Remember on The Late Show Champagne Edition DVD Tony mentions just how crap the early reviews of TLS really were? Here’s a trip down memory lane…
Herald-Sun, July 17, 1992
Young talent time
AT 10pm on Saturday, the ABC launches its new comedy series The Late Show, featuring the D-Generation.
There’s been no great fanfare about the debut of this one, but Aunty’s promoting it as a topical, satirical and light-hearted look at the week’s events.
According to the publicity handout “as part of the Opposition’s Youth Training Wage Scheme, cast members will receive $3 a joke”.
I realise Aunty’s a tich cash-strapped right now, but in the interests of good comedy maybe they could offer $6 if the joke’s funny.
Sunday Herald-Sun, July 26, 1992
WELL, if nothing else, the D-Generation crew have really got everyone confused over the title of their new Saturday night show on Two. At the ABC they initially called it The D-Generation Live. But a somewhat testy management person has been ringing newspapers and magazines insisting that the real name of the program is The Late Show – and change your listings promptly please. Sort yourselves out folks. Then get the D-Gen to sort out some comedy sketches that more than a studio audience of friends and relatives will find funny. After the start of a new series by Mel Smith and Griff Rhys-Jones last weekend, The D-Generation Live looked dated and insipid.If they cannot do better than this, then they should stick to radio.
Courier-Mail, July 31, 1992
HERE’S A LITTLE PIG WITH A CREDIBILITY PROBLEM
ABC, in its bounteous wisdom, has quietly slotted in a program called D-Gen, The Late Show at 10pm on Saturday night with not a word of publicity, which is a shame, because the one episode I’ve seen was very funny. I stumbled upon it by pure accident and have since discovered it’s the D-Generation comedy team starring in a new series. The episode I saw was the first. I haven’t had the time to see one since but any attempt at comedy on Saturday night is to be encouraged. Tony Martin, one of the cast, tells me the show is produced live, with some segments taped, and has been panned by Sydney and Melbourne critics. As the opinions which appear in this column are regularly at odds with those expressed by my southern colleagues, that surprises me not one little bit. Tony said that as a New Zealander he was at a loss to understand why Saturday night television in Australia was so dismal. “In New Zealand, and everywhere else in the world, Saturday is a huge night on television,” he said. I’m afraid I don’t have an answer for you, Tony, but if enough people start turning off sets on Saturday night maybe someone might get the message.
Herald-Sun, August 26, 1992
Jane happy to be ‘one of the boys’
THE D-Generation’s only female, Jane Kennedy, insists she’s just one of the boys in Aunty’s new comedy venture, The Late Show.
The brown-eyed beauty doesn’t feel out of place, surrounded by six wacky male comics in the ABC Saturday night show.
“I don’t feel like a girl working with six guys,” she told me [they] were concentrating on writing a show.
“And we didn’t have a product for anyone to look at because it’s a live program.” Despite a mixed critical reception, The Late Show is steadily gaining a cult following.
The ratings – peaking in the low teens – have pleased the ABC.
Aunty had originally signed the D-Generation for a 10-week season, but has now commissioned 12 more shows.
Critics have accused The Late Show of bad taste.
A sketch showing the Pope’s buttocks after a recent operation caused a stir.
The D-Gen also sparked a 30-minute radio talk-back after a skit about the Queen Mother.
Kennedy said: “We showed stock footage of the Queen Mother receiving a bunch of flowers.
“The cameras then panned to a little girl holding a card, saying: ‘Die you old bag.’ “My grandmother who loves the Queen Mum thought it was one of the funniest things she had seen.” Kennedy – a child of the ‘70s who was born into a media family – said she had a “boring, daggy” upbringing.
Convent-educated, she longed for the chance to have a dig at the “dull ‘70s” on the airwaves. Recently, she took revenge on her generation by presenting footage from old Countdown pop programs on The Late Show. The clips showed a hatless, mop-top Molly Meldrum interviewing inane guest performers like Iggy Pop.
