by PETER TATCHELL (reprinted from LAUGH MAGAZINE #23, 2002)
In its seventy year history, A.B.C. radio has not been a font of local comedy productions. From the 1940s to 1970s it was content to air dozens of B.B.C. classics from I.T.M.A. and Much-Binding-In-The-Marsh to adaptations of Steptoe and Son and Dad’s Army.
When it occasionally indulged in bursts of creativity they were often clones of successful British offerings. The launch of 2JJ in the mid-1970s resulted in several comedy serials and the groundbreaking Naked Vicar Show but by the 1980s, apart from short contributions by such performers as John Clarke, things had returned to the status quo.
In 1984, however, Aunty’s decision-makers gave the green light to a project combining the genres of comedy and nostalgia to form Slightly Out To Lunch (the name referring to the proposed Sunday lunchtime timeslot). A series of thirteen episodes was commissioned, offering a mix of contemporary television and movie satire, Pythonesque surrealism, several regular characters and a couple of serials. It was all brought together with a flavour of 1930s music supplied by musical director Arthur Greenslade and his Bondi Broadcasters.
The cast and writing team was headed by nostalgia buffs Tony Baldwin (one-time host of A.B.C. radio’s Saturday night 78rpm-fest Sentimental Journey) and Kevin Daly, whose extensive recording collection of the era would later be used by a number of CD labels. From the acting fraternity came such performers as Peter Whitford, Drew Forsythe and Lance Curtis, along with the writing and performing talents of Angela Webber, Adam Bowen, Jane Hardes and others.
Regular segments of Slightly Out To Lunch included the “Cooee Newsreel”, anachronistic and often bizarre parodies of those featured on cinema screens before the era of television and “Great Moments From The Cutting Room Floor” with supposed out-takes from film classics like Casablanca and Gold Diggers Of 1934. Also harking back to movie on-gins were the serials “It Came From Widgiemooltha” (about a mutant merino which runs amok across Australia) and the Star Wars-inspired “Luke Jaywalker and Imperial Echo”.
Television commercials and programmes like Towards 2000, 60 Minutes and the various other current affairs and lifestyles shows of the day were prime target for satirical treatment, as was the programming lineup of the creatively-impaired Channel 14. Another occasional feature of the series was an incongruous linking of the A.B.C. Sport commentary team heard covering historical events like the Battle of Trafalgar or interviewing Long John Silver.
Perhaps the show’s most popular regular was resident vet, Bruce Losis (played by Peter Smalley), whose responses to mundane queries about animals, birds and reptiles often went off into strange psychological flights of fancy. Other characters appearing were radical right wing politician Sir Horace Tuckerbox, interviewer Gillian Cross and arts guru Terry Leg-iron. And on a number of occasions the musical numbers would feature a newly-written George Formbyesque vocal.
Unlike most comedy shows, Slightly Out To Lunch was recorded without the presence of a studio audience, which meant it could utilize a large cast of players not all of whom needed to be present at the same session. Unfortunately this lack of response tended to work against the overall success of the series which would have benefited from the contagious effect of audience laughter.
Slightly Out To Lunch also suffered at the hands of A.B.C. programmers (long notorious for their cavalier treatment of imported TV comedies) who would drop occasional editions in certain states when this conflicted with weekend sporting coverage of test cricket or the like. Possibly to make amends for these annoying pre-emptions, five specially-compiled highlight editions of the show were broadcast four months after the conclusion of its first season of programmes.
Six weeks later, on Christmas Day, a special festive edition called Slightly Out To Christmas Lunch was aired across the nation with targets being Prime Minister Bob Hawke, the Three Wise Men and Santa’s elves. The Cooee Newsreel covered yuletide activities around the globe and Pet’s Corner received a plaintive plea from one young listener trying to save his turkey from ending up part of the Christmas dinner.
The merchandising arm of the A.B.C. then decided to get into the act by releasing an LP of first season highlights as a prelude to a second series of programmes, which began in March 1985.
Thirteen episodes later (in some states, anyway) and Slightly Out To Lunch had run its course. Though never achieving the acceptance or financial success of its predecessor The Naked Vicar Show in being adapted for television, it possessed an interesting degree of wit and creativity.
By the mid-1980s Australian TV comedy was being aimed at a much younger demographic than something relying on the nostalgic echoes of 1930s music and movies . . . it was an era that would increasingly depend on university graduates and observational standup from comedy clubs.
