The Chaser is an Australian satirical comedy group. They are known for their television programmes on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation channel. The group take their name from their production of satirical newspaper, a publication known to challenge conventions of taste. The group's motto is "Striving for Mediocrity in a World of Excellence".
The Chaser's earliest foundations were Charles Firth, Dominic Knight, and Chas Licciardello who went to Sydney Grammar School together and produced a small satirical school magazine The Tiger. Then Firth, Knight and Licciardello met Craig Reucassel, Andrew Hansen and Julian Morrow at the University of Sydney. Chris Taylor also attended the University of Sydney but never knew the others during that time. Licciardello, Knight, Reucassel and Morrow all studied law at the Sydney Law School and Firth, Taylor and Hansen all studied in the University of Sydney Faculty of Arts. Firth and Hansen featured in the ABC documentary called "Uni" by film-maker Simon Target. Firth and Hansen organised the University of Sydney Arts Revue and Firth, Knight, Reucassel and Morrow wrote for the University of Sydney student newspaper Honi Soit. In 1999 the four members began The Chaser and their first newspaper project entitled The Chaser.
The Chaser members are:
- Charles Firth. Firth decided in 1999 that the founding members should produce a newspaper, in an attempt not to "grow up". Firth was the main person who got the project underway and was at the helm of the newspaper until its collapse in 2005. Firth appeared in The Chaser's television and radio productions until 2004. In 2005, Firth moved to the United States so his wife could finish her PhD. Firth, however, became The Chaser's American correspondent for the 2006 series of The Chaser's War on Everything and wrote a book titled American Hoax. Firth did some final stunts in America for the 2007 series in late 2006 and early 2007, before returning to Australia and going solo. Firth then began his own satirical newspaper The Manic Times in 2007, which collapsed soon after and now exists online.
- Dominic Knight was one of the founding members of the team. He appeared and starred in the 2001 series of The Election Chaser and the 2005 mini series Chaser News Alert. He also performed in the stage shows. He normally writes and does not perform for The Chaser's television shows.
- Julian Morrow. He became the executive producer of the television series after Andrew Denton left the role in 2004.
- Craig Reucassel was a founding member of the team.
- Chas Licciardello, who had attended Sydney Grammar School with Firth and Knight, started to work on The Chaser newspaper in 1999, but did not take any credit for his work. However when the newspaper started to go well, he was happy to put his name to his work. Licciardello refers to himself as a writer and not a performer, which is why he does the ‘edgier’ stunts in the television series. He states that he is not very talented and therefore does “lots of dodgy material”.
- Chris Taylor had gone to the University of Sydney but never personally knew the four founding members. He moved to Melbourne under a cadetship with the ABC doing journalism. Taylor approached The Chaser, based in Sydney, and asked if they took contributions and The Chaser accepted them. Taylor spent two years emailing his articles to The Chaser, and then quit his job to do a television series based on the 2001 Australian federal election with The Chaser and became a member of The Chaser. Taylor was the anchor with Reucassel in their television productions CNNNN, The Chaser Decides and The Chaser’s War on Everything and worked as the script editor for the television shows.
- Andrew Hansen worked with some of The Chaser members at the University of Sydney while studying literature and history, performing in their early revues. Hansen started working with the online Chaser website in 2000 writing columns for his shITe section, which looked at the worst of the internet. After two years, he was considered for a part in the Chaser’s 2002 television series, for the content on shITe. After The Election Chaser in 2001, The Chaser decided they needed a performer in the team. Hansen then joined in the group in 2002.
- 1 The Chaser projects
- 2 Members involved in projects
- 3 Public reactions
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 External links
The Chaser projects
The Chaser newspaper
The newspaper, first published in 1999, was The Chaser team's first enterprise. The Chaser only had a limited fan base, with the average sales numbers per issue well under 30,000. When their newspaper was shown as a lead story in all major Australian news broadcasts, not only was the headline widely spread, the concept and the popularity of the newspaper leapt dramatically.
