Graham Kennedy


Graham Kennedy : biography

15 February 1934 – 25 May 2005

Later in 1960 Kennedy faced opposition when Sir Frank Packer bought GTV-9. Unlike the previous owner, Packer interfered directly with the station’s activities. GTV-9 executive Colin Bednall reported that Packer hated Kennedy and forcefully articulated his desire to have him removed from the IMT.

Packer had a phobia about homosexuals and he believed Kennedy to be one. He insisted he could pick one a mile off.Stone (2000), quoting from "an unpublished memoir now lodged with the National Library in Canberra" by Colin Bednall. Also quoted in Blundell (2003), p. 196

Kennedy himself was aware that Packer "loathed" him:

Sir Frank did suspect that I and others were of that persuasion. I mean if everyone in the television industry was fired because of that, there would be few around! […] I’ve been accused of everything. I’ve been accused of being homosexual, bisexual, heterosexual and worst of all asexual, which means you don’t do anything. That’s cruel.Stone (2000), p. 83; quoted in Blundell (2003), p. 196-7

Packer’s arrival prompted the departure of IMT producer Norman Spencer. IMT continued its run. Other regular performers on IMT were Patti Newton and Philip Brady. In 1961 Kennedy described his presentation of the program.

In the whole of the ten years I have been working on radio and television, I have been working to a majority of women. I think women prefer men to be well-mannered, so I always try to watch my manners. They like men to be well dressed, so I do my best to observe this. Others bring to my notice the fact that I sometimes make grammatical errors in my speech; so, because of this, I try to watch my grammar – but at the same time I bear in mind that it’s more profitable for me to be entertaining than to be perfect in my use of English.Blundell (2003), p. 215.

By March 1961 the national show had been renamed Graham Kennedy’s Channel 9 Show and was finding quiet acceptance nationally. Even at this time Kennedy admitted there were problems in the weekly national show.

We clam up and get tense. But I think the national show will improve in the next few weeks. We want to include the best segments of IMT in the national show. IMT is a lot more spontaneous than the national show – we’ve run up to an hour overtime. We like to get the audience to participate and if we can find someone interesting in the studio audience we throw away our scripts and just adlib.Blundell (2003), p. 218.

Kennedy by this stage did not always host IMT. Bert Newton hosted on Monday nights. Then a September 1961 reshuffle had Toni Lamond host Monday nights and Newton hosted only on Thursday nights. Kennedy took occasional nights off to be replaced by Frederick Parslow, Jimmy Hannan, and Philip Brady. Despite resistance from network executives to the varied hosting line-up, the ratings remained strong.Blundell (2003), p. 227-8.

In January 1962 the national Graham Kennedy’s Channel 9 Show was cancelled and replaced by The Channel 9 Show hosted by Bert Newton.Blundell (2003), p. 232. Kennedy continued to fine-tune his IMT performances. Kennedy had a strong understanding of key technical elements of television and perfected his comic timing, and watched the lenses on the TV cameras, adjusting his performance depending on whether he was in a wide shot or a close up.Blundell (2003), p. 223. Compilation highlight programs of IMT segments were screened in Sydney, Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide in May 1963 under the title The Best of Kennedy. The Best of Kennedy continued until December 1963.Blundell (2003), p. 244. On IMT, Noel Ferrier was appointed the new Friday night host. Also in 1963 writer Mike McColl-Jones joined. Kennedy had often disliked having writers on the program, was reluctant for them to be publicly acknowledged, and often ignored all their material. In the case of McColl-Jones, Kennedy seemed to like him and his comedy material, which was apparently the key requirement by which Kennedy would use a writer’s material. McColl-Jones continued as a writer on the series for several years. Also in 1963 Ernie Carroll joined the writing team. Kennedy had apparently relaxed his attitude towards writers by this stage and seemed happy to use their material with few complaints.Blundell (2003), p. 239-42.