1 9 7 3 – 1 9 7 6 (Australia)
Gunston’s hysterical interviews with the likes of Frank Zappa, Paul and Linda McCartney, Sally Struthers (from US sitcom All In The Family), Keith Moon (who responded by pouring champagne over Norman’s head) and later, KISS, are the stuff of legend.
The character of Norman Gunston was brought to life by accomplished character actor Garry McDonald, who had played Dave Rudd in the ABC-TV comedy series Snake Gully With Dad & Dave during 1972.
His segments as Norman in What’s On In Wollongong became one of the most popular parts of the Aunty Jack Show, and Norman appeared on the Aunty Jack Sings Wollongong album, along with McDonald’s other character, Kid Eager.
McDonald was never afraid to make Gunston the fall guy; The sap who always managed to send himself up while doing the same to those around him. Norman’s real talent was in being able to bamboozle and confound his interview subjects – who were inevitably either dumbstruck or caught on and joined in all the fun.
Crashing press conferences guerilla-style, he left touring stars including Burt Reynolds (“How’s your mum, Debbie?”), Warren Beatty (“Did Carly Simon write that song about you, The Impossible Dream?”’) and Kiss (“Which one of you is the construction worker?”) bewildered.
Another of Norman’s specialities was musical satire, and he managed to carve quite a musical career for himself in the 70s pop scene in Australia.
In the 80s McDonald “retired” the Gunston character in order to concentrate on his movie acting career, and on the superb ABC sitcom series, Mother and Son with the late great Ruth Cracknell.
In the midst of reviving Gunston for a new series of The Norman Gunston Show in 1993, McDonald suffered a much-publicised breakdown and not much was seen of the comb-over kid for quite a while.
It is interesting to note how much of Gunston there is in his modern-day British equivalent Ali G . . . Except that Norman would have never allowed such excesses of “funny business” on his show.