Founding contributors to the newspaper include Gregor Stronach, Johanna Featherstone, Sholto Macpherson, Matt Taylor, David Stewart, and Arion McNicoll. Later contributors include Kara Greiner, Richard Cooke, Shane Cubis, and Tim Brunero. Cartoonists Fiona Katauskas and Andrew Weldon drew for the newspaper from its early days.
The Chaser and its writers had its first major controversy when their 21 February 2003 edition published Prime Minister John Howard’s private home number on its front page with the headline "Howard ignores the people. So call him at home on (02) 9922 6189". The release of the number came after Howard’s attitude to half a million protesters recently marching for peace. Howard’s number was blocked by the afternoon after receiving many calls in the morning and federal police had been to The Chaser headquarters. The Chaser have stated they received the phone number via an SMS message in 2002.
The Chaser have released five annuals based on The Chaser newspaper:
- The Chaser Annual 2000: The Little-Read Book
- The Chaser Annual 2001: Bradman, The Cremated Years
- The Chaser Annual 2002: The War on Error
- Embedded with The Chaser: Annual 2003
- The Chaser Annual 2004: Intelligence Failures
After six years of publication, The Chaser decided that, due to an inability to meet production costs and failing audiences, they would cease publication of the newspaper. The paper, which originally circulated fortnightly, was being released more sporadically and their 91st and final paper was released on 6 February 2005. The Chaser still planned to continue their writing online and to continue to write their annuals.
The Chaser has since released six annuals and a "best of" annual which compiled the best of the five preceding annuals:
- The Chaser Annual 2005: By Dan Brown
- 50 Golden Years of The Chaser - 1955-2005
- The Chaser Annual 2006: Burqa's Backyard
- The Chaser Annual 2007: The Other Secret
- The Chaser Annual 2008: The Little Rudd Book
- The Chaser Annual 2009: The Email Eunuch
- The Chaser Annual 2010: Eat Pray Vomit
Current writers online are Richard Cooke, Shane Cubis, Dominic Knight, Chas Licciardello, Julian Morrow, and Craig Reucassel with additional material provided by Scott Dooley, Lisa Pryor, David Stewart, Gregor Stronach, and Chris Taylor.
The Chaser on television and radio
After two years of their satirical newspaper, which also included various radio roles, The Chaser had attracted the attention of Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) star Andrew Denton. Denton signed them with ABC and stated "They've got the talent, the work ethic, the fearlessness, the desire". Denton then helped the Chaser to perform their first television program The Election Chaser, on ABC TV, which was to be based on the 2001 Australian federal election and in the format of the national tallyroom. Four episodes were broadcast and the show was nominated for the 2002 Logie for "Most Outstanding Comedy Program". Denton acted as executive producer and script editor for The Election Chaser and would also do so for CNNNN.
The Chaser team have gone on to create other television shows for ABC TV, including the Logie Award winning CNNNN in 2002-3 and The Chaser Decides in 2004. CNNNN was a satire of not only the popular American news networks CNN and Fox News, but also incorporated Australian and world current affairs into the programme. The Election Chaser inspired a similar programme covering the 2004 election, The Chaser Decides. The coverage, as with all the Chaser productions, was satirical, but a different view on the way the election was covered by the local media.
In 2004-5, Taylor and Reucassel hosted the Triple J radio drive programme Today Today. In 2005 the rest of the team produced Chaser News Alert (CNA), aired on ABC2. Episodes of this series were only a few minutes long. Between July 2006 and January 2007 Taylor and Reucassel returned to Triple J to host Bloody Sunday, filling the This Sporting Life time slot while Roy & HG were on leave from the station. Chas Licciardello and Knight also did a brief fill in show on Triple M called Chas and Dom from 'The Chaser'.