Kennedy is enjoying the transition from radio to the TV screen. The D-Gen had been at Triple M-FM for five years.
“We were all under 30, had got up at 5am every day – and felt about 60.
“So we left in May while we were on top.”The ABC was not the only network to show interest in the talented bunch.
Kennedy and the team were almost snapped up by the Nine Network two years ago.
They made some pilots for Nine, but the network was then undergoing lean financial times so it decided not to pick up the D-Generation, according to Kennedy.
Surrounded by six men, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if Jane went out with one of the team members. [Heh, heh, we all know which one you chose Jane – ed]
Laughing, all she would say, was: “I can’t make up my mind which one of the D-Gen I want to go out with. “They’re all so gorgeous!”
The Advertiser, November 5, 1992
The D-Gen’s Jane Kennedy is having the time of her life on national television. She talks to SIMON YEAMAN
HER media peers may howl with laughter but Jane Kennedy of the D Generation comedy troupe reckons Kylie Minogue was one of her most “daunting” interviews. That was a couple of years back when Kennedy and the “d- Gens” were fronting Melbourne radio 3MMM’s breakfast shift and sitting pretty in the national Top 10 singles charts with five In A Row a merciless kylie parody. “It was a bit daunting because she was the smallest girl I’ve ever seen in my life,” Kennedy recalls. “She’s a beautiful- looking girl and I just thought ‘Oh dear, what have I done?”. She took it very well.” Nowadays, Kennedy’s satire is levelled at the ‘70s fashion disasters and treacly hits from the Countdown era. She and her cohorts delight in dragging up old clips from the ABC archives for embarrassing airtime on the ABCs D- Gen comedy show.
Kennedy, 28 and single, is the lone female in the seven-member comedy act which weekly pounds out the country’s snappiest blend of tomfoolery and topical satire live across Australia. The D Generation, originally a Melbourne university comedy group, was discovered by the ABC in 1986. Channel 7 snapped it up in 1988. Three of its four specials were more successful than the comedy Company and Fast Forward. From 1988 to last April, it fronted brekkie at 3mmm. Kennedy, a former media studies student, ran into the “boys” in 1988 while working at 3mmm as a producer.
“I was supposed to be a newsreader,” she says. “To cut a long story short, the boys culminated in sort of having me expelled.” Tommy Gleisner, trying to make her laugh, dropped his dacks to expose red undies Kennedy burst out hysterically mid-way through reading a murder story and thereafter became one of the lads. Kennedy says the three-year absence from television was a product of a heavy radio schedule. The D-Gen dominated breakfast ratings and bided its time for the move back into TV. “We were waiting for the right opportunity to come along, the right outlet for us, and the ABC is the perfect station for it,” she says, promising the D-Gen will be back next year. The live format means ample scope for muffed lines with the comedians often having to improvise their way through forgotten punchlines, dying sketches and fits of laughter, which give the show spontaneity. The humor, too, hasn’t passed without controversy, with comedian Rob Sitch’s portrayal of gushing Bruce McAvaney reporting from war-torn Bosnia a bit much for some. “The actual satirical point we were making was the media’s handling of it (the war coverage),” Kennedy defends. Kennedy says her biggest critic is her mum, who used to ring her up at 3MMM to correct her on-air mispronunciations. “She sometimes gets a bit uptight if I’m doing something on telly which might perhaps be a little uncouth,” Kennedy says. “Like if I’m playing Elle and taking my top off.” And of the nude shower scene with the rest of the lads? “I’ve known them all for a long time so it’s not really a thrill either way,” Kennedy laughs. “We have a pact not to look at each other’s different bits.” *D-Gen: The Late Show screens on the ABC at 10pm on Saturdays.
Herald Sun, November 25, 1992
Girls Just Want to Have Mick
SOME might say it’s a face only a mother could love but D-Generation’s Mick Malloy [sic] is the team’s sex symbol.
Talented Mick clearly has that special something and the female fans of The Late Show find him irresistible.
Each week he receives bucketloads of mail – mostly from eager young girls.
