Bert Newton joins Graham Kennedy on the couch to sell the latest Raoul Merton designer men's shoes, during a live advertisement on an episode of In Melbourne Tonight, circa 1962.
Poached from rival HSV7 at Graham's suggestion, Bert Newton joined GTV9 in 1959. Friends with Graham since their days on rival Melbourne radio stations, the duo displayed an immediate on-screen chemistry when paired together. This became apparent during the very first Newton reading of a Raoul Merton men's shoes advertisement in which the intended 30-second spot turned into an ad libbed 27-minute segment of comic mayhem, the result denigrating all aspects of the shoe, its price and the company. 'If they're hurtin', it's Merton' subsequently became one of the memorable mock tag lines Kennedy would announce, to protestations from Newton. The duo fronted hundreds of comedic advertisements for the shoe brand in the ensuing years, making the Melbourne-made product among the show's best known.
This clip was sourced from an episode of The Best of Kennedy, produced by GTV 9 for interstate and regional audiences. Compiled from editions of In Melbourne Tonight, this program featured the best moments with Graham and Bert, ensemble comedy sketches and songs from visiting guests. Screening across the Nine Network in all states from May 1962, production of The Best of Kennedy continued until the end of 1963. The widespread circulation of the program laid the groundwork for the future popularity of Graham and Bert outside their home state.
The success of the duo’s anarchic, elongated comedic advertising in rubbishing products also altered the network's perception of their importance. These advertisements allowed Graham's considerable improvisational comic talent to shine while helping to fill out an exhausting nightly 90-minute program schedule. Bert told Graham's biographer, Graeme Blundell: 'I have no doubt that the Raoul Merton commercials have had more impact on a television audience than any others in this country'.
Notes by Simon Smith