Cirque du Chaser
In March 2005, The Chaser members, with the exception of Firth but with CNNNN collaborator Rebecca De Unamuno, wrote and performed a stage production for the Sydney Big Laugh Comedy Festival. Cirque du Chaser, the name a parody of Cirque du Soleil, was performed to eight sell-out audiences which performed stand up comedy, sketches, live music, and video satire. The Chaser then took the show on a national tour which was also sold out. Cirque du Chaser gave the team confidence to perform in front of a live audience in their new television show, which would be similar to the stage show. The Chaser filmed a pilot for ABC TV in mid-2005 under the working title Hey, Hey it’s the Chaser.
The Chaser's War on Everything
The Chaser team signed a contract with the ABC to produce 27 half-hour episodes for 2006, which would be based on news reviews, studio monologues and confrontations with politicians, celebrities, and business leaders. The project would be performed in front of a live audience compared with their previous news format television productions and was named The Chaser's War on Everything. The first season of The Chaser's War on Everything premiered on ABC TV on 17 February 2006 at 9:45 pm. The series aired late on Friday evenings where it developed a cult following, getting an average national audience of between 591,000 and 821,000 viewers each episode. The last episode of the 2006 season was broadcast on 8 September 2006.
The first thirteen episodes of the first season were released on DVD on 17 August 2006. The release included commentary by The Chaser and the show's crew and included bonus features and unaired scenes. The second DVD for the first season contained the latter thirteen episodes. It was in the same format of the first DVD and was released on 1 November 2006.
The Chaser's War on Everything returned for a second season on Wednesday, 28 March 2007 at 9pm, moving from their Friday night timeslot. It regularly attracted more than a million viewers per episode.
After 20 June episode of season two, the Chaser team suspended the series for ten weeks, so the usual production run time of twenty-six episodes per year did not conclude before the 2007 Australian Federal Election. The second season returned on 5 September 2007.
The Chaser then announced that The Chaser's War On Everything was on hold during 2008, with a new (ten episode) series in 2009 which began airing on Wednesday, 27 May 2009. In 2008, the team (without Chris Taylor, but plus writer Dominic Knight) toured Australia with a stage show, The Chaser's Age of Terror Variety Hour, produced in conjunction with Laughing Stock.
On 29 July 2009, the final episode of The War was broadcast.
The Blow Parade
The Blow Parade is a comedy series performed by Andrew Hansen, Chris Taylor, and Craig Schuftan, originally premiering on the radio station Triple J on 28 April 2010. This 5-part series satirises the music industry, music journalism and syndicated golden-oldie radio shows. Each episode, the host Captain Blow (Hansen) guides listeners through the making of a classic album from yesteryear, from bands that don’t actually exist. The series was written by Chris Taylor, with music by Andrew Hansen, and was produced by Craig Schuftan. It was released on CD and through the iTunes Store Australia with bonus tracks. The musicians included Triple J's Lindsay McDougall (guitar) and Chaser member Dominic Knight (bass). The CD of the series won the 2010 ARIA Award for Best Comedy Release.
Yes We Canberra!
The new programme, entitled Yes We Canberra!, was formally announced on 12 July. The ABC said that the series would air weekly during the election campaign, with a further episode after the election. It purports to be an audience warm-up for the ABC's flagship current affairs program Lateline (which does not actually have a studio audience). After the Election date was announced (21 August), it was revealed that the show will premiere on 28 July. A DVD was released 15 September 2010. The Chaser - Election Collection containing all the election shows was released 2 December 2010.
The Chaser's Royal Wedding Commentary
Originally set to air on 29 April 2011 on ABC2, a Chaser special was to be shown based on the Wedding of Prince William of Wales and Kate Middleton featuring live commentary from the team members. However, the ABC were advised by the BBC and APTN to pull the show from being aired. In response to the decision by the ABC, Julian Morrow from the Chaser said, "For a monarchy to be issuing decrees about how the media should cover them seems quite out of keeping with modern democratic times... but I suppose that's exactly what the monarchy is." APTN is a private enterprise. The BBC is a corporation, independent from direct government intervention, with its activities being overseen by the BBC Trust.
