|This article relies on references to primary sources. (December 2007)|
The word 'agro' (also spelled 'aggro') is Australian English slang for 'aggressive', and may be used as an adjective to describe someone with a bad temperament. Agro is sometimes said to have the surname Vation, though the puppet is rarely formally credited with a surname.
Agro's humour was rather adult, with much sexual innuendo, cursing and disinhibition. He would often appear with an innocent-acting female offsider, who would be subjected to mocking and sexual behaviour. His pre-taped performances in those shows intended for a juvenile or family audience were obviously vetted before broadcast, but in the adult-oriented shows (and in the Christmas tapes of Agro's Cartoon Connection) his antics were well received. Unlike many characters, particularly children's puppets, Agro often broke the fourth wall, making reference, for example, to the facts that he was a puppet, that his limbs did not move, and that a hand was up his back.
The original Agro puppet was created by BTQ-7 employee Garry Rhodes, who was a floor manager at the time. Rhodes had an exceptional talent in the use of the puppet and initially entertained his daughter, family and friends with it. The producer of the children's show on Seven saw a potential boost to the content and thus 'Agro' appeared on TV. It was Rhodes who conned the concept of "eating flies" and other naughty quirks that later continued in the puppets character.
After a fallout with Seven and Rhodes resignation, several 'operators' were recruited to work the puppet. It was at a later time that Jamie Dunn fell into the role after a not so startling singing career. Dunn took the character to greater heights as its popularity grew and to his credit created an iconic part of television history. Dunns further marketing prowess catapulted the Agro concept into a lucrative career.
( It was reputedly made from a bathmat, and Agro frequently described himself as a 'talking bathmat'. ) However the puppet is really an altered Muppet Animal. The fisher price soft toy of Animal sold in the early 1980s was trimmed to produce the Agro puppet. Later the producer of the show had it allegedly 'altered' by the 'Red Cross' ( so she said ) after Jim Hensons Muppets made an overture regarding copyright.
The commercially bought puppet by Fisher Price was unusual in its construction. The puppeteer could open and close the mouth, and could also 'blink' the 'eyebrows' via a plastic lever in the head. This later would allow Dunn to make a sexually-suggestive 'leering' expression which he often used. The eyes and limbs do not move.
After the rise to fame of the puppet there was some squabbling between Rhodes and Jamie Dunn as Dunn attempted to claim creative ownership of the puppet. A court case loomed however BTQ-7 and the parties involved reached a settlement that allowed Jamie Dunn to retain the rights.
Agro officially belongs to Channel Seven.  In 2001 Channel Seven Productions enlisted puppeteer and puppet builder Warren Duxbury to rebuild Agro when the original Agro had deteriorated beyond repair. The new puppet was built for use on the revival of dating show Perfect Match. The nose of the new puppet was noticeably different to the old one.
Agro hosted the following Australian television shows:
- Boris' Breakfast Club (? – 1989)
- Wombat (1983–1990)
- Agro's Cartoon Connection (1989–1997)
- Super Sunday Show (aka Super Saturday Show)
- Perfect Match (2002 revival)
Agro also occasionally appears as a panel member on Channel Seven Perth Telethon except in 2009; he helps many people donate with his humour, but is usually put on after 10:00 for obvious reasons.[clarification needed]
Agro has also appeared as a guest on the following television shows:
- Hey Dad..!
- Wheel of Fortune
- Family Feud (with his "family" father Star, mother Ellie and younger brother Neville)
- The Main Event
- Talk With the Animals
- The Daily Edition
He has also appeared on a number of Australian telethons, particularly those that raise money for the Royal Children's Hospital, Brisbane.
Agro's radio credits include:
- The Morning Crew (1990–2005), B105 FM's breakfast show. Agro performed prank telephone calls and also presented a segment Agro to the Rescue, in which he would provide money or resources to a family or individual in trouble. Eventually the 'Agro' performances were credited to Jamie Dunn, and the 'Agro' character was marginalised.
- The Zinc Morning Zoo (2006–), with Ian Calder and Courtney Burns on Sunshine Coast FM radio station "Zinc 96".
Agro has released four albums, a Game Boy game, an arcade game (Agro's Fantastic Arcade Game), and a range of merchandise including action figures, stickers, lunchboxes, and children's clothing. He is patron of the Shandar Smith Foundation, a charity for children with cancer.
Dunn has never appeared alongside Agro, as a typical ventriloquist might. When Agro appears on camera or on stage, Dunn is always hidden, often by furniture.
Agro's on-camera roles became less frequent in the late 1990s as his radio commitments grew and the novelty of the character wore off. When Agro performed on radio, Jamie Dunn would sit in the studio and provide the Agro voice without actually operating the puppet. In time, these performances were credited to Dunn himself.
Dunn aspired to become a show-business personality in his own right, and so in time he appeared in promotional material for the B105 FM Morning Crew as himself. He used the 'Agro' character as a kind of alternative, more disinhibited personality (for example, when making prank telephone calls). The puppet itself was seldom seen during the 2000s. Dunn said at one point that Agro was 'in a suitcase somewhere'. More recently, Agro has appeared in promotional material for Zinc 96.
In March 2009 Agro returned to television screens in South East Queensland to promote a $7,000 cash giveaway on Radio Station 4BC. As of August 2013, Agro started appearing on Channel 7 program 'The Daily Edition'. He talks to the panel and answers viewer questions.
- 1987: Most Popular Children's Program: Wombat
- 1988: Most Popular Children's Program: Wombat
- 1989: Most Popular Children's Program: Wombat
- 1990: Most Popular Children's Program: Wombat
- 1991: Most Popular Children's Program: Agro's Cartoon Connection
- 1992: Most Popular Children's Program: Agro's Cartoon Connection
- 1993: Most Popular Children's Program: Agro's Cartoon Connection
- 1994: Most Popular Children's Program: Agro's Cartoon Connection
- 1995: Most Popular Children's Program: Agro's Cartoon Connection
- 1996: Most Popular Children's Program: Agro's Cartoon Connection
- 1997: Most Popular Children's Program: Agro's Cartoon Connection
He also received a Penguin Award for "Best Presenter of Light Entertainment".
- PARTRIDGE2006 Eric Partridge; Tom Dalzell; Terry Victor (2006). Taylor & Francis, ed. The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-415-25937-8.