Graham Kennedy was the 'The King' of Australian television, with a career that spanned four decades.
He emerged as a star during the early days of live variety television. His time on In Melbourne Tonight (1957-69) and The Graham Kennedy Show (1972-73, 1975) was characterised by riotous comedy sketches and live commercials, and an enduring partnership with Bert Newton.
In the 1970s and 80s he conquered game shows, with the top-rating Blankety Blanks (1977-78), then pursued a range of television character acting roles into the 1980s. Graham then made his mark on current affairs, guest hosting 11 AM (1984) before a successful return to the Nine Network with Graham Kennedy's News Show (1988) and Graham Kennedy Coast to Coast (1989). His final regular TV hosting gig was Graham Kennedy's Funniest Home Video Show (1990).
In this collection we explore the genius of Graham Kennedy through TV clips from across his career, many rare and unseen since their initial broadcast.
Highlights include a complete Wilsons sketch from a 1968 episode of In Melbourne Tonight, film of a 1961 trip overseas, the only surviving footage of Graham's 11AM hosting stint in 1984 and advertisements promoting everything from the 1981 census to paper towels and men's shoes.
Image: Graham Kennedy with Don Lane (left) on The Don Lane Show.
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.
In these clips from Nine’s TV anniversary special, host Bert Newton chats with former Nine Network personality and 'King of Television’ Graham Kennedy about his start in television in 1957. Graham's invitation to host GTV9's five-nights-a-week variety show, In Melbourne Tonight (IMT), came via his appearance with other 3UZ radio personalities on Australia’s first radio and TV simulcast for the Red Cross appeal.
The second clip shows the opening of an early edition of IMT. Graham references, ‘Corkey’ (Geoff Corke), who joined the show not long after its commencement. Corkey also came from a radio background. Graham tells Bert Newtown that IMT initially had no scriptwriters, relying on the talent’s ability to ad lib. While the show maintained the appearance of spontaneity over the years, in reality it was well planned and rehearsed. The freshness of IMT resulted from Graham’s unique delivery and his impeccable timing, plus the occasional diversions from the script. As English comedian and IMT actor Johnny Ladd told writer-actor Graeme Blundell, ‘we had the same script that Graham had but sometimes things varied a bit'.
A complete sketch featuring 'The Wilsons', a regular In Melbourne Tonight (IMT) sitcom sketch featuring elderly married couple George (Graham Kennedy) and Joyce Wilson (Rosie Sturgess). In this episode, George surprises Joyce with a Mother's Day gift.
The clip includes highlights from Graham Kennedy’s popular five-night-a-week evening news show, Coast to Coast. Characterised by TV writer Barbara Hooks as 'Kennedy offer[ing] news leavened with wit' (The Age, 25 April 1988, p 12), the program was created by the Nine Network to combat the success of Seven’s late night news show, Newsworld, hosted by Clive Robertson.
Kennedy sings a self-penned ditty '500 Times, 5 Nights A Week' commemorating the 500th edition of In Melbourne Tonight, which aired on GTV9 on 3 April 1959.
The song broadly covers the history of the show and good-naturedly name-drops many of the key IMT regulars of the time: singers Dorothy Baker and Bill McCormack, 'Barrel Girl' Panda Lisner and comic actor Joff Ellen.
Newsreader Mark Ferguson announces that Graham Kennedy has passed away in a nursing home, aged 71. Among the friends and former colleagues paying tribute on his passing are Noeline Brown, Tony Sattler, Ken Sutcliffe, Stuart Wagstaff, Graeme Blundell, Mike McColl Jones, Ernie Sigley and Bert Newton. This Nine News bulletin was broadcast in Sydney on 25 May 2005.
A news report covering the funeral of Graham Kennedy, a celebration of the performer's life attended by a who's who of Australian past and present show business personalities. Hosted by newsreader Mark Ferguson, this Sydney Nine News bulletin was broadcast on 31 May 2005.
Graham Kennedy's regular return to TV in 1970 was via a 30-second commercial for paper product manufacturer, Bowater Scott Australia Pty Ltd. The commercial premiered here on The Mike Walsh Show and was produced by Ross Wood Productions for the advertising firm USP Benson.
Mike Walsh interviews Graham Kennedy in 1970, his first appearance on TV since his departure from GTV9 and In Melbourne Tonight (IMT) on 23 December 1969.
The host of the 25th TV Week Logie Awards, news and current affairs journalist Mike Willesee, announces that the Gold Logie will be presented by 'a name synonymous with gold Logies … The King … Graham Kennedy'. Graham receives a standing ovation from the audience and jokes with Willesee about growing his beard and why the letters WOML appear after his name.
The 25th Logies presentation was televised on 26 April 1983 on the Ten Network, a day after the event was held at Melbourne’s Wentworth Regis Hotel.
Graham Kennedy wins the prestigious 1974 Gold Logie award for the most popular personality on Australian television, for his evening variety show, The Graham Kennedy Show (1972-1973). The award is presented to Graham by Italian film actress and international star, Gina Lollobrigida.
Graham Kennedy appears as a special guest on the award-winning comedy series, Kingswood Country (1980-84).
Thelma Bullpitt (played by Judi Farr) has won an evening with a TV celebrity thanks to her TV Week award-winning recipe for meat loaf. The clip opens with Graham's knock at the door and Ted Bullpitt (Ross Higgins) responding with one of the series' famous catch-phrases, 'pickle me grandmother'. When Ted goes to the kitchen to fetch the meat loaf, he picks up the wrong tray and instead serves up a slab of Pal dog food, complete with gravy, mashed potato and parsley. Graham comments on the strong smell and names it the 'Graham Kennedy Meat Loaf' before taking his first bite.