The Hamster Wheel
In August 2011, the ABC confirmed a new 8-episode series called The Hamster Wheel to air later in the year. The first series debuted in October 2011 and the second series aired in August 2012. The series aimed to "examine the contemporary media landscape, where everyone from journalists to political fixers is perpetually at risk of spinning out of control". The show premiered on ABC1 on 5 October.
The Chaser's Media Circus (previously: We'll Have To Leave it There)
In November 2013, the ABC confirmed a new series under the working title,We'll Have To Leave it There. Hansen announced on Twitter that the series will be filmed from 14 October to 2 December 2014. Previously titled as We'll Have to Leave it There, the new show was renamed The Chaser's Media Circus, and will consist of a panel-like game and quiz show, with contestants using their knowledge about current media events to win. It will be hosted by Reucassel and feature Licciardillo as a 'brain's trust', interjecting occasionally with 'fact-checks'. It will air on 15 October 2014 on the ABC. The official ABC webpage can be found here.
Members involved in projects
The Chaser productions
|Year||Title||Type||Charles Firth||Andrew Hansen||Dominic Knight||Chas Licciardello||Julian Morrow||Craig Reucassel||Chris Taylor|
|2000–2010||The Chaser Annual||writer||writer||writer||writer||writer||writer||writer|
|2001||The Election Chaser||TV||writer, performer||writer, performer||writer, performer||writer, performer||writer, performer||writer, performer|
|2002–2003||CNNNN||TV||writer, performer||writer, performer||writer, performer||writer, performer||writer, performer, producer||writer, performer||writer, performer, script editor|
|2004–2005||Today Today||Radio||writer, performer||writer, performer|
|2004||The Chaser Decides||TV||writer, performer||writer, performer||writer, performer||writer, performer||writer, performer, producer||writer, performer||writer, performer, script editor|
|2005||Cirque du Chaser||Stage||writer, performer||writer, performer||writer, performer||writer, performer||writer, performer||writer, performer|
|2005||Chaser News Alert||Online||guest performer||writer, performer||writer, performer||writer, performer||writer, performer, executive producer|
|2006–2009||The Chaser's War on Everything||TV||writer, guest performer||writer, performer, composer||writer, guest performer||writer, performer||writer, performer, executive producer||writer, performer||writer, performer, script editor|
|2006–2007||Bloody Sunday||Radio||writer, performer||writer, performer|
|2007||Chas and Dom from 'The Chaser'||Radio||writer, performer||writer, performer|
|2007||Dead Caesar||Stage||performer, composer||writer|
|2007||The Chaser Decides||TV||writer, performer||writer, performer||writer, performer||writer, performer, executive producer||writer, performer||writer, performer|
|2008||The Chaser's Age of Terror Variety Hour||Stage||writer, performer||writer, performer||writer, performer||writer, performer||writer, performer|
|2008||The Race Race||Radio||guest performer||writer, performer||writer, performer|
|2009||Lawrence Leung's Choose Your Own Adventure||TV||creative consultant||creative consultant||creative consultant||creative consultant, executive producer||creative consultant||creative consultant|
|2010||The Blow Parade||Radio||writer, performer, composer||bass guitar||writer, performer|
|2010||Yes We Canberra!||TV||writer, performer, composer||writer||writer, performer||writer, performer, executive producer||writer, performer||writer, performer, script editor|
|(2011)||The Chaser’s Royal Wedding Commentary||TV||writer, performer||writer||writer, performer||writer, performer||writer, performer||writer, performer|
|2011||The Chaser's Empty Vessel||Stage||writer, performer||writer, performer||writer, performer||writer, performer||writer, performer||writer, performer|
|2011||Lawrence Leung's Unbelievable||TV||creative consultant, guest performer||creative consultant||script editor, producer, guest performer||executive producer, script editor, producer, guest performer||creative consultant||creative consultant|
|2011-2012||The Hamster Wheel||TV||writer, performer||writer, guest performer||writer, performer||writer, performer, executive producer||writer, performer||writer, performer, script editor, director|
|2012||The Unbelievable Truth||TV||writer, performer||writer, performer, executive producer||writer, performer|
|2013||The Hamster Decides||TV||writer, performer||writer, guest performer||writer, performer||writer, performer, executive producer||writer, performer||writer, performer, script editor, director|
|2013||The Checkout||TV||script editor, producer||writer, performer, executive producer||writer, performer|
Other TV series featuring two or more members
Note: Dominic Knight does not feature on any other programs.