(Other examples of audience-free comedies included a handful of 1950s B.B.C. radio shows like Bedtime With Braden, In All Directions with Peter Ustinov and Peter Jones, and Eric Barker’s Just Fancy. Later attempts include Ronnie Barker’s Lines From My Grandfather’s Forehead, most of the Monty Python LPs and Stephen Fry’s Saturday Night Fry in the late 1980s.)
(compiled with the assistance of Brian Allanson)
Cast: Tony Baldwin, Kevin Daly, Lance Curtis, Angela Webber, Adam Bowen, Peter Smalley, Peter Whitford, Jane Hardes, Bill Conn, Jill McKay, Bruce Spence, Drew Forsythe, Jeff Watson, David Morrow and Arthur Greenslade And The Bondi Broadcasters
1/1 March 18 1984
Great Moments From The Cutting Room Floor (Casablanca)/Equal Opportunity Employment/song: King Kong/Composer Interview/Luke Jaywalker And Imperial Echo/World Cinema/Spy/Cooee Newsreel (Skiing In Austria/Japanese Chefs)/Sports Extra – Long John Silver/Pets Corner (Head-less Chooks)/Ned Kelly (incl. song Kelly Couldn’t Help It)/John Cleese Message
1/2 March 25 1984
German Car Ad/Pub Conversation (incl. song Too Many Parties And Too Many Pubs)/It Came From Widgiemooltha (ep 1: Tourists Encounter Monster Sheep)/Pet’s Corner (The Bite Of The Blue Tongue Lizard)/song: Mr. Wu’s A Flying Doctor/Ghostly Defence Of Swagman/Cooee Newsreel (Talking Chocolate Frog/Arabian Sand/Saturn)/Support Smog vs. Trees (incl. song: The Ballad Of The Bush)/ The End Of The World
1/3 April 1 1984
Joke Classics In Stereo /Le Bloke Sentimental/Door To Door Jacques Cousteau/Sexist Corner (Ding Dong Song)/Pets Corner (Tortoise Or Doberman?)/Luke Jaywalker And Imperial Echo (ep 43: Insect Repellent)/Drive-In (incl. song: Young Love)/Conway’s Carnival (The Story Of Australian Jazz)/It Came From Widgiemooltha (ep 2: Mutant Merino Reaches Perth)/The Beatles In Adelaide/song: Crazy People/Customs Welcome
1/4 April 8 1964
Restaurant Auction/Phone Tap Competition/Spycharge Cabs (incl. song: Mr. Woo’s A Secret Agent)/ Pet’s Corner (Cats At Night)/Cooee Newsreel (Japanese In Queensland/Tutankhamen’s Stomach/ Italian Prime Ministers/Dick Smith In Switzerland)/In The Library/song: Remember Boozing InThe Sand/Existentialist Rugby/It Came From Widgiemooltha (ep 3: WACA Pitch Invasion)/Cutting Room Floor (Gold Diggers Of 1934, incl. song: Upstairs At The Waldorf)/Restaurant
1/5 April 15 1984
Native Bearers/Comic Frank Filth/Towards 1500 – The Printing Press/Grandma’s Got To Go (incl. song: Happy Couples Everywhere)/Sir Horace Tuckerbox/Employment Ad/Luke Jaywalker And Imperial Echo (ep 20: Princess Starwine Wants A Drink)/Pet’s Corner (Sneezing Budgies And Disguised Rodents)/Dob ‘Em In For Australia/What’s Sex Daddy?/It Came From Widgiemooltha (ep 4: Geoffrey The Mutant Merino Terrorizes Perth)/Sir Horace Sings (song: I’m Off To Long Bay)/I Can’t Go On
1/6 April 22 1984
Torturous Weather/Pom Trying To Be Aussie/Mozart On New Faces/Pet’s Corner (Pony Won’t Eat)/ Empheysemo Cigarettes/Cooee Newsreel (Underground Golf/Antique Instruments/Hunting In Canada) /Coal Face Restaurant (incl. song: Fanlight Fanny, The Nightclub Star)/Corporate Management Courses/It Came From Widgiemooltha (ep 5: The Army Confronts Geoffrey)/Shakespearean Dry Cleaner/Reggae Bush Scene/Cats Eating Garbage/Cheesecake Cookery
1/7 April 29 1984
