It has been rumoured that This Sporting Life would be finishing up in May 2008, as HG Nelson is commencing work on Comedy Slapdown a new show to air on Foxtel's Comedy Channel. However, comments posted by triple j staff on the triple j forums have strongly indicated that this is not the case and that This Sporting Life will continue, with Roy and HG remaining as the hosts .
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 modeled 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 broadcaster John Laws as another influence:
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 audience in Sydney, and this grew into to a substantial nationwide following in the 1990s as Triple J expanded to become a national network.
TSL is also remarkable as one of the few successful topical 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 over twenty years in the job.
Aside from their improvised commentary, over the years, This Sporting Life has included numerous scripted, pre-recorded segments, such as the topical satire commentaries "The Nelson Report" and "Date's Up, With Roy Slaven".
There has also been a series of regular live feature segments; one of the earliest of these was "Tips from the Other Side", in which HG Nelson would list predictions for forthcoming sporting fixtures which had been provided by contacting the spirits of deceased celebrities. According to HG, many these tips were provided thanks to the spirit of the late British "psychic" Doris Stokes, who acted as an intermediary. During one of these segments it was revealed that the spirits of the Russian Royal Family were avid fans of Rugby League.
Guests appeared on the program in the early days, such as comedian Angela Webber in the guise of "punk granny" Lillian Pascoe, but guest appearances were gradually eliminated as the years passed. However the duo have maintained an enduring relationship with actor Robbie McGregor who, in the guise of "King Wally Otto In The Soundproof Booth", provides most of the show's links and a wide variety of parodic fake advertisements. Australian Big Brother host Gretel Killeen and actor-comedian Jonathon Biggins have also provided voice-overs for many fake ads.
Aside from 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 are asked to phone in with the answer to a question based on of the duo's wide-ranging and often fantastical discussions of sporting news and personalities. (eg. "Who is known as the founding father of Russian rugby league"?)
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, most of which are gathered under the Nelson-Slaven Industries banner.
These include services such as The Elvis Society (a dating service for "pillows") and products such as "The Totally Ian Roberts Bar", a confectionery item (referring to gay rugby league player Ian Roberts), the HG Nelson Butchery -- "still doing things with meat other butchers only dream of" -- "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, as well as a long-running series of fake ads for "Istengar", an esoteric branch of yoga that teaches practitioners how to create works of art from their own faeces. A recent fake ad (satirising the Nine Network's The Footy Show), promotes Rex Mossop's Rugby League Finishing School, which offers training to footballers hoping to pursue a career in the media.
In recent years, real-life sporting stars such as rugby league players Stan Jurd and Paul Sironen have also recorded parodic voice-overs for the show promoting fictional bodies such as the fictional political organisation The National Rugby League Party.
Recently TSL has introduced another popular recurring voice-over character, Sydney car dealer Frosty Lahood (voiced by ABC NewsRadio sports reporter David Lord), whose famous "No root, no toot" deal offers customers their money back if the attractive new vehicle does not enable the buyer to "get a root" (i.e. have sex) within 24 hours of purchase.
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 1980s and early 1990s and the scripts were later published in book form.
The basic conceit of the sketch was that the small New South Wales south coast town of Ulladulla had become a haven for scores of famous Australian sporting and show business identities of years past, that many of these celebrities owned businesses in the area or worked in various official capacities in the town, and that they were all regularly involved in hilarious and often ribald misadventures.
Characters included former TV wrestler Mario Milano, owner of the Bluebird Cafe, and former NSW Premier Barry Unsworth, owner of the rather disreputable 'Cardigan Club'. This fictional Ulladulla also boasted a colossal seaside statue of long-distance swimmer Linda McGill ("The Big Linda, which featured a revolving restaurant in its head). All the streets were named after sporting or TV stars, the local high school was named after a famous rugby league player (Barry Beath) and the town's Mayor was renowned TV composer and conductor Tommy Tycho.
Much of Roy and HG's comedy is topical, poking fun at current sporting news, the foibles, ego trips and media gaffes of sporting, movie and music stars, and the often risible phraseology used by sporting writers and commentators.
Doyle and Pickhaver also interweave their dialogue with a colourful and uniquely Australian form of linguistic comedy that often verges on the obscene, although they very rarely use "four-letter words" unless particularly enraged.