“I reckon the ladies are sick of sensitive, good-looking guys and are turning to blokes like me,” Malloy told the Herald-Sun with a cheeky grin. “Some of the letters I get from the young ladies are quite bizarre.
“We seem to have really committed fans who tend to be a bit passionate!” Molloy, 26, takes his new image as a sex god in good humor.
“It is,” he said, “pretty much tongue-in-cheek, it’s all pretty humorous.
“Mind you, it’s not bad for the ego.” Molloy, like the rest of the D-Generation team, fell into comedy while studying classical history at Melbourne University.
Through uni revues he met fellow team members Tony Martin, Rob Sitch and Santo Cilauro, who were a year ahead of him.
He joined the team just before they filmed their series of specials for the Seven Network.
“That was baptism by fire,” he said.
“I was inexperienced and didn’t contribute a lot.” Thanks to the success of the D-Generation on radio and now ABC-TV, Malloy never finished his Arts degree.
Prompted by the team, about 18 months ago he started performing live stand-up work around Melbourne.
When The Late Show finishes on December 12, Molloy plans to do more stand-up both here and interstate.
“The first time I tried stand-up,” he said, “it was the scariest moment of my life.
“I did about four minutes of material and when I came off stage I couldn’t remember a single thing I had said.” Along with the sex symbol tag, Molloy is often compared with the late comedian John Belushi.
“My body weight tends to fluctuate,” he said.
“When I put on a bit, I tend to look more like him.
“I find the comparison quite flattering.”Along with Steve Martin and Rowan Atkinson, Molloy cites Belushi as one of his favorite comedians.
“The man was a bona fide legend, larger than life, the complete package,” Malloy said.
“I saw Bill Murray interviewed and he said that when John was on stage, you couldn’t look at anyone else – he had too much presence.” Malloy will return to the ABC next year with the rest of the gang in another series of The Late Show, although they are negotiating a start date.
He also revealed that they have two or three ideas for short films.
“We’d like to break up the show into two series of 10 next year, to lessen the writing burden.
“We have a folder of ideas for films and that’s certainly something for the future.” Molloy, who for a short time studied drama at uni, admitted he has a penchant for acting.
“I’m definitely interested in it but I couldn’t see myself turning up in Summer Bay!”
Sunday Herald Sun, December 6, 1992
D-Gen having the last laughs
FIVE years ago, The D-Generation were virtual unknowns, their manic comedy restricted to university revues, a few stand-up performances and minor writing roles.
Today The D-Gen is responsible for a high-rating television show, has notched up a string of recording hits and picked up numerous awards for radio work.
The seven members of the outrageous comedy troupe first revealed their wicked, searing humor to a mass audience during their three-year stint on 3MMM FM between 1989 and 1991.
After top ratings, the group moved to television earlier this year in a bid to broaden its talents and experience.
Despite critics canning the first few episodes, The Late Show on the ABC is now a hit with a loyal following consisting of many fans including Phillip Adams and station programmer Bob Donoghue.
They have completed 22 hour-long comedy shows in a row since they debuted earlier this year and are about to be signed up for a similar series next year.
Their style of production is different to programs like Fast Forward and The Comedy Company, where scores of writers are hired to create the relentless comic output.
Unlike these commercial offerings, The D-Gen do it all themselves – from writing to acting to filming and editing.
And the results prove they can produce the goods.
In the difficult timeslot of 10pm Saturday and especially on a non-commercial station, The D-Gen were presented with an uphill battle.But by the end of the season their ratings have peaked in the mid-teens, a high result for the ABC.
“We were originally going to do this show in 1991 but the Gulf War happened and the ABC needed seven million dollars to maintain the satellite link with Iraq, so the five of our shows that were going to go ahead got the axe,” says group member Tony Martin.
Before the ABC and The D-Gen negotiated their mutual terms the seven members were working at Channel Nine trying to get a show off the ground while maintaining their morning radio slot on MMM FM.
But they were besieged with problems.
“Part of the reason we didn’t get a go-ahead at Channel Nine was because we didn’t have one frontman or presenter,” says Martin.
