Woman’s Day (Australia)
‘WE BROKE ALL THE RULES!’
It was divisive and anarchic, but star Grahame Bond remembers the show as a true pioneer of Australian television comedy
It’s hard to believe it’s 50 years since Aunty Jack steamrolled her way onto our screens riding a Harley Davidson and threatening that if we didn’t tune in, she’d “rip yer bloody arms off”.
Australian audiences were shocked, outraged and aghast. The ABC switchboard lit up with indignant callers and the Catholic Church shouted condemnation from the pulpit, raging against this new irreverent comedy series.
Grahame Bond – the genius behind the character, suddenly became everybody’s favourite aunty and an instant star.
“It was total anarchy,” laughs a happily sentimental Grahame, surrounded by Aunty Jack Show treasures. “I remember the producer telling me we’d received over a thousand complaints and I was instantly worried. “He said, ‘Don’t be worried, it’s fantastic. If a thousand hate it, imagine how many people like it!’ And that’s what happened and Aunty Jack garnered a huge following and instant cult status.”
Aunty Jack, her right hand encased in a golden boxing glove, packed quite a punch. She was obese, gravel-voiced, part truckie, part dame from a children’s pantomime, and part Moe from the Three Stooges with his violent slapstick.
She could solve any problem by knocking people unconscious, along with her famous catchcry, “I’ll rip yer bloody arms off,” which was soon heard echoing throughout playgrounds across Australia, along with, “See ya ’round like a rissole.”
Grahame, 79, came to comedy and acting via Sydney University. “I was a boy from Marrickville, Dad was a storeman and packer, and Mum worked as a mail sorter at the post office. I made it to uni where I was studying architecture. My dad had heard if he got a job at Sydney University, I could get free education. And I did.”
Grahame soon caught the acting bug and became very good friends with then architect Geoffrey Atherden, later the writer of Mother And Son, film director Peter Weir, composer Peter Best and future Aunty Jack Show co-star Rory O’donoghue.
“We worked on revues together and they were all successful,” Grahame recalls. “I graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture degree in 1967 and began tutoring at the uni in design but I found myself being pulled towards performing. My tutor could tell I was torn, so he made up my mind for me. He sacked me from the uni.
“I went home and said, ‘Mum and Dad, I’ve been forced to make a decision about my career and I’ve decided to become an entertainer.’ Mum was sad, but Dad said, ‘It’s all right love, he’ll be good at whatever he does.’ Dear Dad, always supportive.”
Around this time, Peter Weir wrote and directed his first short feature film,
Homesdale, starring the up-and-coming Kate Fitzpatrick. Grahame played Mister Kevin, the first incarnation of the popular
Aunty Jack Show character Kev Kavanagh.
Shortly after, Peter and Grahame were asked to create a children’s radio series to replace the long-running Argonauts Club on the ABC. It was there that Grahame created the gravel-voiced, cross dressing Aunty Jack, who was based on an uncle he had disliked as a child.
“I used to spend my Christmas holidays with this uncle in Braidwood who was awful,” Grahame recalls. “It wasn’t fun, everything he did with me was to put me down. Years later when I was promoting Aunty Jack on
The Mike Walsh Show, Mike asked if the character was based on anyone I knew.
“I said, ‘Yes,’ explaining it was based on my uncle from Braidwood. Mike had a wicked sense of humour and he smirked, ‘Oh does he wear a dress?’ I replied, ‘I don’t know, Mike, I’ll have to ask my aunty!’
“That got my uncle a beauty. That news went straight back to Braidwood – he’d have hated it. The whole town would have been laughing at him. It took a few years but I eventually got him a beauty.”
Often compared to Monty Python’s Flying Circus, The Aunty Jack Show lasted two seasons – 1972 and 1973, with Grahame as Aunty Jack and Kev Kavanagh, Rory O’donohoe as Thin Arthur and Sandra Mcgregor as Flange Desire. The second season introduced Garry Mcdonald as Kid Eager, which inspired Norman Gunston, the reporter from Wollongong.
To mark the inauguration of colour TV in Australia on March 1, 1975, Aunty Jack returned for a special. The special beat ABC’S commercial rivals by beginning three minutes early at 11.57pm on February 28, 1975, in black and white and then wiping to colour at midnight. “We couldn’t help but break all the rules,” Grahame laughs.
ACTOR & AD MAN
Grahame had many big successes in theatre and also enjoyed a highly successful career in advertising, writing such famous jingles as There’s No Other Store Like David Jones…
He’s quick to pay tribute to then ABC Head of Comedy, Maurice Murphy, who championed Grahame and protected him from the interference of a conservative ABC management. “He gave us the freedom to do the things we’d been doing at uni,” Grahame says. “He said, ‘You just write and perform the material and let me figure out how to get it on air.’
“He was my protector, a very brave man who suffered the wrath of the ABC for being the anarchist he was. “Norman Gunston wouldn’t have happened without him.”
He conjures up a picture of Aunty Jack on her Harley, dressed in a huge, tent-like blue velvet dress, football socks and work boots. Yes, it’s hard to believe it’s been 50 years. “Gosh we had fun,” he says blissfully.
‘Aunty Jack garnered a huge following and instant cult status’