Graham Kennedy


Graham Kennedy : biography

15 February 1934 – 25 May 2005

In 1964 Bert Newton abruptly disappeared from the program. It was not publicly acknowledged at the time but he had suffered a nervous breakdown. After a long absence he returned to appear on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evening episodes. On 14 June 1965 IMT reached its 2,000th instalment and more people watched the show per capita then any other television program in the world.Blundell (2003), p. 245-8.

By this stage Frederick Parslow was well established on the program’s writing team and was a confidante of Kennedy’s.

When he was really down, depressed about things. A relationship had failed. He rang me in a terrible state and asked me to go down to his house in Frankston. Joan, my wife, said you better go. He sounded really desperate. There wasn’t much he could do for such a long time. Of course, when he did start to get brave, he was too old for going around and picking up what he might enjoy. He was the first of our mega stars; there seem to be mega stars everywhere now. In those days, living in such a Sleepy Hollow like Melbourne, he found his life terribly, terribly difficult. And you can understand in those days. The times have changed. It’s almost compulsory to be homosexual now.Blundell (2003), p. 250.

Don Lane and Graham Kennedy split-screen in 1965On 7 July 1965 Kennedy appeared on a then-innovative live split-screen link with Don Lane, the host of Sydney Tonight, via the recently completed co-axial cable linking Melbourne and Sydney. Starting late September 1966, IMT itself would be transmitted in Sydney via the co-axial cable. This coincided with a cameo in the film They’re a Weird Mob in which Kennedy plays himself. Like the film’s protagonist, Kennedy in the film finds Sydney to be a city somewhat unwelcoming towards migrants from anywhere.Blundell (2003), p. 254-5. By early December 1966 ratings for Kennedy’s show were strong in Sydney. There was an increase from one IMT episode a week in Sydney, to two, with a Monday night broadcast added that month.Blundell (2003), p. 257.

By 1968 there was a regular roster of IMT guest hosts, including Bert Newton, Tim Evans, Bobby Limb, Don Lane, Kevin Sanders, and Michael Preston.Blundell (2003), p. 269. The announcement of Kennedy’s intention to leave IMT was made in October 1969 and he left the show on the expiration of his contract 23 December 1969. His final episode features newsreader Sir Eric Pearce placing on his head a crown made by the Channel Nine prop department in the style of that worn by Henry IV, symbolising Kennedy’s reign as King of Australian television.Blundell (2003), p. 273.

In 2007, the crown (which a private collector had recognised at a junk store in Bowral NSW, and purchased for $5) was auctioned for more than $17,000 to a producer of the Seven Network’s Sunrise programme., 23 April 2007

Comedic style

Kennedy deliberately pushed the boundaries of acceptability in a staid era. Inspired by stage comedians such as Roy Rene, his style was bawdy, irreverent, iconoclastic, often smutty, sometimes deliberately camp, and laden with innuendo and double-entendre. He regularly overstepped the boundaries of accepted "good taste", once telling a fan "There are no limits, love, there are no limits."Blundell (2003), p. 379

Journalist Megan Gressor described Kennedy’s style as having "… mongrel roots – a hybrid of vaudeville, slapstick and endless suggestiveness, plus a subliminal subversiveness all his own. It seems almost pantomimic to modern eyes, but Kennedy was a product of simpler times. And more complex. His was an act predicated upon repression; naughtiness loses its point in a world without taboos, where anything goes. It wouldn’t work today, when people don’t just say "fuck" on television, they do it.": Megan Gressor, Sydney Morning Herald, 26 April 2003


Drawing on his radio experience with Nicky (who had routinely "sent up" advertisers), Kennedy transformed the live commercials from what would have otherwise been dull pro-forma obligations into a unique comedic art form. On one famous occasion, a scheduled 20-second ad spot for an aspirin product was spun out into 33 minutes of improvised comedy.