ROY AND HG: ENDURING CHEMISTRY
On Saturday, when Roy and HG finish another season of their ABC radio show, Bludging on the Blindside, it’ll mark the end of their 36th year of mocking Australian sport, politics and culture at an elite level. That’s 36 years in a row. Some years might have been busier than others, but they’ve never had a hiatus. They’ve never broken up. In fact, they’re probably the most enduring double act in the history of mainstream Australian entertainment.
Roy and HG started on Triple J in 1986 with This Sporting Life, a parody of an afternoon sports show with HG Nelson (Greig Pickhaver) - the commentator/journalist, and Rampaging Roy Slavan (Joyn Doyle) - the former champ/expert. HG would rant and ask a lot of questions while Roy would sit back and pontificate and occasionally get angry.
The mostly desk bound This Sporting Life made its way onto ABC television in 1993, and was followed by Club Buggery in 1997, which had a lot more razzle dazzle. But their greatest triumph came in 2000, with The Dream - a satirical, subversive late-night commentary on the Sydney Olympic Games. The Dream would introduce Roy and HG to an international audience, who’d gamely unpick the meanings of such terms as "battered sav", "Chiko Roll", "flat bag", "Dutch wink", "crazy date" and "hello boys". More summer and winter Olympic Games shows followed, as well as their famous State of Origin calls where they gave defiantly juvenile nicknames to the players like “Adolf” (for Brad Fittler because it rhymed with Hitler), and “Poo in a Shoe” (for Julian O’Neill because he once did a poo in someone’s shoe). There were stints on Triple M, Macquarie Sports Radio, Channel Nine and Channel 10. There were Logie, AFI and ARIA awards and now they’re back at the ABC on Saturdays.
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I was listening to This Sporting LIfe one afternoon in the early ‘90s when Roy and HG asked listeners to call in if they’d seen The King recently. And by “The King”, they meant Wally Lewis. And by “seen”, it couldn’t be in an official capacity, you had to have seen The King going about his every day life. Well I HAD seen The King. IN FACT, I’d seen him THAT MORNING in the Queen Street Mall. So I called Roy and HG and their “producer” answered the phone. But he sounded a lot like Roy. “Where’d you see him?” asked the producer/Roy.
“Coming out of a JB HiFi,” I said. “He’d bought some DVDs.”
“Excellent!,” said the producer/Roy. “We’ll get you on.”
I excitedly waited on-hold as they spoke on air to a bunch of listeners who had seen The King at beaches and picnicking with his family in the park. Minutes went by. I hoped they’d still get me on, but could hear the topic running out of juice. Then the inevitable happened - I heard the engaged signal letting me know I’d been cut off. It was brutal. I didn’t care about not getting to tell my shit Wally-Lews-coming-out-of-JB-HiFi story. I just wanted to talk to Roy and HG.
But my dream was half-realised about eight years later when I was working at the Sunday Herald Sun in Melbourne and was asked to do a phone-interview with Pickhaver, who had just starred in an Aussie film called The Honourable Wally Norman. I was curious. Would Pickhaver be doing the interview, or HG?
“Helloooo Adammm Zzzwaaaar!” Brilliant! It was HG.
Cathy Freeman had announced her retirement from athletics earlier in the week and that’s all HG really wanted to talk about.
“I'm stunned,” he said. “I believe she still had one big race left in her. I ask her to think again. Think of the green and gold. Think of the people of Australia. Because, let's face it, we're looking pretty thin come Athens.”
“What about Matt Shirvington?”
“No, no. I don't hold out much hope for `Shirvo'. You know, I think Patrick Johnson has a 9.2sec in him for the 100m. I've had a look at the bloke's biomechanics and there's no reason he can't do the 45-step ballet 0.7 of a second quicker. In fact, I'm pencilling that in as gold for Australia in the 100m.”
The conversation steered towards The Honourable Wally Norman, which detailed the life and times of a meat worker who rises to become Minister for Trade.
HG played the president of a country political party in the movie, which also featured Kevin Harrington, Shaun Micallef, Bryan Dawe and ad man John Singleton as the prime minister.
“Wonderful actor, John,” said HG. “He's been honing his craft for many years.”
HG says working on the film gave him the chance to view Australian actors “up close” and he’s now convinced they’re the best in the world.
His favourite Australian character?
“Martin Di Stasio in Frontline, played by Tiriel Mora. I thought Martin was the most brilliant bridge between fiction and fact.”
Favourite Australian film?
What about Bob Ellis trying to take his name off the Newsfront credits and then reinstating it the moment the film won an AFI?
“Bob knows you need an angle when you're selling a film,” he said. “You work for a paper, you know you need an angle. You can't just go in there and say it was written by Bob Ellis 'cause people will say, `So what?' You need some sort of controversy. Bob was ahead of his time.”
Then, HG makes his apologies as he’s got to go and find the next Cathy Freeman.
“The Queen is dead, long live the Queen,” he said. “Now, the hunt for the new 400m specialist begins. I've been looking at kids all week. Bloody hell, there are a lot of kids out there who can run.
“Fat kids, admittedly, but, gee, they can run.”