Over the years they have coined many memorable parodic words and terms, while others revive archaic expressions from their youth, and many have since entered the vernacular in Australia.
Many listeners will be familiar with the TSL lexicon, which includes words and phrases such as:
The duo are well-known for their lengthy, hyperbolic dissertations on the characters of sporting and cultural identities. Roy is renowned for his long-winded and extremely colourful demolition of almost every conceivable aspect of the personality and performance of a sports star with whom he is displeased.
He will often describe the subject as "a hopeless joke", and declare that they are a fool to him/herself and to his/her family, state and country of origin; this climactic phase of his analysis is usually delivered at the top of his voice. Yet, paradoxically, Roy almost invariably concludes these harangues with quiet, amiable remarks on what a nice person the subject is, how much he likes them, and how much he or she has contributed to their particular field of endeavour. This can also been reversed such as when commentating the first Melbourne Grand Prix he praised the track as "the best in the world... superior to Monza, Spa and Hockenheim" which were all "rubbish". When there was a big crash on the first corner he claimed the track was to blame because it was "a joke".
Although usually more concise than Roy, and typically taking the role of presenter/interviewer who sets out the subject and poses questions for Roy to comment on, HG Nelson has his own unique and colourful editorial style. On many occasions he has described decisions or innovations with which he disagrees as "a hastily cobbled-together farrago". He once promised that he would "walk nude down George Street with a pie on my head" if the outcome of a sporting fixture did not match his prediction, and during one especially memorable rant he denounced golfer Greg Norman as:
In his roundup of the 2006 Melbourne Cup, Nelson described the unusual hat he had worn to the event, which was fashioned in the form of a miniature chicken-processing factory, and which automatically dispensed tiny chickens for "the kiddies". The duo have also long been advocates of the concept of employing "celebrity shooters" at racing fixtures -- i.e. hiring well-known personalities to 'put down' horses that are badly injured during races.
TV programming is another favourite target for duo's satire. Responding to the growth in realty TV progamming, Roy suggested several innovative new programs including "Celebrities With Gastric" and "Celebrity Horses With Gastric".
Cricket legend Sir Donald Bradman has long been a target of the duo's satire, and it is now well established -- at least according to Roy & HG -- that Bradman was a spy for the Japanese during World War II. They have also deduced that, in his twilight years, "The Don" was locked in a shed at the back of his house in Bowral, NSW and forced to sign millions of items of all descriptions in order to capitalise on the inevitably lucrative market in Bradman memorabilia that would emerge after his death.
|This Sporting Life Terminology|
|Braith Anasta||The most overrated man in Rugby League||Came about as a result of repeated Rugby League player polls in which Anasta was often nominated as the most overrated player by his peers.|
|Martin Bella||Squirrel Gripper||Came about as a result of Bella's penchant for employing the "squirrel grip" or "Christmas handshake" which involves firmly gripping an opponents testicles during a tackle performed in the sport of Rugby League|
|Danny Buderus||Butterball Buderus||Because of his poor ball handling in a State of Origin match.|
|Dean Brogan||Dick Head||Brogan took exception to being called Dick Head at Adelaide airport by a heckler and punched the offender in the nose, he was subsequently fined by the AFL and Port Adelaide|
|Ben Cousins||Rolled Note||Derived from Cousins after hours work with the white powder.|
|Ben Off The Gear Cousins||Developed after Cousins declared himself clean and ready to resume his football career.|
|Greg Dowling||Dish-head Dowling|
|Ben Elias||Backdoor Benny||Often shortened to simply The Door or B.D.B. Elias|
|Israel Folau||The Queensland wunderkind||Refers to a newspaper report; often said sotto voice to show Slaven's displeasure with the use of a German word.|
|Mark Gasnier||Fire Up Bitch! aka "The Fire Up Bitch Man"|| Gasnier was fired from the 2004 New South Wales State of Origin team for leaving an obscene voice mail message on a woman's mobile phone after a 'bonding session' The transcript of the phone message is as follows: "Where the fuck are you? There's four toey humans in the cab and our cocks are fat and ready to spurt sauce. It's 20 to four...and you're in bed, fuck me. Fire up, you sad cunt." |
Roy and HG also shorten this nickname to variations such as "the F.U.B.", "fubby" and "the fubster".