Boiiing/Naturalisation/Harpsichord Maintenance/Servants At Party/Immigrant’s Feral Pets/Chomp For Happy Grannies/Pet’s Corner (Snakes)/It Came From Widgiemooltha (ep 6: Barlap, The Movie Merino)/Fish Lures/Luke Jaywalker And Imperial Echo (On Breath Star)/Great Art Through Suffering/song: Am I So Repulsive To You/Surgical Truss And Nose Straightener Advert/Anniversary Celebration/Kiddies Corner
1/8 May 6 1984
Hijack/Animals For The Ark/Country Recipes/Paris, The City Of Frogs (incl. song: I’ll Be Frank)/ Airline Complaints/Pet’s Corner (Wombats)/The Revenge Of The Winger Advert/Cooee Newsreel (No-Engine Boat/Poet Bowler/Wee Dullard Aussie Movie)/Japan Subway (incl. song: Tokyo Boogie)/It Came From Widgiemooltha (ep 7: The Search For Geoffrey)/Haunted Castle
1/9 May 13 1984
Application/Fire Sale At Pet Shop/Channel 14 Programme Highlights (I’m Witless News/60 Morons/ Thunderjacks)/Pet’s Corner (White Rabbit)/song: Knees Up For Aussie Surfers/It Came From Widgiemooltha (ep 8: Shearing Geoffrey)/Join A Cultural Minority Of Your Choice/song: Down On Jollity Farm/Radio Helicon’s Macbeth/Hooked On Silence/Lifeboat Job/Holycard/Sex Change (incl. song: Men Are Men)/I’ve Got A Lovely Bunch Of Coconuts/Gallileo
1/10 May 20 1984
A.B. C. Mono/Comedian Sentenced/The Precise Meaning Of Words/Cooee Newsreel (Aussie Mannequin/Hopping Over Tanks/Fatal Fall Of A Jockey)/Unusual Pets/song: I Put The Muse Back Into Music/Language Course: Ross Smokes . . . /Pet’s Corner (Kangaroo Or Goanna?)/Commonwealth Bank Advert/It Came From Widgiemooltha (ep 9: Geoffrey Terrorizes Adelaide)/Club Head Tahiti/The Curse Of Abdul’s Mummy (incl. song: Ella, The Dancing Girl Of Egypt)/Whale Meat Again
1/11 May 27 1984
Marital Obedience School/Timmy’s Pet Shark (incl. song: That’s Junior)/Pet’s Corner (White Mice)/ Cutting Room Floor (Son Of Flicka)/Channel 14 Programme Highlights (That’s Disgusting/The Piano Tuners/The Renovators)/Words/Moon Landing – Take 27/Competition Shopping/song: Have A Drink On Me/Pilot Sold Plane/Pimple/It Came From Widgiemooltha (ep 10: Geoffrey Reaches Sydney)/ Radical Stress Therapy/Minority Radio
1/12 June 3 1984
song: Every Time It Rains, It Rains/Racehorses/Aunty Helen’s Stories/Pet’s Corner (Cane Toad)/song: Griffith, New South Wales/Bus Concessions/da Vinci’s The Mona Deirdre/Cooee Newsreel (Antarctica /Wales Eisteddfod/Banana TV Antennas)/song: Ba-Ba-Ba-Ba-Ba-Ba-lamb/Video Thief /Towards 1788 – Disastrous Wheat Harvest/Playschool Themes/Mammoth Droppings/Peasants Revolting
1/13 June 10 1984
Ordering Toscas And Puccinis/Pet’s Corner (Yowies)/Cutting Room Floor (Oklahoma)/Boy Adolph/ Pub Air/song: Sad All Over/Sports Extra – The Battle Of Trafalgar/The Electric Screws/That’s Inedible /Cooee Newsreel (Barry Manilow Hunt/Loglifting In Sri Lanka/Oil Rigs Stranded On Beach/Santa Claus In London)/Henry Lawson’s Beer Mat Ballad/Michaelangelo’s David/Beehive/Lone Sailor Talks To Seagull
Special: December 25 1984 Slightly Out To Christmas Lunch
Christmas Rhyme/Bob Hawke Visits Santa/Only Once A Year/North Pole Christmas Sale/Snuffit Jewellery Insurance/Dinky-Di Aussie Presents/Cooee Newsreel (Santa In Drag In Antarctica/ Crocodile Roundup/Costigan Hotel Refurbishment)/song: Our Love Affair Was Less Than Perfect/ Three Wise Men At Customs/Chorus/No Room At The Inn/Shopping/song: Merry Christmas, You Suckers/Three Wise Men Lost/Pet’s Corner (Turkey)/Santa Reserve Advert
