Aunty s shocking past
Aunty's shocking past

You'd be hard pressed to single out anyone who's caused more ruckuses on the ABC in recent years than the Chaser lads.

Remember when Chas Licciardello was charged with offensive conduct after attempting to sell fake Canterbury Bulldogs merchandise outside an NRL game? Then there was the time Craig Reucassel hugged prime minister John Howard while holding a big plastic battle axe? And who could forget Julian Morrow, Licciardello (dessed as Osama bin Laden) and nine production crew members getting arrested after they drove a fake Canadian motorcade down Macquarie Street and successfully breached the APEC Leaders' Meeting restricted zone.

So it's only fitting that Reucassel is the one to host Shock Horror Aunty, a two- part special which delves into the archives of ABC comedy that generated outrage among viewers, the media, or ABC TV management over the last few decades.

Reucassel - who has recently appeared in comedy shows The Unbelievable Truth, Balls of Steel and The Hamster Wheel - was approached by producer Andy Nehl to take part while working on another program.

"He's this ratbag from way back who's been involved in half of the shows which have had complaints," Reucassel says over the phone from his Sydney office, where he is working on his new ABC consumer affairs show with Morrow, The Check Out.

"He was doing Hamster Wheel with us at the time so I said I was happy to help out, mainly because I was interested to see this stuff. Andy did most of the research but we had a bit of back and forth about what clips we were going to use. It was hard finding some of the older stuff that had been complained about because a lot of the old complaints were chucked out when the ABC moved from Gore Hill, which was a bit of a shame."

After a couple of months of digging through the archives and chatting with past ABC producers, the pair came up with a collection of some of the most controversial clips.

"It's by no means comprehensive. As a matter of fact even the other day I was talking to somebody who was saying, 'Oh what about these ones'," Reucassel explains.

"It's not a representation of the best of ABC comedy; it's a representation of the bits that people got the s…s with over the years."

ABC identities of the past and present including Andrew Denton, Libbi Gorr (Elle McFeast), Phil Lloyd (creator and star of the groundbreaking comedy series Review with Myles Barlow) and Paul McDermott (DAAS) put their two cents in on clips which not only feature them but have at times had a hand in shaping our nation.

Among the TV moments are Norman Gunston upstaging Gough Whitlam at his dismissal in 1975, Gorr's infamous bosom dance, John Safran turning the current affairs table on Ray Martin and of course, a hefty selection of classic Chaser gaffes.

"We've found over the years that our judgment is comparably bad," Reucassel says of The Chaser.

"We'll put something to air that we think might outrage people and people don't care at all and there are other things where we've just not even realised that it's going to create a fuss, so in the end you've just kind of got to back the comedy judgment.

"Some of that stuff from the 80s I'd be fascinated to see how it would be nowadays if it aired on the ABC with the Twitter response and all that sort of stuff. Back then it would have just been a letter to the ABC; now things get magnified so much more with social media."

'It's not a representation of the best of ABC comedy; it represents the bits that people got the s…s with over the years.' Craig Reucassel


The West Australian

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