Excerpts from film footage featuring Graham Kennedy enjoying a three-week overseas working holiday at the expense of Australian shirt-maker Glo-Weave. Graham is seen at the start of his journey answering questions for a possible future edition of In Melbourne Tonight; during refuelling in Darwin; stopping in Madras (now Chennai) and meeting people in Bombay (Mumbai), India; then sightseeing in Rome and visiting London. Locations visited include the Colosseum and The Forum in central Rome and the Cecil Gee clothing store in the west end of London. The footage includes occasional cut-aways to Glo-Weave shirts, in reference to the sponsor of the trip.
TCN9 reporter John Godson interviews a relaxed Graham Kennedy on 9 August 1961. Graham has arrived in Sydney after a three-week overseas trip, sponsored by Australian shirt manufacturer Glo-Weave. Kennedy mentions his interest in European fashion, visiting a Rome television station (RAI) and attending various live shows in Paris and London.
During an interview with Mike Willesee about his recent return to radio with 2Day FM in Sydney, Graham Kennedy recalls some of his memories of working on In Melbourne Tonight (IMT). He discusses the frequent attempts by GTV9 staff to blow him up and drop objects on him during the show. He also expresses a genuine love of working with sketch comedy.
Content warning: this clip contains blackface and racist stereotypes.
Graham Kennedy and assistant Miffy Marsh promote Nestlé Sunshine Milk Powder in this segment of In Melbourne Tonight from February 1965. A sponsored slot paid for by the food company, this nightly segment ran for two weeks and offered contestants the chance to show off their ability at flipping pancakes. Here Mrs Philpott of North Balwyn demonstrates her technique, followed by Graham's own attempts.
An excerpt from a rarely-seen episode of Blankety Blanks (episode 69, May 1977) with host Graham Kennedy asking his regular celebrity panel to supply the name of a TV show they would least like to see repeated.
Appearing in this episode are Noel Ferrier, Noeline Brown, 'Ugly' Dave Gray, Peita (now Peta) Toppano, Stuart Wagstaff and Marty Rhone.
Note: viewers may find some of the humour in this clip offensive.
Graham Kennedy, talking into a cassette recorder, relays his suggestions for improving Blankety Blanks to select production personnel. This recording, dating from early 1977, has never been previously heard in public.
Two Seven News stories book-ending Graham Kennedy's arrival and departure on the network's daytime news program 11AM.
The Grand Final winner of Graham Kennedy's Funniest Home Video Show is announced, featuring a woman who removes a full set of false teeth. The host then replicates the moment by removing his upper dental plate, surprising the audience, many of whom would have been too young to remember 'The Wilsons' sketches from his In Melbourne Tonight days, in which Kennedy did the same thing. This episode was broadcast on the Nine Network on 15 November 1990.
Graham Kennedy presents an advertisement on the benefits of completing the 1981 Australian Census, compulsory for all households. Kennedy mentions close friends Bert and Patti Newton in the script and ends the advertisement with a quip about what he should write down as his present occupation.
Graham Kennedy and Bert Newton perform 'The Executive Producer' sketch on The Don Lane Show, broadcast on the Nine Network on 27 October 1983.
In this clip Graham Kennedy explains why he left In Melbourne Tonight (IMT) after twelve-and-a-half years as host.
Two advertisements from a series that Graham Kennedy made to promote Norman Ross, a discount household goods chain that had recently taken over the Waltons department store in 1987.
Melbourne radio and TV personality Vi Greenhalf presents a promo for her women’s program, If Vi Had A Hammer on GTV9. Vi informs viewers that she has the answers to the burning questions in the media about Graham Kennedy: 'Will Graham come back? What’s he doing? Does he miss television?'
An excerpt from a colour episode of The Graham Kennedy Show, in which a 16-year-old suburban Melbourne school student presents the host with a topical illustration of Kennedy as a crow attempting to say something that has been censored. After the student cheekily takes the opportunity to plug his school's forthcoming social event, Graham and Bert Newton perform a version of the 'Executive Producer sketch'. Broadcast on the Nine Network on 16 April 1975, this was the final edition of The Graham Kennedy Show.
Note: viewers may find some of the humour in this clip offensive.
Graham Kennedy recounts to host Don Lane the infamous 'crow call' incident, which originally took place on the first colour episode of The Graham Kennedy Show, telecast on the Nine Network on 3 March 1975.
GTV9 personality Rosemary Margan recalls the infamous 'crow call' incident on the 3 March 1975 episode of The Graham Kennedy Show, which landed its host in hot water with the television industry watchdog of the time, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board.
Graham Kennedy makes a guest appearance on This Is Your Life, to help celebrate the life and career of scriptwriter Fred Parsons. This episode was broadcast on the Seven Network on 17 July 1977.
Graham Kennedy's opening scene in the Australian mini-series Silent Reach, playing laconic, alcoholic bush pilot Chasser Fitzpatrick, waiting to greet American ex-secret service security agent Steven Sinclair (Robert Vaughn) upon his arrival at the airport.
Excerpts from Graham Kennedy's guest role in an episode of the Australia-USA family period drama series Five Mile Creek, broadcast on HSV 7 Melbourne on 2 August 1984. In 'Bang The Big Drum' (Series 1, Episode 6), Kennedy plays 'Walker The Hawker', a bumbling, inexperienced travelling salesman yet to learn the basics of peddling, haggling and horses.
An excerpt from Graham Kennedy's guest appearance on Celebrity Tattletales, hosted by former Blankety Blanks regular panel member 'Ugly' Dave Gray. Here, Graham comes out at the show's end to re-enact a Kennedy-Gray staple routine: a double entendre-laden 'Dick said' routine. This episode was first broadcast on Tuesday 11 March 1980 in Sydney on ATN7.
Note: This clip is sourced from the sole surviving copy of the episode, a preview videotape with an immovable timecode.