2/1 March 10 1985
Pet’s Corner (Emu)/Orient Express Traveller’s Cheques/Leonardo And Mona/Sweet F.A. Advert/ Rockslide (incl. song: The Bastard’s Gone Away)/Cheese Positions/Cutting Room Floor (The Cruel Sea)/60 Minutes Clock Stops/Hell’s Stockbrokers Bikies vs. Young Liberals/Cooee Newsreel (Climbing Himalayas By Canoe/Miniature Sheep/Weatherman Rain Dance/Swimming From England To Australia)/Nagging Wife In Restaurant/Formby song/Coronation
2/2 March 17 1985
Laughing Championships/Ballet Coach/Pet’s Corner (A Pet That Protects)/Spanish Lesson/Body Hair ep. 27/Salmon/Japanese Film Festival (incl. song: Back In Nagasaki)/Adventure Holidays/Cooee Newsreel (Swiss Navy/Philippines Festival/Madagascar Cross Breeding/Tour De France)/Arrest Of Jack And The Beanstalk/Danger Deli/All-Fish Rugby Team/song: When The Clock Strikes One
2/3 March 24 1985
Prison/Pet’s Corner (Cat With Three Legs)/Artist Western/2002 News/Young Flying Doctors/I Changed My Life/Cooee Newsreel (Melbourne Carnival Of Boredom)/World Of Whines/song: In Bondi Beach/Operation/Thelma Moody Profile
2/4 March 31 1985
Eating Problem/To Kill A Dragon/Cutting Room Floor (Hans Christian Andersen)/Italian Programming/Pet’s Corner (Echidna)/Scratch And Win Contest/Corporate Tax Deductions/song: An Irish Colleen Wants A Washing Machine/Vampire Aid/Curio Talkback/Cooee Newsreel (Snail Hunt/Leg Knotting/Plummeting Cyclist/L.A. Movie Premiere)/Ad For Sex/Terry Legiron Hour/Sports Extra – Columbus/The Heterosexuality Phenomenon/After We’re Married
2/5 April 7 1985
Mayor Of Penrith/Stand-In Groom/Ethel Streisand Record/Budgie Show/Stains On Tennis Dress/ Maralinga Comment/Movie Based On Telephone Directory/Bird Exporting/Pet’s Corner (Miniature Giraffe)/German Vocabulary/Julio’s Used Foods (incl. song: I Wish I’d Eaten Up My Beans)/Pizza Order From Space Station/Apology/Cooee Newsreel (NZUS Defence Treaty/Eye Wrestling/Exploring For Inca Cave)/Marriage Guidance
2/6 April 14 1985
Dear Mum/Fargo Creek Festival Invitation/Cooee Newsreel (Underwater Song And Dance Man/New Harvesting Technique/Kangacraft/Wooden Clothes)/Wine Taster At Communion/Renaissance Expert/ The Wild Colonial Boy (reggae version)/Exploration Souvenirs/Ballroom Dancing Advert/Pet’s Corner (White Ants)/Castrating Sex Offenders/Cutting Room Floor (High Noon)/song: Up On A Surfboard/ Aqua Radium Drink/River Cruise Operator/Nose Hair Transplant
2/7 April 21 1985
Ad For 60 Minutes/German Visits Soft Toys/The Boss Is Back In Concert/Pet’s Corner (Kitten)/ Mururoa Body Splash/Mousetrap Testing/song: Desperate Dan/Reluctant Nobel Prize Winner/Passage To India/Paying By Phone/Phone Home For An Argument/song: Let Me Come And Bash Those Drum/ Surprise Party For Safe Cracker/Cooee Newsreel (Motor Racing Driver/London Backslappers Choir/ Grass Creek Storm/Canadian Gigglers Contest)/Play For Me Jose
2/8 April 28 1985
Bert Newton In The Twilight Zone/How To Start A Coven/Sound Of Silence/Gardening Talkback/ Megaton Man/Ape Job/Cooee Newsreel (Siberian Yell/Stick Smuggling/Simpson Desert Head Trek/ Belch Heard 10 km Away)/The Tragic News/Pet’s Corner (Irish Wolfhound)/Mururoa Nervosa/Slap And Tickle Insurance (incl. song: The Man Who Sells Insurance)/Ad Lib News/Stains/Hippo Blind Date/ASIO Phone Message
