The controversial blackface skit from the hit Australian television show ‘Hey Hey It’s Saturday’ has resurfaced on social media, with many Aussies asking how it even made it to air.
The disturbing incident occurred during the show’s 2009 reboot, with the performers donning wigs and blackface make-up to perform The Jacksons’ hit Can You Feel It. The character portraying Michael Jackson had his face painted white.
The show was forced to go into damage control, after American singer Harry Connick Jr, who was a guest judge of the segment took offence to the act, giving it a score of zero.
‘If they turned up looking like that in the United States, it would be like ‘hey, hey, there’s no more show’,’ he said.
An insider from behind the scenes revealed that after the segment aired, Connick Jr ‘expressed his disgust’ and negotiated an on-air apology at the end of the live broadcast, involving both him and host Daryl Somers.
The notorious incident occurred during the show’s 2009 reboot, with medical practitioners donning wigs and blackface make-up to perform The Jacksons’ hit Can You Feel It
‘I think we may have offended you with that act and I deeply apologise on behalf of all of us – because I know that to your countrymen, that’s an insult to have a blackface routine like that on the show, so I do apologise to you,’ Somers said.
Connick Jr responded, saying he would not have participated on the show if he had known about the skit.
‘I know it was done humorously but we’ve spent so much time trying to not make black people look like baffoons that when we see something like that we take it really personally and to heart,’ Connick Jr said.
‘I feel like I am at home here and if I knew that was going to be part of the show, I probably, I definitely wouldn’t have done it,’ he said.
American singer Harry Connick Jr, who was a guest judge of the segment took offence to the act, gave it a score of zero
The shocking footage made headlines around the world – and was picked up on major US talkshows including The View and Good Morning America.
After watching the footage, many Aussies were shocked that it went to air in 2009.
‘As a black kid in Australia, I found this sh*t so upsetting. I was never represented on TGVV and the only time I saw a representation, it was this bullsh*t. My family and I never watched this messy program again and we were so glad when they cancelled it.’
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Another added: ‘This did not age well…I remember watching this even in 2009 and not having the cultural awareness to see why the Jackson Jive act was wrong. On the other hand, it is great to know that we have come such a long way – because I know now that that was NOT okay!’
A third said: ‘I love my country. However this makes me so ashamed to be Australian that not only did people perform this, not only did a television show allow this to air but the whole crowd ate it up. How embarrassing.’
Another added: ‘They knew that this kind of act would be controversial in 2009 so some kind of backlash was going to happen. Channel 9 also should have probably realised what the act was going to do.
Others labelled the skit as ‘disgusting’.
However, when the show aired, some defended the skit claiming ‘political correctness had gone mad’.
Dr Anand Deva, the frontman of the group, apologised, saying it is ironic he’s been called racist given his Indian background.
‘Clearly, all of us want to apologise,’ he said at the time.
‘I mean we have offended some people no doubt, particularly Harry Connick Jr. So I want to say on behalf of all of us that this was really not intended … [to be] anything to do with racism at all.’
Dr Deva further defended the skit by saying the ‘Jackson Jive’ group – all of whom are doctors – were from multicultural backgrounds and were huge fans of the late King of Pop.
‘I am an Indian … five of the six of us are from multicultural backgrounds and to be called a racist … I don’t think I have ever been called that ever in my life before,’ he said.
‘Anyone who knows us as a group – we are intelligent people, we are all from different racial backgrounds so I am really truly surprised.’
Connick Jr conveyed his strong disapproval and engaged in discussions to arrange an on-air apology at the conclusion of the live broadcast, involving both him and Somers
During its run, Hey Hey It’s Saturday had its fair share of controversy and was called out for its racially insensitive segments involving Malaysian-born Australian singer Kamahl.
Asked whether he thought Hey Hey could return, Kamahl carefully explained he was in favour of ‘clever’ and ‘witty’ humour, but ‘if it’s c**p, maybe we can do without it.’
His comments come after Somers sparked controversy when he said Hey Hey would not survive today’s ‘cancel culture’ climate.
‘You probably could not get away with half the stuff you could on Hey Hey now because of the political correctness and the cancel culture,’ he told News Corp.
‘It is a shame because showbiz does not get much of a chance.’
Hey Hey It’s Saturday ran for 28 years on the Nine Network from 1971 to 1999, before returning for special episodes in 2009.
A new season of 20 episodes was commissioned in 2010, but the variety program did not return in 2011.