|The Shimmy, Shimmy, Whoosh! Man.||From an NRL Pog describing Gasnier's step maneuver as the Shimmy, Shimmy, Whoosh.|
|Mark Geyer||The Tap||He can run hot and cold, or "turn it on" i.e. on-field violence. By extension, Geyer's younger brother Matt is "Tap II"|
|Barry Hall||Hitman||'Hitman' came about due to Roy & HG looking for a nickname for Hall to make his boxing debut under.|
|Barry Deck The Hall||Another nickname that was developed for Hall's boxing career.|
|Solomon Haumono||Captain Feathers||Constructed due to the lack of a fighting name for Haumono when he began his boxing career following his rugby league career.|
|Jarred Hayne||Hip-Head||As a result of Hayne being knocked out momentarily after attempting to make a tackle in State of Origin 3, 2008 in which his head cannoned into his opponents hip.|
|Mark Hensby||The forgotten man of Australian golf||A reference to Hensby's laments in national newspapers that he was the "forgotten man" of golf.|
|Lleyton Hewitt||Little||Due to Hewitt's diminutive size.|
|Terry Hill||The Lobster Fisherman||Derived from an incident after his playing days when Hill was caught stealing lobsters from pots that didn't belong to him, resulting in Hill facing the Magistrates Court, where he his defense was that he 'didn't know what he was doing".|
|John Hopoate||Stinkfist, The Proctologist||A reference to an infamous incident during a 2001 NRL game when, in an attempt to unsettle the opposing team, Hopoate forcibly pushed his finger into the anuses of three opposing players. This led to speculation by Roy & HG that Hopoate may have in fact been acting as an unofficial proctologist and that he doing the players a favour because his impromptu rectal examination may have detected early signs of serious illness.|
|Alan Jones||The Parrot|
|Glenn Lazarus||The Brick With Eyes||The nickname is because of Glenn's large, solid physique. Roy and HG have also called him "Dr Death". The United Kingdom's The Sun newspaper once got this name wrong and called him "The Brick with Ears".|
|Wally Lewis and Allan Langer||The King and I||A reference to the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. Wally Lewis' nickname is 'King Wally', making his team-mate Allan Langer the 'I'.|
|Greg Norman||The Paleface Adios of Golf||A reference to the drawn out career of Norman.|
|Willie Mason||The Brainstrust||A satirical reference to the fact that Mason's well-known propensity for aggressive behaviour was explained by the fact that he reportedly suffers from an autism spectrum disorder|
|The New Face of the Eastern Suburbs|
|Les Mason||Mad-Dog||Introduced due to the lack of a nickname for Mason, as compared to Captain Feathers and Stinkfist|
|Steve Menzies||Beaver||Other Roy and HG name variations include "Beav", "The Flying Beaver" and "Leave it to Beaver" along with "Beaver Las Vegas".|
|Steve Mortimer||Prince of Darkness|
|Mark Philippoussis||The dangerous floater||A double reference, both to the media constantly promoting Philippoussis as a hidden threat in tennis tournaments, and also a play on Philippoussis nickname 'the poo'. Usually invoked with reference to the U.S. Open at Flushing Meadow.|
|Julian O'Neill||The Poo in the Shoe||O'Neill, who has a history of off-field misconduct, including two DUI charges and urinating under casino blackjack tables on two separate occasions, was involved in a 1999 pre-season incident which led to his South Sydney Rabbitohs being banned from a Dubbo hotel. Following years of personal and professional turmoil, O'Neill trashed the Dubbo hotel room by smearing the walls with faeces. A direct quote from the horse's mouth describing a further bad deed from the night was "hey Schlossie, I just shat in your shoe".|
|Wendell Sailor||Ding Dong Dell|
|Casey Stoner||The Real Deal||From an article in a local paper, in reference to his dominance in MotoGP, "The Real Deal" was used to describe Stoner as a genuine competitor for the Moto GP title.|
|Ricky Stuart||The Angry Ant|
|The Game's Greatest Thinker|
|Timana Tahu||Tim Tam Tahu||Named after the Australian chocolate biscuit brand, Tim Tams.|
|Kostya Tszyu||The Russian-born, Sydney-based powerhouse||A direct quote from a newspaper article|
|Mark Webber||"The DNF Man", "DNF Specialist"||An acronym derived from the fact that Formula 1 driver Webber has earned numerous "DNF" (did not finish) race results due to collisions or mecahanical breakdowns.|
|Shane Webcke||BigPond||Taken from Webcke (Web-key) to Website and Australia's largest internet service provider Telstra Big Pond.|
|Karrie Webb||The Funnel||A reference to the Sydney Funnel Web Spider.|
|Tiger Woods||The man they call Tiger||A reference to sports reporter Tim Webster, who has a habit of constantly introducing sporting celebrities using the term "the man they call (first name)"|
Another perennial aspect of their comedy is the overweening egotism and impossible achievements of "Rampaging" Roy Slaven, a character who was probably inspired by sports broadcaster and former rugby league player Rex Mossop, who was famous for his outspoken opinions and his hilarious tautologies.