|Year||Title||Charles Firth||Andrew Hansen||Chas Licciardello||Julian Morrow||Craig Reucassel||Chris Taylor|
|2003, 2004, 2007||The Panel||1 episode||2 episodes||1 episode|
|2004, 2008||The Einstein Factor||1 episode||4 episodes|
|2007||The Nation||1 episode||1 episode|
|2007||Spy Shop||1 episode||1 episode||1 episode|
|2008–2010||Good News Week||3 episodes||3 episodes||3 episodes|
|2008||Newstopia||1 episode||1 episode|
|2008–2011||Q&A||1 episode||3 episodes||2 episodes|
|2009||Rove||1 episode||2 episodes||1 episode||1 episode|
|2010||Talkin' 'Bout Your Generation||1 episode||1 episode|
|2010||Review with Myles Barlow||1 episode||1 episode|
|2010||Top Gear Australia||1 episode||1 episode|
|2010||Sleek Geeks||1 episode||1 episode|
|2011||You Have Been Watching||1 episode||1 episode|
|2011||The Joy of Sets||1 episode||1 episode||1 episode||1 episode||1 episode|
|2012||The Silic & Lee Show at the Logies: Red Carpet Special 2012 ||1 episode||1 episode||1 episode|
|Total:||2 episodes||10 episodes||6 episodes||10 episodes||12 episodes||12 episodes|
In July 2006, Licciardello faced charges of "offensive conduct" from the New South Wales Police Force, after turning up at a rugby league football match between the Canterbury Bulldogs and the St George Illawarra Dragons on 14 July 2006 dressed up as a Bulldogs fan and attempting to sell fake knives, knuckledusters and balaclavas for a War on Everything sketch.
During Dick Cheney's visit to Australia in 2007, members of The Chaser team were included on the official list of terrorists, anarchists, and protesters deemed to pose a threat to the US Vice-President.
The Chaser team gained notoriety and considerable media attention over "The Eulogy Song", written by Chris Taylor and performed by Andrew Hansen on 17 October 2007 episode of The Chaser's War On Everything. The song satirised the media's posthumous praise of deceased celebrities, regardless of their behaviour in life, and mentioned among others John Lennon, Peter Brock, Stan Zemanek, Princess Diana, Steve Irwin, Donald Bradman, and Kerry Packer. The song attracted comment from both the media and politicians including Kevin Rudd and John Howard, the latter of whom used reference to the song in remarks during a sketch later aired on the programme.
Morrow and Licciardello were arrested by NSW Police on 6 September 2007 outside the InterContinental Hotel after driving a fake motorcade through the Sydney central business district and breaching an APEC security zone. The Chaser crew entered a secure area by masquerading as the motorcade of the Canadian delegation to APEC. They were arrested by police after Licciardello emerged from the car dressed as Osama bin Laden, near the hotel where U.S. President George W. Bush was staying. They were subsequently detained, taken to Surry Hills Police Station for questioning and charged with "entering a restricted area without special justification" under the APEC Meeting (Police Powers) Act 2007. Licciardello, Morrow and the nine other production members were released on bail to appear in court on 4 October 2007. If found guilty, they were liable to serve a maximum 6 months imprisonment, or a maximum 2 years imprisonment if they also had possession or control of a prohibited item with no special justification. The Chaser team issued a statement on 6 September that they had been given permission by police officers to enter the restricted area. Under section 37(2)(b) of the legislation a person has special justification to be in an area if "the person is required, authorised or permitted to be in the area by the Commissioner or a police officer". Subsequently, the hearing was adjourned until 5 December 2007 at the request of ABC lawyers. The charges were dropped near the end of April 2008.
