Sam Newman is one of Australias most popular and controversial stars.
Sam Newman was born John Noel William Newman on the 22nd December, 1945 in Geelong. He was recruited from Geelong Grammar School by the Geelong Cats in 1964, played 303 games, kicking 110 goals until his retirement in 1980. in 2002 he was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame.
Sam remains the only original cast member of The Footy Show which premiered on March 24th, 1994 including Street Talk and Sams Mailbag segments.
Sam Newmans most memorable moments on The Footy Show include having his head shaved on air, being tarred and feathered in Adelaides Rundle Mall, having botox treatment, pushing a cream pie in the face of panellist David Schwarz, being dacked by Shane Crawford, and going the full monty in the 2002 Grand Final Footy Show.
In 2008 Sam underwent a procedure at Epworth Hospital to have a cancerous prostate removed. Newman asked that television cameras from Channel Nines 60 Minutes have full access, as he believed it could help raise awareness of the issue amongst the greater public.
So, where does SAM come from? See below..
66 on 22nd December 2011
SAM Newman has a chronological age - hes 66 on December 22 - but his face is regenerating like Benjamin Button after discovering the elixir of youth.
The former Geelong ruckman and AFL Hall of Fame inductee in 2002 will mark a half-century milestone next year when he becomes a 50-year member of the Melbourne Cricket Club.
The thoughtful person who tipped me off about Newman joining the seniors club said: Basically it is really old blokes who sit around grumbling. Most would be well into their 70s. They joke that not every member makes it through a game. Newmans presence and choice of companion will definitely liven up the room. Out of the MCCs 102,000 members , 2700 are in the 50-year tier that entitles them to reserved seating and use of the John Landy Room, where the dress code is jacket and tie. Newmans favourite shorts, runners or spongy slip-ons might be problematic.
Another benefit for seniors is the $15 membership fee, a considerable discount on the $590 adult charge. Footy or cricket fans wanting to become a member and reach the 50-year milestone one day have to join the queue with 217,000 people in front of them.
Is he funny?
Article by Margaret Lindley in The Age Green Guide in 1995. Somewhat outdated in 2011 in terms of employment but it sums up Sam to a tee.
Is he funny? Or is he just a bastard? An unfunny, arrogant, sexist, racist, "ist" of a man, flaunting a pseudo-wit that only the pathetic and/or the ignorant can enjoy? An exploitative parasite preying upon the vulnerable? A carbuncle on the arse-end of humanity?
This, strangely perhaps to those outside Australias "Rules states", is a question of some significance to rather large numbers of people. In states dominated by the great game it is a legitimate topic of public discussion; like whether or not Geelongs Gary Ablett charges players illegally or simply attacks them aggressively (there is a fine and acknowledged distinction between the two activities, visible only to those who are or pretend to be cognocscenti, certain umpires and the certainly mad), what is the matter with the West Coast Eagles forward play (the feared Eagles are very much at preventing goals than at scoring them), who is the best coach (the handsome Mick Malthouse, the wily Kevin Sheedy, the thoughtful David Parkin, or even the bold and balding newcomer Gerard Neesham), and what is really wrong with the Adelaide Crows gifted but erratic Tony Modra.
Sam Newman is a remarkable public performer. A Channel Nine journalist once told me, "Point a microphone at Sam and hes on." He is usually on the top-rating Melbourne commercial radio station, 3AW, and, even more famously, Channel Nines "The Footy Show." It is a curious sort of footy show, a counter-footy show, a footy show without a great deal of footy. This is not Channel Nines fault. Channel Seven (or Channel Rex, as Newman prefers to call it, in reference to the omnipresence of his radio colleague Rex Hunt) refuses to provide the footy footage to which it has exclusive rights. Channel Nine may show footy only when it treats it with due respect, as it does on news bulletins.
Without footy (at least of the AFL professional variety),"The Footy Show" rates, as they say, its socks off. Sam (whose name is really John, but he is most definitely a Sam) is presented each Thursday night by the shows host, Eddie McGuire, with the same slightly rueful pride with which one indicates the class ratbag. Whatever will he say today?