Roy will often begin his commentaries sotto voce as a mocking parody of Sydney radio announcer Alan Jones, but often finishes 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 Melbourne 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, as well as being a close personal friend of many top racehorses and greyhounds.
Roy's tales of sporting achievement are mixed with reminiscences of his youth in Lithgow, his membership of the rambunctious Lithgow Shamrocks rugby league team, and his formative relationship with mentor and coach 'Grassy' Grannell. Doyle gives a strong scatological edge to the Slaven character and Roy's commentaries and recollections often include hilarious anecdotes about celebrities or teammates who were stricken by attacks of vomiting and diarrhoea -- invariably referred to by the quaint Australian term "gastric".
Other memorable Slaven recollections have included the assistance he gave to music star Cher during her bout with chronic fatigue syndrome -- which included a daily regimen in which Slaven tied Cher to the back of a car and dragged her behind it for several kilometres -- and his revelation that American movie actress Kim Basinger planned to buy her home town, rename it "Basingerville" and rebuild it as a showpiece of modern sanitary technology where, thanks to a transparent sewerage system, residents could follow their effluent all the way from toilet to outfall.
Besides This Sporting Life, Roy and HG also provide radio commentary for Australian rugby league's three annual State of Origin matches, as well as the rugby league and AFL grand finals (dubbed the "Festival of the Boot", parts one and two).
At the opening of each State of Origin match (and the Grand Finals) Roy and HG traditionally drown out the obligatory rendition of the Australian national anthem -- typically performed at the actual event by a minor Australian music celebrity -- by playing the lugubrious country-and-western song "I Thank You", recorded in 1969 by former boxing champion Lionel Rose.
The choice of this song seems to have been inspired by several interconnected satirical motives -- the appalling standard of Rose's vocal performance, the cliched sentimentality of the lyrics ("When a boy becomes a man, he must do the best he can"), the inherent violence associated with the former-boxer, Rose, and the ironic satire implicit in the phenomenon of a former sports champion (with a very poor singing voice) attempting to establish a career in popular music by recording a prosaic genre love song written by a faded 1960s pop star (Johnny Young).
The duo, particularly Slaven's, commentary often features sensationalist over-reactions to the game at hand, such as calling for entire teams of players to be sacked after losses, or even questioning whether certain teams will ever win another match in the future. The commentary is also notable for its overly biased support of whichever team is winning, and the calling of every player on the field by their Roy & HG-assigned nicknames.
On many occasions, the opening minutes of their 'call' have featured Roy's scathing comments on the various celebrities he has encountered at the match, and his vociferous denunciation of the often hilariously bad pre-match and half-time "entertainment", which regularly feature massed displays by large groups of "kiddies" with "ballooowens" (balloons) and stilted performances by imported has-been stars like Billy Idol and Tina Turner, whose only real connection to The Game is the hefty paycheck they receive from the NSWRL for their brief appearances.
As well as performing 'This Sporting Life' on radio, Doyle and Pickhaver successfully transferred the concept and characters to television. Over the last ten years they have hosted a range of TV incarnations of the TSL format. The huge popularity of one of these, The Dream with Roy and HG, took Roy & HG's unique comedy style to thousands of Australians who had never listened to the radio show or watched the ABC series.