“They kept saying ‘Who’s the host? Whose picture do we put up?’” Fellow member Mick Molloy says leadership has never been an issue with The D-Gen.
“Nobody has wanted to be up front. If people get used to that idea then it will be a real strength.”
The seven met in the mid ‘80s when Martin, a native New Zealander, combined his writing talents with Molloy, Rob Sitch, Santo Cilauro, Jason Stevens and Tom Gleisner.They also later recruited Jane Kennedy, who had a short-lived career with Jo Pearson’s show Body and Soul.
“The whole thing is successful because everyone has been working together so long. Everyone has their own segments and their own responsibility,” says Molloy.
Complaints The D-Gen admit their humor is made largely at other people’s expense, but the complaints have come over totally unexpected sketches.
“There seems to be a lot of complaints from Adelaide. Anything about the Royal Family gets people going in Adelaide. They have whole hours of talkback devoted to our show. You never know what will get people’s goat.” Their popular segment Countdown Classics, which examines old footage from the music show, has also reportedly upset former host Molly Meldrum.
“I ran into him one night and he was mumbling that we would be hearing from him,” says Molloy.
“He wasn’t happy and I could feel legal ramifications in the wind so I invited him to appear on the show.”
Molly was tempted with getting old D-Gen footage and sending it up on their last program.
“He agreed to do it but we have to confirm it because he probably woke up the next morning and said ‘What have I done’,” laughs Martin.
Their act has also been criticised as being too highbrow for the common viewer, an opinion they deny angrily.
“Somebody wrote into Backchat calling us pseudo-intellectuals and we had this whole list of fart jokes in front of us at the time,” says Martin.
Many of their segments have been slapped together out of their mutual satire of pop-culture, and in particular television. One segment, “Sink the Slipper”, where they repeatedly kick the rear end of a “weekly guest” who annoys them, was borne out of a drinking session at Molloy’s local pub.
They admit that time for rest is scarce considering the hour of comedy that needs to be filled each week.
“It is a seven-day-a-week job,” says Martin.
“Sunday is supposed to be my day off but I get up and shriek ‘we’ve got nothing!’ You then get the newspaper out and look for a joke.” New deal
“We have put in some monster days – up to 18 hours’ long,” adds Molloy.
“There are times when I thought this was all too much.” Martin says the group is superstitious enough not to sign a new deal until this year’s season is well and truly finished.
But while their future looks bright, they are also aware that they, too, will one day be the target of some young enterprising, unconventional comedians.
“You live by it and you die by it,” says Molloy.
“At the moment we have poked a lot of fun at the expense of others.Especially people who were once celebrities and are now in that declining period. If we hang around long enough there will come the day when we will get it too.”
Sydney Morning Herald, 17 August 1992
A BUNCH OF D-GENERATES
THE D-Generation has received such a vigorous critical kicking since its new D-Gen – The Late Show began a month ago on the ABC, it seems only appropriate to lead off by asking Rob Sitch and Tom Gleisner why their patchy but often hilarious hour has been so greeted?
But for their money, remarks like “ill-conceived”, “sloppy”, “elitist” and even – heaven forbid – “unfunny”, can be easily dismissed.
“We always (during their lengthy stint on the breakfast show of 2-MMM Melbourne) found that older people would vilify you a bit,” says Sitch. “I suppose some of the comedy will fall flat if you don’t understand the subtext. We always expected it.”
Bad critiques are one thing, but so insulting and irritatingly irrelevant have some of them been that the cast took the extraordinary step of belittling one of their critics, a Melbourne tabloid journalist and illustrator, at the end of one program.
In the dressing room afterwards, it was apparent that the D-Generates (Sitch, Gleisner, Santo Cilauro, Jane Kennedy, Tony Martin, Jason Stephens and Mick Molloy) were either highly peeved or basically unfazed by this gent.
The reaction of the studio audience had been overwhelmingly positive -there being little or no need for applause prompters to help whip up a frenzy. Perhaps The Late Show does work slightly better in the ABC’s Melbourne studio than on the tube, and the chaps themselves are the first to admit that it’s early days yet for their new baby.
