The Late Show has its roots in the 1980s comedy group, The D-Generation. Consisting mostly of Melbourne University students, The D-Generation managed to gain a cult following with their radio and TV appearances.
After the breakup of the original The D-Generation, some of the members went on to perform on the commercial TV programme Fast Forward. The remaining members filmed several pilots for what was to be called The Late Late Show at Channel Nine. These were rejected, and so the group accepted the ABC's offer of a one-hour timeslot on Saturday night.
The Late Show featured a number of popular, recurring segments.
The Late Show News Headlines, presented by Gleisner, would blend the week's real news headlines with fake information and footage. For example, when covering the replacement of Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa, footage from an Asian bodybuilding competition was shown. The News Headlines would also feature interviews with newsmakers, most often played by Rob. Some of the better-known impersonations included Jeff Kennett, John Hewson, Paul Keating, Imran Khan, Yassar Arafat, Gareth Evans and Desmond Tutu.
The Toilet Break, as the name suggests, was designed to allow viewers time to use the toilet during the commercial-free show. The 2-minute long segment was played in the middle of every show, featuring old music clips, with a countdown displayed on the top left-hand corner of the screen. During the first season, the toilet break consisted of clips from The Natural 7 from The Saturday Show. The second season played clips from 1987's Pot Luck.
The performances included:
The Late Show finale in 1993 had a 'real' guest on to sing at the finale: Don Lane, who was notably appearing on a competing network during the show's Saturday night timeslot. A famous non-guest was Jana Wendt whom the producers had hoped would either sing a song by Nirvana (Javana) or Bananarama (Janarama). Wendt never appeared.
Examples (from Pissweak Town):
Similar to Roy and HG, Graham and the Colonel were two satirical sports commentators, played respectively by Sitch and Cilauro dressed in green ABC sports jackets. Whilst the characters often forgot lines and used many corny and humourless jokes, the segment was much loved. This segment aired just before the end of each episode.
Tony Martin did the voice of the star of the show, Governor Frontbottom (as well as Judge Muttonchops). Mick Molloy supplied the voice for the John Waters' character Sergeant Olden. Other characters were used intermittently.
The Olden Days was released by the ABC as a VHS video containing all the segments in order, although it has been out of publication for a number of years. On August 15, 2007, it was released on DVD in The Late Show Presents Bargearse and The Olden Days.
Bargearse was named after its protagonist, Detective Sergeant Bargearse, an overweight, moustache-sporting "rough-and-tumble" cop. The sketches exploited Bluey's weight with plentiful fat jokes, as well as many fart noises.
Bargearse was voiced by Tony Martin and his sidekicks, Ann Bourke and Detective Glen Twenty, were voiced by Judith Lucy and Rob Sitch respectively. Other minor characters were revoiced by Santo Cilauro, Mick Molloy and Jane Kennedy.
Lucky Grills, who played Bluey appeared on The Late Show three times: as a guest in the mock press conference for the Biodome participants, as the character Bluey protesting the last episode of Bargearse and in the musical appearance as noted above.
Shirty: The Slightly Aggressive Bear was a parody of children's TV shows. The twist was that the main character, Shirty, would react harshly to even the smallest insult. Many episodes ended with a destroyed set, a firearm being shot, or injury to the other characters. In one of the later episodes, it was revealed on-screen that Shirty was played by the "Hando" character from Romper Stomper as portrayed by Russell Crowe. In every other episode Shirty was played by Rob Sitch.
The sketch featured purposely bad overacting from the children and usually involved an unimposing villain or disaster (such as a "poacher" stealing "native fauna" - sticks and twigs - from the bush) that had to be prevented. The actors would constantly praise Charlie as a highly intelligent "wonder dog", in contradiction of the behaviour of Charlie himself, who regularly had to be dragged around by a rope to perform stunts. When the dog was required to bark to alert the others of danger, obvious overdubbing was used over footage of Charlie with his mouth closed or looking distracted.
As the series went on, the problems and situations that Charlie faced became more and more over the top. Charlie was eventually assassinated in one of the sketches, only to come back in the Charlie the Wonderdog Christmas Episode.
Geoff and Terry (Sitch and Cilauro respectively) were two conman entrepreneurs, who would appear regularly with a "new exciting product" or scheme. Sitch and Cilauro primarily used the segment to make Jane Kennedy, who played the interviewer, laugh and forget her lines. Jane Kennedy also admitted in the Best of the Late Show DVD commentary that she was in fact drunk during one of the live sketches.
After a particularly bad performance Sitch and Cilauro vowed never to do Geoff and Terry again and the pair were reborn as the Oz brothers.
Citing the enormous effort involved in producing each week's show, and the desire to explore other formats, the cast decided that the second season of The Late Show would be the last. Most of the performers have remained prominent in the Australian comedy scene.
Jane Kennedy, Tom Gleisner, Santo Cilauro and Rob Sitch formed Working Dog Productions, and made the successful TV programmes Frontline (1994–1997), Funky Squad (1995), A River Somewhere (1997–1998), The Panel (1998–2004), All Aussie Adventures (2001-), and Thank God You're Here (2006-), and the successful movies The Castle (1997) and The Dish (2000).
Tony Martin and Mick Molloy had a top-rating radio show Martin/Molloy (1995–1998), before moving into film with Tackle Happy (2000), Crackerjack (2002), Bad Eggs (2003) and BoyTown (2006). Tony Martin hosted a radio show on the national Triple M network called Get This (2006–2007). Molloy hosted Tough Love from 2004 to 2006 and was then dropped from the radio station. Judith Lucy appeared in both Crackerjack and Bad Eggs, and continues to tour with a series of successful one-woman shows. Jason Stephens is now the Director of Development for Fremantlemedia Australia, one of Australia's leading independent television production companies. He was the creator behind The Choir of Hard Knocks Article - 'Choir offers sanctuary from ‘Hard Knocks’ ' He also produced and Co-Executive produced the 2007 film The King , the telemovie based on the life of Graham Kennedy lifestory. Jason also developed the comedy Newstopia (2007) starring Shaun Micallef.