Hey Hey It’s Saturday star Daryl Somers has apologised to Kamahl for his “plainly inappropriate” treatment on Hey Hey It’s Saturday and conceded that the “offensive” skits which targeted the entertainer’s skin colour would not go to air today.
Somers, who is recording Dancing with the Stars for the Seven network, said he acknowledges that the historical footage – which includes racist sketches like Kamahl being hit in the face with a white powder puff – has “understandably” upset people.
"It hurt, of course it hurt. It's terrible to be humiliated. They wouldn't hit John Farnham or Jimmy Barnes in the face with a powder puff." @OfficialKamahl on @Studio10au this morning, talking about his time on Hey, Hey It's Saturday. pic.twitter.com/zeJHKOKPy6
— Angela Bishop (@AngelaBishop) March 29, 2021
“I want to make it very clear that I and all members of the Hey Hey team do not condone racism in any form,” Somers said in a strong statement on Facebook.
“I have always considered Kamahl a friend and supporter of the show, so I deeply regret any hurt felt by him as a result of anything that took place on the program in the past.
“I wholeheartedly support diversity in the Australian entertainment industry and I am committed to continuous learning and development in that regard.”
Ahead of his return to primetime on Seven Somers has been criticised for telling the Daily Telegraph that “you probably could not get away with half the stuff you could on Hey Hey now because of political correctness and cancel culture”.
While 'Hey Hey It’s Saturday' was beloved during its heyday, some of the gags haven’t aged well, and none are more aware of that than much-loved crooner @OfficialKamahl who was the victim of crude stereotyping and overt racism during his time on the show. pic.twitter.com/EzN2ehqtR6
— The Project (@theprojecttv) March 30, 2021
But after an interview with Guardian Australia in which Kamahl, now 86, said he felt “humiliated” by his experiences on Hey Hey, Somers has backflipped and now says the sketches are offensive in the context of contemporary values.
The Somers apology was in strong contrast to a response from his off-camera sidekick John Blackman who was responsible for saying “You’re a real white man now Kamahl, you know that?” after Kamahl was hit with white powder in 1984.
Blackman’s response to Kamahl’s hurt was to suggest he should have moved on from the “humiliation” he felt from being the target of racist remarks.
Kamahl has revealed that he had no idea he was going to be hit in the face while he was singing a song and he believes there is no way they would have done that to Jimmy Barnes or John Farnham.
Kamahl joins the ranks of the Cancel Culture Club - strikes retrospectively at HHIS - a bit like shooting Bambi (or fish in a barrel) Good one Kamahl! https://t.co/b51Mwxm0qn pic.twitter.com/Kzwyk8muxM
— JohnBlackman (@johnblackmanhey) March 28, 2021
“Hey Hey It’s Saturday never set out to offend anybody but always strived to provide family entertainment,” Somers said. “I am proud of the fact that it was the longest running comedy/variety program on Australian television lasting for 30 years.
“I certainly appreciate, however, that in the context of modern society some material from the past is plainly inappropriate, and would not go to air today.”
Kamahl has talked about being hurt by his portrayal on the show but has stopped short of criticising Somers personally and said he accepted his apology.
“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.”