But perhaps the most sensitive wound is having been chided for lacking the”discipline” of former D-Gen alumni Magda Szubanski, Marg Downey and Michael Veitch, who defected to the highly commercial Fast Forward and, later, Bligh.
“Television programmers do tend to pursue formulas,” says Sitch. “It’s just that I think you should probably try a little more than that and maybe try something that’s a little different.
“It’s difficult to know if criticism on that level is valid. They’re criticising on the basis of how they think a thing should be.”
Much of the writing is completed just before air-time, the idea being to give proceedings a topical edge with mock news-in-brief segments and current affairs “interviews” – rather than establishing too many familiar comic characters that can draw easy laughs by merely appearing on the set. Gleisner, in particular, is loath to slip into this habit.
“When Fast Forward and The Comedy Company started in ‘88 and ‘89, people hadn’t had much sketch comedy,” he says. “Back then it was just great. Since then we haven’t had a year without it. “Rob’s impersonation of (Channel 7 Olympic caller) Bruce McAvaney worked a treat, but even then we started getting people around here saying ‘We’ll have to do that again’.
“Where Bruce was great to do that week, when you start working a character into the show every time, there’s no point in doing it. You get Con the Fruiterer.”
Apart from the slings and arrows, the team are pleased with the show’s progress since it suddenly appeared, unannounced and unheralded, just after Alas Smith & Jones on a recent Saturday night. The remarkable absence of pre-launch hype was just the way the D-Generates wanted it. “A lot of the commercial channels shove a new program down people’s throats before it’s really right,” says Sitch. “It needs around six to 10 weeks before it becomes a half-decent product.
“It’s also misleading to promote something before it’s ready. People might not tune in again.”
The D-Gen’s deal with the ABC is for 10 hour-long episodes, with the option to extend to 22 if all goes well. They have some reservations about continuing over an ABC hour, where an hour means an hour and not 45 minutes with advertisements.
And their frothy cocktail of stand-up, dismantling of sub-standard TV ads, affectionate slagging of ‘70s shows like Countdown and Rush and scoffing at bad album covers, mostly from, yes, the ‘70s, does rather date them.
Gleisner and Kennedy, who host the Countdown segment, were appalled to find that many of these historic and cringe-worthy moments had been lost – the tapes wiped by a faceless ABC bureaucrat, ostensibly to save on the cost of new tapes.
“It’s tragic,” fumes Gleisner. “There must have been about 40 episodes a year shot over 10 years and the ABC wipes most of them.”
Sitch defends their demographic stand.
“We’re consciously trying to avoid being self-indulgent,” he says. “But there’s so much broad-based comedy already, maybe it’s not a bad thing that people who are 25 to 35 should not pander to people who are 55.
“In trying to please everyone, you get a sort of agreeable mediocrity.”Indeed. Far better 15 minutes of dud gags in an hour than 45 minutes of nothing but.
The Advertiser, May 1, 1987
It’s not all laughs on the D-Generation
THE D-Generation has never had to rely on forced laughs. But this time the laughs were right on cue, and for exactly the stipulated length of time. It’s not that the second series of The D-Generation, which started last night on the ABC, isn’t as funny as the first – the applause, followed by bursts of totally unspontaneous laughter, were for technical purposes. Sound checks, we were told. Part of the serious side to making a successful comedy.
If it’s hard work for the crew and cast, it’s not all gravy for the audience either. At the ABC’s Elsternwick studio in Melbourne, we sat under the hot lights and waited for the fun to begin. First there was the compulsory doomsday advice about where to run in case of fire in Studio 31. Then there were those dreaded sound checks.
First applause – that’s easy enough. Then laughter – all together, again, right side, then left side join in according to the commands of the apparent sadist who spoke to the floor manager through the headphones. It is difficult to laugh at absolutely nothing, but after a few seconds the chuckles come thick and fast, most of us laughing at the ridiculous spectacle of 200 or so people laughing at nothing.