2/9 May 5 1985
Driving With Bad Vibes/Petrov Affair Comment/Snuff It Jewellery Insurance/Flower Arranging/song: You Were Always For Home Use Only/Cave Estate/Mr. Wong And Mrs. Marsh/Surgery On The Roast/ Cooee Newsreel (Underwater Test Match/Super Inflation In La Paz/Mud Power/Antarctic Reporter Accident)/Hamlet, This Is Your Life/Pet’s Corner (Giant Sand Worm)/Assertive Training Course Advert/Heart Transplant Application
2/10 May 12 1985
Shared Suicide/Post Office Training School/Chocolate Advert/Pet’s Corner (Wart Hog)/Off Key Auditions/Disorganized Crime/Duck-Ectomy/song: A Friend WA Friend Of Mine/Parliamentary Boxing Tactics/Cooee Newsreel (Experimental Ravioli/Alice Springs Struthing Contest/Vegemite Presentation/Banana Skin Vehicle)/Prison Officer Escape/song: The Elephant Gun/Godzilla At Premiere/Accountancy Virgin Sacrificing/60 Minutes – George Best
2/11 May 19 1985
The Price Of Poverty/Quiche Addiction/song: Countdown Rockarena/Chatting Up Ex-Wife/Amazing, Fantastic & Incredible/Pet’s Corner (Indonesian Giant Dragon)/Elephant Graveyard (incl. song: Down At The Elephant’s Ball)/Become A Vegetable/Toothpaste Ad/Cooee Newsreel (Butterfly Shoot/Idaho Potato Centre/Leaping Goats/Rotten Egg Tennis)/Icecream Truck Tragedy/song: Then You’re Drunk/ Tale Of Two Cities/TV promo: More Bloody Doctors/Cruise Missile
2/12 May 26 1985
Sponsored A.B. C. Weather/39th Loan Application/Mirage Advert/Arrested For Poor Literary Taste/ song: Kangaroo From Bangaloo/Pet’s Corner (Mastiff)/Flying Piglets Concert/Funeral Fault/Kings Cross Language/The Sale Of Ayers Rock/Cooee Newsreel (Head Burying/Beaming Thought Patterns/ Touring Via Coffin/Motorized Shoes)/song: I’m A Mesa Star/Do-It Yourself Philosophy/Why I Chose Rugby/song: Get Jogging/Substitute Chess Pieces
2/13 June 2 1985
Scottish French/Union Opposition To Home Computers/Pet’s Corner (Australian Wild Animal)/ Attractions Around Town (Disease Catching/Living Sculpture)/Penguin Waiter/Greengrocer Protest/ Cutting Room Floor (Captain Blood)/Elementary School Drug Theft/song: You Pot Red, Black, Red, Black/Cooee Newsreel (Royal Siam Foot Regiment/Yowieville Name Change/Cheese Hunt/ Surgically Implanted Stereo)/song: Chicken Rhythm/Sponsored Cyclone
Special: (airdate unknown) Slightly Out To Hollywood
compilation of previous sketches, with new links …
Drive-In/Movies on TV/Cutting Room Floor (High Noon/Casablanca)/Rendezvous For Spies/Cooee Newsreel (Wee Dullard Aussie Movie/Neville Foolish Arrives In New York/L.A. Movie Premiere)/Le Bloke Sentimental/Revenge Of The Wingers advert/song: King Kong/Pet’s Corner (Giant Sand Worm)/Luke Jaywalker And Imperial Echo (ep. 43: Insect Repellent)/No Torpedoes/Twinkle Fitzherbert Musicals (incl. song: What A Perfect Combination)/Japanese Film Festival (incl. song: Back In Nagasaki)
Slightly Out To Lunch
A.B.C./Festival LP L 38267 (1985)
Language Course: Ross Smokes…
Our Veterinary Consultant: Wombats
Paris – Not My World
An Eskimo In Paris
The True Blue Surfie
In The Library
Great Moments From The Cutting Room Floor
What’s Sex Daddy?
Sports Extra – Trafalgar
Channel 14: Tonite – The Dog & Goat Act
Click Go The Shears
Our Veterinary Consultant: Snakes
The Cooee Newsreel No. 9
Mr. Wu’s A Secret Agent