Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
This Sporting Life (radio program)
This Sporting Life is a Triple J radio program, created by actor-writer-comedians John Doyle and Greig Pickhaver. First broadcast in 1986 and still on the air, it is one of the longest-running, most popular and most successful radio comedy programs of the post-television era in Australia. Undoubtedly the longest-running show in Triple J's programming history, it still commands a large and dedicated nationwide audience.
The title 'This Sporting Life' was taken from the novel (by David Storey ) and the famous 1963 British feature film of the same name that was adapted from it, directed by Lindsay Anderson and starring Richard Harris. See This Sporting Life.
Often referred to by its acronym, TSL, the show is a parody of sporting panel programs, although the duo cast a wide comedic net that encompasses the world of entertainment, politics and celebrity in general. It was modelled to some extent on the popular 1980s Melbourne radio sports comedy panel show Punter To Punter, which also featured Pickhaver (as HG Nelson) as a panel member and which was primarily concerned with the world of horse and greyhound racing. Interviewed in 2000, John Doyle cited controversial braodcaster John Laws as another influence:
"We started with This Sporting Life and what we did was anti-commercial. We modelled it, in the early days, on the John Laws show, constant self-promotion and constant promotion of products that were your own."
Although TSL was not an instant hit -- some Triple J listeners at first mistook it for a real sports show -- it soon found a loyal and growing audience. TSL is remarkable as one of the few successful comedy programs that is substantially improvised. Doyle and Pickhaver reportedly do not socialise outside the program and typically only meet on the morning of the broadcast. They discuss the week's events and agree on a general list of topics, but almost all of their discussions are improvised, live to air. The consistent high quality of their humour is doubly remarkable given the show's long running time -- currently three hours every Sunday afternoon (and originally four hours on Saturdays) and the fact that they show no signs of losing their touch after almost twenty years in the job.
Guests (such as comedian Angela Webber, in the guise of 'punk granny Lillian Pascoe) appeared on the program in the early days, although this lessened as the years passed. But they have maintained an enduring relationship with actor Robbie McGregor, who provides many of the voice-over links in the guise of "King Wally Otto In The Soundproof Booth". Australian Big Brother host Gretel Killeen also provided many voice-overs for fake advertisements, and in more recent times many sporting stars such as footballers Stan Jurd and Paul Sironen have also recorded comedic voice-overs for the show.
Besides the regular improvised discussions and fake ads, one of the show's most enduring features is the weekly listener giveaway segment "The Fat", in which listeners must phone in with the answer to a question based on one of the duo's wide-ranging and often fantastical discussions of sporting news and personalities.
Doyle and Pickhaver have written dozens of parody advertisements for a vast range of imaginary products and services provided by Roy and HG's numerous fictional companies -- these include products such as "Roy's Rectal Ring Balm" (a rectal ointment) and "Happy Jack's Ta-taa Packs" (a body bag) -- as well as innumerable parody books, films and TV series. Over the years, they have also written other scripted segments, such as the commentary segments "The Nelson Report" and "Date's Up, With Roy Slaven".
One of the show's most popular scripted segments was "The South Coast News", a parody news bulletin which was read by real-life journalist and TV presenter Paul Murphy. It ran for several years in the late 80s and early 90s and the scripts were published in book form. The underlying conceit of the sketch was that the small New South Wales south coast town of Ulladulla was home to scores of famous Australian sporting and showbusiness identities of years past, that many of these celebrities owned businessess in the area or worked in various official capacities in the town, and that they were all regularly involved in hilarious misadventures.
The characters included former TV wrestler Mario Milano , owner of the Bluebird Cafe, and former NSW Premier Barry Unsworth, owner of the somewhat disreputable 'Cardigan Club'. In this hilarious fictional version of Ulladulla, the town also boasted a colossal seaside statue of long-distance swimmer Linda McGill with a revolving restaurant in its head, all the streets are named after sporting and TV stars, the local high school is named a famous footballer (Barry Beath), and the Mayor was TV composer and conductor Tommy Tycho .
Much of Roy and HG's comedy is topical, poking fun at current sporting news, as well as the foibles, ego trips and failures of sports, movie and music stars. But Doyle and Pickhaver interweave this with a colourful and uniquely Australia form of linguistic comedy; over the years they have coined many memorable parodic terms or revived archaic expressions from their youth, some of which have now entered the vernacular in Australia.
Many TSL listeners will be familiar with the terms "dwahl" (a slump in sporting form or a period of poor performance), 'sloop' (penis) and "bush junk" (useless wild animals suitable only for shooting) and phrases such as 'he's on Koozbane' -- a Nelson-ism regularly applied to players stunned by a heavy blow, fall or tackle. ('Koozbane' was the name of the home planet of the alien puppet characters on Sesame Street). HG has denounced many a political or sporting scheme as "a hastily cobbled-together farrago" and on one memorable occasion described golfer Greg Norman as:
" ... a hapless water buffalo, wallowing around in the swamp, waiting for the safari to wander by and finish him off".
Another perennial aspect of their comedy is the overweening egotism and impossible achievments of Roy Slaven, who will often begin his comentaries sotto voce but will just as often finish them screaming at the top of his lungs. By his own account, Slaven has represented Australia in every known sport for most of the 20th century, has ridden in every Mebourne Cup (and won most of them) on his ageless mount Rooting King, is on intimate terms with every major sports, TV, music and film personality in modern history and is also a close personal friend of many top racehorses and greyhounds. But Roy's staggering tales of sporting achievement are also mixed with reminiscences of his youth in Lithgow, his membership of the rambunctious Lithgow Shamrocks football team and his formative relationship with mentor and coach 'Grassy' Grannell. Doyle also gave a strong scatalogical edge to the Slaven character, and Roy's commentaries and recollections often deal with hilarious anecdotes about celebrities stricken by attacks of vomiting and diahrroea (invariably referred to by the old Australian term 'gastric').
As well as performing 'This Sporting Life' on radio, Doyle and Pickhaver sucessfully transferred the concept and characters to television. Over the last ten years they have hosted a range of TV incarnations of the TSL format. (See Roy and HG for full details.) The huge popularity of one of these, The Dream, took Roy & HG's unique comedy style to thousands of Australians who had never listened to the radio show or watched the ABC series.
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