This lesson introduces you to
At the time of the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000, comedians Roy Slavin and H. G. Nelson (John Doyle & Greg Pickhaver) were given the role by Channel 7 to be the ‘official’ commentators for the Games. The episode of Australian Story (14 May 2020) traces the 35 years of sports commentary which the duo have developed, first on radio and later on television. As unofficial football commentators (for both codes, Rugby & AFL), the pair had built up a loyal following amongst players and public through their renaming of star footballers and hilarious match commentary.
Masters Of Satire
The longevity of their partnership is described by comedians like Wendy Harmer as having a winning formula of ‘Yes and’ in which HG is the provocateur, leading the charge with a carefully crafted script, with Roy responding and stoking the fire through improvised answers. The Dream, the name given to their television segment for the 2000 Games, makes for endlessly good entertainment which can still provoke laughter as the pair mock the seriousness of measurement and preciseness of pole vaulters or the character of Americans.
How does satire work?
Let’s consider for a moment how satire works on an audience. Firstly, the satirist picks a topic or event which is familiar and valued by the audience – in this case, the Olympic Spirit and the media frenzy around it. But then comedians of the calibre of Roy and HG take another step: they focus on a small seemingly unimportant detail within the subject to great comic effect.
This is what makes the pole vault sketch so hilarious as HG slams the bureaucratic nightmare of international sport with its hundreds of rules for would-be competitors. In this case, the target is the story of how an Olympic official incorrectly measuring the height of the pole by 5mm. The story is both ludicrously far-fetched and yet, simultaneously, absurdly plausible.
Australian Sports, a sacred topic worthy of a little mocking
The story of the Australian love of sport reaches back to colonial times. For instance, in the summer of 1873-74, the English cricket team. made its third tour of Australia. It was a big occasion because the previous one had been a decade ago in 1863–64. The team was also referred to by the English Captain W. G. Grace‘s XI. According to Grace’s biographer, Simon Rae, the tour was not a success for the English side. In fact, it “gave Australian cricket a much-needed fillip”. Rae reveals that the main problem was Grace himself and his “overbearing personality”.
The mass circulation of newspapers
The Christmas Festival – A Time For Theatre & Sport
Christmas was the time for the original ‘Melbourne comedy festival’ in the form of the annual Christmas pantomime. In 1873 Melbourne’s comedians performed in Garnet Walch’s pantomime Australia Felix and got their chance to satirise the monumental event of England versus Australia on the occasion of the Boxing Day Match.