Australia’s entertainment world has farewelled yet another one of its favourites following passing of beloved entertainer John Hamblin on Wednesday, September 21 at the age of 87.
Despite a long career on the Australian stage and screen, Hamblin was best known for his presenter role on the popular children’s program Play School. His often irreverent sense of humour and use of double-entendres during skits not only earned him the monicker of “Naughty John” but also made him a fan favourite among both children and their parents during his 30 years with the program.
Fellow presenter Benita Collings revealed to the ABC that Hamblin “was great to work with” as she paid tribute to her late former co-host.
“You never quite knew it was scripted … he knew the script, however, he was deliciously just a little bit off key at times, and that was lovely because it made him a very different presenter and not straight … it was great fun,” Collings said.
With all the fun that she enjoyed on set alongside Hamblin, Collings found it difficult to narrow down simply one favourite moment.
“I don’t know because there was never a sort of favourite moment with John you knew you had to be on your toes, ready for anything. He would make such a joy out of the script. That was the thing, it was a script you learnt and you came in and you did it,” she said.
“Oh my gosh, he would alter something just a tiny bit that it would throw you, and you’d go with the flow. That was the joy of working with him.”
Collings said she would always remember Hamblin “as somebody who was wicked, was funny, always there for you”.
“You never kind of went, ‘Oh, what is happening?’ You knew if you stumbled or forgot your line or something like that, he would pick up and continue on,” she revealed.
“(I have) very fond memories of him. And last night when I heard the news, it was a shock because you sort of think people just go on forever and they don’t.”
ABC Director Entertainment & Specialist Jennifer Collins joined Collings as some the first to pay tribute to Hamblin, describing him as “an unforgettable presenter whose comedic timing and wit helped cement Play School as one of Australia’s most cherished children’s programs”.
“John had a wicked sense of humour and was not afraid of a double-entendre,” Collins said.
“His presence always managed to keep both our toddler target audience and their parents equally engaged with the show. I would like to extend my condolences to John’s family at this sad time.”
Fond memories of Hamblin were not just shared among those within the ABC, fans and fellow entertainment figures across Australia took to social media to share their most treasured memories of the late performer while offering their condolences.
Journalist and media commentator Melissa Hoyer admitted to having “a major crush” on Hamblin who she described as “out Play School prince”.
Even as a really little kid I had a major crush on Play School host & actor, John Hamblin. Think it was his slightly bucked teeth. (I didn’t ever divulge this ‘older man’ puppy love to anyone.) RIP our Play School prince. He was 87. ???????????? #JohnHamblin #RIP https://t.co/VGcfYRpUVn pic.twitter.com/KIBaXyKtzW
— Melissa Hoyer (@melissahoyer) September 21, 2022
Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Hamblin’s passing was “really said” and described him as a man who brought “delight to little ones everywhere”.
This is really sad. Our kids, like so many others, grew up on Play School, “There’s a Bear in There” and John and Bonita. John took visual delight in bringing delight to little ones everywhere. Big Ted will be shedding lots of tears today. Vale John. https://t.co/53Pw6BLGE9
— Kevin Rudd (@MrKRudd) September 21, 2022
Fellow iconic Australian children’s entertainers, The Wiggles, also offered their condolences to “a pioneer of childhood entertainment” and even cited him as a major inspiration to the original Wiggles crew.
Vale John Hamblin, a pioneer of early childhood entertainment with his work on Play School. John inspired all of the OG Wiggles, who were total fans. We are so very sad to learn of his passing. Thank you for being you, John. pic.twitter.com/yugFWjhwvA
— The Wiggles (@TheWiggles) September 21, 2022
Federal Labor member for Canberra, Alicia Payne thanked Hamblin who “was a huge part” of her childhood.
This is very sad.
John Hamblin was a huge part of my childhood and brought joy to countless Australian children during his wonderful career. Thank you John. https://t.co/FVarsUaFaC
— Alicia Payne MP (@AliciaPayneMP) September 21, 2022
Today Extra co-host and singer David Campbell spoke of how “stoked” he was to perform alongside Hamblin in Away while expressing sadness over his passing.
So sad to hear about John Hamblin’s passing. Grew up with him in Play School and was stoked when I got to play his son in “Away” at the @SydneyTheatreCo
My condolences to his family pic.twitter.com/pWYxPJVI2y
— David Campbell OAM (@DavidCampbell73) September 21, 2022
— Danielle Lonnon (@DameDivaDan) September 22, 2022
It was a good day if John was on Playschool. If it was John and Benita – PARTY TIME. Noni too? – Almost too much! Totally hilarious. Totally inappropriate. Totally perfect. Go well sir, go well. #JohnHamblin pic.twitter.com/Z3spcBYb4n
— Em Rusciano (@EmRusciano) September 21, 2022
Shake your sillies out for Funny John. RIP John Hamblin (1935-2022) pic.twitter.com/PsDApkkgyx
— australian kitsch (@OzKitsch) September 21, 2022
Let’s share our favourite John Hamblin segments.
Mine was when he and Benita made a pretend supermarket with cardboard shelves and tissue paper lettuces ????
— anna spargo-ryan (@annaspargoryan) September 21, 2022
John Hamblin was my absolute favourite on Play School; he was relaxed, cheeky and silly and I loved him.
Thank you for being part of my childhood, John.
— Rachel Baker (@RachelBkr) September 21, 2022
Sad to hear John Hamblin from Play School passed away. I loved it when he was on when my children were little. ????
— Robyn (@robynbryant33) September 21, 2022
Vale to a true icon of Australian children’s television, Play School’s John Hamblin. Always entertaining, always funny, always ready with a little wink to the parents watching in the form of a cheeky double entendre.
Thanks for the mischief & the many happy memories John. pic.twitter.com/O2yHNWBuXP
— anonymissjane (@anonymissjane) September 21, 2022
John Hamblin was my favourite Playschool presenter for many years, from when I was a child to when my first littles were babies.
We spent hours watching Benita and John being silly and having fun.
So much love to his friends and family. pic.twitter.com/jLpT7ZENe6
— JacqualineKerin (@EthericSelfRM) September 21, 2022
My husband just made this comment about John Hamblin from play school – he taught our generation of men that adult males could be silly with kids. Hadn’t thought of that but so true – a generational shift from the conservative male father figure.
— Deborah Hennessy (@debhennessy21) September 21, 2022
Hamblin’s acting career commenced in the theatre with the Theatre Royal in Windsor before making an appearance on the television series The Prisoner.
Upon his arrival to Australia in the 1960s, Hamblin began work with the Sydney Theatre Company before securing roles in television soap operas such as Number 96, Class of ’74, The Young Doctors, and Sons and Daughters throughout the 1960 and 1970s.
Hamblin played the role of Michael Chamberlain in the 1984 telemovie The Disappearance of Azaria Chamberlain and following a break from acting he appeared in guest roles in television series such as All Saints and Love My Way in the 1990s and 2000s.
However, it was role as presenter with the popular children’s show Play School in 1970 that will long be considered his most iconic role. Hamblin featured in over 350 episodes before retiring from the program in 1999.
Hamblin delighted fans when he returned for a special guest appearance as part of Play School’s 50th Anniversary special in 2016.
Hamblin is survived by his children Emma and Myles.