Finally the fun started. That is, the show started. The first few skits and segments were all pre-taped and screened on the monitors. There was laughter, spontaneous this time, particularly for the sketch about supermarket checkouts and items without price stickers.
The first live sketch required a medieval, religious atmosphere, so the studio (and audience) was filled with smoke. The sketch began, with The D-Generation throwing off their habits to reveal bright garments for a cute song and dance routine about Queensland.
“Right you lucky people, you get to see that again,” the floor manager said to the bewildered audience. It looked all fine to us. The cast slithered back into their costumes, quickly fixed make-up and assumed their positions. Take two, with fewer laughs than the first take. This time there was a thumbs up from the floor manager and the cast scattered quickly to get ready for the next routine. Meanwhile, more taped material under the hot lights in the stuffy studio.
Eventually, another live sketch featuring an irreverent shot at the safe-sex campaign. The first take seemed fine, but there was a second. This too was fine until a garbage bag had to be brought from under a pillow (can’t say too much, but there is supposed to be a parallel between the garbage bag and a condom) and the opening could not be found. Take three.
More taped comedy followed by the third live sketch featuring Magda Szubanski as a current affairs show host and a “panel of experts.” She opens with a tongue-twisting introduction and the group sails through the sketch until just before the end, when someone misses a line. Back to the start. Magda doesn’t make it through the tongue-twister this time. There is whispered consultation, a bit of nervous laughter but it is evident that the players are becoming frustrated. And they’re not the only ones. It isn’t easy to laugh at the same joke time after time, no matter how funny it is.
Eventually they finish the skit. It required nine takes. Magda takes an ironic bow to the applause of the relieved audience.
More taped material. Finally, the last of the live sketches. It takes a little while to set up. “People often wonder why this show doesn’t go to air live,” one of the crew wryly commented to the heat-numbed audience.
Now for the audience participation part. We had to stand up and say in unison: “Bugger that for a joke.” Two rehearsals and we were word perfect. Then that voice in the headphones strikes again. He wants a different inflection on the words. We practise again.
Finally we are warned that there will be a small explosion in the studio. Obviously the way to get rid of an insufficiently responsive audience. No second takes. Everything was fine – except for that second “Bugger that for a joke.” It was disorganised, lame and drew disapproving looks from the crew.
Later, as most of us escaped into the cool night air, there was a small gathering of journalists, cast and crew to talk about the show. Cast members filter out slowly, looking even more tired and worn than the audience. It’s obviously been hard work; most are a little stunned by tonight’s taping. There are usually fewer mistakes, fewer re-takes.
Enter Kris Noble, the man whose voice came through the headphones. The unseen controller of tonight’s entertainment. He is director, producer, executive producer and audience-torturer. He too, felt that there were a few problems in tonight’s show. “We had problems in the studio and you can’t pick up time. We spooled the dress rehearsal.”
All right, what about those laughs at the start of taping? Noble explained that each audience has its own sound, and that sound has to be established. As for tonight’s delays and retakes, he does consider them abnormal. “They have been a bit edgy,” he said casting a slightly fatherly glance over the congregated D-Generation. “This is the third show and I usually do put in a gap between the third and fourth because people are wearing down, and that’s exactly what’s happening.”
It’s not suprising they are wearing down. The cast had been writing for the program since November and produced about 250 scripts before taping began. That’s the fascinating thing about The D-Generation: there is a huge attrition rate for sketches.
Noble said the collection of taped and live sketches lasted close to 50 minutes; it would be cut down to 23 minutes. As it is, only six new shows will be made, to be followed by four compilation episodes from the first series, known as the “least worst” of The D-Generation.
As the cast, friends of the cast and last straggling audience members head for the door, for home, for a pizza, for a headache tablet, Noble takes up a bottle of beer and a glass and heads off to an editing suite. He has to begin the job now, so that the show can be put together on Monday.
At least we could all go straight home after such a hard night’s work.
Copyright: THE ADVERTISER, May 1, 1987