The day after the APEC stunt, police questioned Craig Reucassel, Chris Taylor and Dominic Knight and a film crew from the Chaser after they were involved in a second stunt in central Sydney. The three were released by police after being briefly questioned for carrying around black cardboard boxes dressed up as limousines.
The 'Make a Realistic Wish Foundation' skit
On 3 June 2009 episode, Taylor and Hansen were involved in a skit which was set in a terminally ill children's ward of a hospital, which centered around a spokesman (Taylor) portraying himself along with a doctor (Hansen), from the fictional 'Make a Realistic Wish Foundation' (a spoof of the real Make-a-Wish Foundation). The premise of the skit was that if the terminally ill children are only going to live for a few more months before passing away, it is not worth spending money on lavish gifts for them. The one minute long sketch featured Taylor giving one girl a pencil case instead of a trip to Disneyland. Then along the same lines, Hansen gave another girl a stick instead of a meeting with Zac Efron. The skit concluded with Taylor stating "Why go to any trouble, when they're only gonna die anyway". A similar skit had already been performed in sketch titled "A Reasonable Request Foundation" aired on comedy show The Mansion on Foxtel the previous year.
The reaction to the sketch from media commentators was mostly negative. Then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd stated that The Chaser team "should hang their heads in shame". He went on to say that "I didn't see that but it's been described to me...I actually don't mind The Chaser taking the mickey out of me or any other politician, at any time and any place....But having a go at kids with a terminal illness is really beyond the pale, absolutely beyond the pale." That morning, the Chaser team along with the ABC managing director, Mark Scott, apologised for airing the skit, with Scott stating that "We have unreservedly apologised for airing that skit,...It's very clear today from the reaction that it's caused considerable offence and distress, particularly to parents of children that are seriously ill....I've spoken to Julian Morrow from The Chaser and my understanding is that certainly wasn't the intention of the script, but that's the consequences of it." The ABC will now change their procedures for reviewing episode content which gets broadcast. Scott continued, "We're going to look at those processes ... I mean we all know that The Chaser push the edges and it's a tightrope that we walk, and I suppose there are many, many skits that they've put to air that have offended someone along the way - that's part of the nature of the satirical and black comedy that they do." The skit has also been cut from any further television airings. The ABC announced on Friday that The Chaser's War on Everything will be suspended for 2 weeks. This was relayed via a message by The Chaser on their website, who stated that whilst they disagree with the decision to suspend the show, they apologise for making the skit, acknowledging that it went too far.
ABC's Managing Director announced on 2009-06-10 that the ABC's Head of Comedy, Amanda Duthie, had been removed from her position after a review of the process which led to the skit being broadcast. He was quoted as saying, "The segment should not have been broadcast. We recognise that it caused unnecessary and unreasonable hurt and offence to our viewers and the broader community and we have apologised for this," adding, "This was an error of judgement." Ms Duthie will continue to be responsible for Arts and Entertainment programs.
In their first episode after being suspended, the Chaser team acknowledged they had made a mistake broadcasting the skit. Later on in the show, they recreated the skit, but instead of targeting sick kids, Kevin Rudd's anger-management issues is parodied. In the same episode Taylor is shown to be attacked by two boxers in another sketch for being "the guy from the Make a Wish sketch". In the closing credits of the show's finale, Taylor is said to have "died of cancer."
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