A Hey Hey It’s Saturday star has questioned why singer Kamahl failed to raise concerns about racism during the hit show.
Kandiah ‘Kamahl’ Kamalesvaran appeared on the variety show for many years but has only now called it ‘offensive’ and his treatment made him feeling humiliated.
John Blackman, who spent almost three decades as the program’s announcer and character voice-over artist, came under fire over the weekend over a remark he made about Kamahl during a skit on the show in 1984.
The skit showed a stage hand rushing at Kamahl and covering his face with white powder, before Blackman called out off-screen: ‘You’re a real white man now Kamahl, you know that?’
Singer Kamahl (pictured) revealed on Saturday racist remarks he was subjected to on Hey Hey It’s Saturday were ‘offensive’ and left him feeling ‘humiliated’
One particularly uncomfortable scene involved a stage hand throwing white powder in Kamahl’s face before voice-over artist John Blackman shouted ‘you’re a real white man now’
Kamahl revealed in an interview on Saturday he found the comment ‘offensive’ with the moment reported as the ‘worst incident’ he faced on the show.
The Malaysian-born Australian entertainer, now 86, who sold millions of records worldwide, told The Guardian he at times felt ‘humiliated’ on the beloved show.
‘Goodness me Kamahl, 37 years and you’re still “humiliated”,’ Blackman posted on Facebook. ‘You knew where my booth was!
‘If you felt so aggrieved by my “quip” you should have had marched up to it, had a quiet word in my ear and I would have desisted from making any further “racist” remarks forever.’
However, Blackman confessed he sometimes ‘cringes’ at the content when he watches old episodes of Hey Hey It’s Saturday, but added it was made in an era which he described as ‘less-enlightened times’.
‘Keep in mind, we were all performing in less-enlightened (unintended pun) times back in the day and, when I look back over my career on HHIS (via You Tube), I sometimes cringe at what we got away with – but none of it with any intended malice,’ Blackman wrote.
Kamahl opened up to The Guardian about how he felt during Hey Hey It’s Saturday’s racist segments – and implied some of the show’s gags should never be repeated.
John Blackman (pictured) took to Facebook to question why Kamahl had not raised concerns with him about the comment at the time
John Blackman worked on the show for its entire 28-year run, from 1971 to 1999 (the cast are pictured)
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 came days after Daryl Somers, who is returning to the small screen to host Dancing With The Stars All-Stars, 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.’
Hitting back at the remarks, Kamahl said he believed some people missed the point when using the term ‘cancel culture’.
‘They’re only trying to limit unnecessarily vulgar or crude terminology or gags or whatever,’ he said.
Kamahl accepted his profile had been helped by appearing on shows such as Hey Hey, admitting he needed the exposure to build his career and popularity – though he didn’t realise what a ‘minefield’ it would be.
‘There were a number of instances where I felt humiliated, but I didn’t want to raise any objections or protest about it,’ he said.
He explained he coped with it by smiling and ‘pretending everything was OK’, not wanting to ruin his own career.
One comment was also made about Kamahl needing to smile so ‘we can see him’ (pictured) during the show
In one scene, Daryl Somers wore blackface as he impersonated Malaysian-born singer Kamahl
The show regularly used cartoons and drawings, one of which depicted Kamahl with a bone through his nose
A montage of some of the most controversial Hey Hey gags involving Kamahl was shared on social media this week, drawing reactions mostly in support of the singer.
One particularly outrageous gag saw the lighting department asking Kamahl to smile so ‘we can see him’.
Another extraordinary clip to since reemerge shows a much younger Somers wearing blackface and impersonating Kamahl.
Somers darkened his skin with makeup and wore a wig as he performed with the singer on stage.
‘Friends of mine in America saw that and to this day they can’t believe that somebody would treat an artist with that amount of disrespect,’ he explained.
Other gags depicted cartoon versions of him with a bone through his nose, and as a pair of bright white teeth against a black background.
In one scene an off-screen voice pondered whether his new album might ‘go black’ instead of gold.
One clip showed Somers appeared to make fun of a third-generation Chinese-Australian audience member as he introduced her on camera.
‘I’m originally from Sydney,’ the woman said.
‘You were born and bred in Sydney?’ In another, Somers (right) appeared to make fun of a third-generation Chinese-Australian audience member (centre) as he introduced her on camera
In one segment, Kamahl’s face was covered with white chalk dust while he sang – in one of many examples of controversial skits
Somers is now set to host Seven’s reboot of Dancing with the Stars, after hosting the original seven seasons from 2004 to 2007. Pictured with Sonia Kruger
Somers then asked: ‘You were born and bred in Sydney? I thought you were going to say your background is from overseas somewhere. So no one in the family speaks Chinese?’
Kamahl did not blame host Somers and implied he wasn’t to blame, saying he was a ‘bystander’ who neither ‘encouraged nor stopped’ the jokes.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Somers has said he wasn’t happy about the shift in public taste towards more ‘politically correct’ jokes, but accepted that the world is changing.
‘A lot of comics can’t work much because what would have been just tongue-in-cheek previously now can easily get them into trouble,’ he said.
‘I can’t say I am enamoured with it, but it is a changing world in which we live and you just have to work around things.’
Hey Hey It’s Saturday ran for 28 years on the Nine Network from 1971 to 1999, before returning for special episodes in 2009.
Footage has resurfaced of Daryl Somers’ most shocking moments on classic variety show Hey Hey It’s Saturday which ran for 28 years in its first run
A new season of 20 episodes was commissioned in 2010, but the variety program did not return in 2011.
During its run, Hey Hey It’s Saturday had its fair share of controversy.
Last year, TV veteran Somers was called out for performing Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World in blackface on the show in the 1980s.
Another incident in 2009 involved a comedy troupe dressed up as the Jackson Five in blackface for Hey Hey’s regular Red Faces talent show segment.
American singer Harry Connick Jr. was a guest judge on the program and gave the performance a score of zero, saying he never would have appeared on the show if he had known it would involve blackface.
Somers apologised to Harry at the end of the live segment, saying: ‘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.’