leaving out the more topical material.

Titles in this series

The Chaser’s War on Everything – APEC Episodes 2007

Episodes 14 and 15 of The Chaser’s War on Everything’s second series contain the usual combination of comic pranks, commentary and send-ups, responding to current news and more general subjects. Many of the topical segments satirise the heavy security surrounding ...

The Chaser’s War on Everything – Series 1 Episode 1 2006

This is the first episode of the satirical variety program, containing comic pranks, commentary and send-ups responding to topical issues and more general subjects. This episode covers topics including the late Kerry Packer, the Australian Wheat Board and sniffer dogs ...