Singer Kamahl has revealed the true extent of the racist jokes and slurs he was subjected to during his time on the popular Aussie sketch show Hey Hey, it’s Saturday. Speaking out about being the butt of insensitive, race-themed jokes, the 86-year-old singer told The Guardian that despite being invited back for the reboot of the show, he kept avoiding it because he was often left “humiliated” by his appearances.
“There were a number of instances where I felt humiliated, but I didn’t want to raise any objections or protest about it. I kept smiling and pretending all was okay,” he said.
In a particularly shocking incident in 1984, Kamahl was hit in the face with a powder-puff putting him in whiteface with John Blackman, who did Hey Hey’s voice-overs, saying: “You’re a real white man now, Kamahl, you know that?”
Kamahl described the powder-puff incident as “offensive” and revealed he didn’t realise the show was “going to be a minefield, of sorts”.
“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 said.
According to the Herald Sun, Blackman has since taken to Facebook to question the timing of Kamahl’s complaints and asking why he did not come forward sooner.
“Goodness me Kamahl, 37 years and you’re still ‘humiliated’,” Blackman wrote. “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.
“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 (Hey Hey via YouTube), I sometimes cringe at what we got away with — but none of it with any intended malice.”
Kamahl also responded to recent comments by Hey Hey host Daryl Somers, who told The Daily Telegraph last week there was no way a program would be able to “get away” with the stuff they did, describing it as a “shame”.
“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 said.
Kamahl told The Guardian he didn’t have any grievances with Somers, who he said neither encouraged the behaviour nor stopped it.
“I always got along reasonably well with Daryl,” he said. “I’ve never had any quarrel with Daryl at all, and I don’t think he had any ill-feeling towards me. I don’t think he encouraged it, nor stopped it. He was a bystander.”
Kamahl said political correctness and “cancel culture” was a way of limiting vulgar jokes and gags and not a way of limiting witty, clever comedy.
“I know they call it cancel culture, but they’re not stopping culture. They’re only trying to limit unnecessarily vulgar or crude terminology or gags or whatever,” he said. “If something has merit, if it is witty, if it’s clever, so be it. If it’s crap, maybe we can do without it.”
Since Somers’ comments came to light, Twitter users have created videos showing numerous racist sketches from Hey Hey in which Kamahl was the target.
To celebrate Daryl Somers’ hot take on cancel culture yesterday here’s all the edits I’ve done from the Hey Hey archives.
Here’s the legend Kamahl being bullied by the Hey Hey gang pic.twitter.com/Aa3WMeRw54
— John Patterson (@johnpatterson) March 22, 2021
The video was captioned: “To celebrate Daryl Somers’ hot take on cancel culture yesterday here are all the edits I’ve done from the Hey Hey archives. Here’s the legend Kamahl being bullied by the Hey Hey gang.”
The show was cancelled twice, once in 1999, and in 2010, after the rebooted series shocked viewers with a blackface sketch.
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