Newmans role on the show is not to provide the bon mots or the wit, though he may contribute. Trevor Marmalade is the wag, the comic, the gagman. Newman provides both geniality (he spends a good deal of his time smiling, even if quizzically) and excitement. Skating along the line of rude/funny, offensive/amusing, he performs or threatens a kind of ethical striptease. The audience wonders how far he will go: will he offend me as well as his targets? And when I am offended have I become the target? Will Sam score off me?
This is not a pleasant idea, for it would be extremely difficult to obtain revenge. How can one wound Sams amour propre? How can one score from a target that refuses to stand on his dignity? There were rumours, when North Melbournes loss to Sydney required that Sam walk on to the Melbourne Cricket Ground in a tutu before a vast crowd, that he was attempting to avoid doing so. Those who believed so knew nothing of Newman. Sam would come to no harm in a tutu and knew it. In fact he almost seemed to be courting the opportunity to display the invincibility of his sang-froid - repeating a bet he had made and won the previous week when Brisbane lost to Geelong. There were a few anxious moments in that game for a man at all daunted by the thought of appearing in a tutu before tens of thousands of people. Was Sam daunted? Not a bit of it.
Remarkably, Newman managed to appear both undaunted and unimpressed by the fact that he was now required to display himself in the costume regarded as the epitome of femininity. He was neither obviously reluctant nor obviously eager. He lost that bet; hed won some (including one which required that he be carried on the broad back of fellow football "personality" Mal Brown up part of Melbournes Bourke Street).
One could of course wonder about why Newman made his famous tutu bet in the first place. Why choose a tutu? Was Newman revealing a repressed desire to take to the balletic boards, or was he making a comment on how deeply men like him despise femininity (femininity is a use-object, not an admirable or respectable quality - good enough for girls, of course). But one can see Newmans eyebrow raised, brow furrowed, mouth twisted in the smile that says "You just havent got it at all, have you?" To take anything seriously, except the death of an accepted legend (Ted Whitten), is to be a fool.
Sam is nobodys fool. He likes to display his intelligence and his education. It is important that people should understand that his rudeness is calculated, that he knows better. He corrects the pronunciation of Footscrays Doug Hawkins, is (usually) careful with his grammar, from time to time displays a vocabulary which warns that he is something more than a loudmouth who could once kick a ball.
He professes bafflement at the stupidity of others ("Now why would you say that?", "Honestly...people are unbelievable", "You idiot."). When Sam errs (and he is prepared to allow that he does), the error is due, one gathers, to carelessness. He can smile when HE is called an idiot, because of course he is not.
Alan Attwood, describing Newman as a "professional idiot" was desperately and disturbingly wrong.(1) Sam is a professional spotter of idiots, a man who knows an idiot when he sees one precisely because he is not idiotic. Sam is so far from being a real idiot that he can play the fool with a scorn for the consequences that few can afford. Only a fool would think Sam a fool.
None are more truly foolish than the determinedly and perpetually solemn, the self-consciously serious. They, in and out of football, are Newmans real enemies. As he once attacked the ball, he now attacks the pompous. When Newman ridicules supporters of the Adelaide Crows, his target is in fact those who complain piously that it is unfair to kick supporters when theyre down, or to stigmatise an entire city on the basis of the perceived fanaticism of some of its football fans. They are the ones who need to understand that its only a game, for Christs sake. They are the ones who are silly enough to watch a footy show and expect it to be fair. Footy is not about being fair; footy is about play, in all senses of that word. Even the fairest players (and Sam was not one) usually understand something of this, and make light of their apparent fairness; know better than to display it too irritatingly; smile with the others when the rules are broken with impunity; and refrain from informing upon rule-breakers even when the rules are broken against them.
Just as he dares to do foolish things, because he knows he is not a fool; Newman dares to be careless about football. He may be casual, even wrong, in a way unthinkable for a Bruce McAvaney or even an Eddie McGuire. Sam has the self-possession of the one who played and played well; and, much more rarely, of one who played and played well whilst understanding that it was always, like life, a game.
Sams carelessness is of the grand, aristocratic variety. He is never slipshod, never inadequate. Why strive, like the conscientious and the boring, to be on top of ones material? (Geelongs Billy Brownless, who frequently appears on the panel, is one of the very few who are able to be unboringly on top of their material - Brownless quotes statistics with the air of one delighting with the unexpected). Sam does not bother: he does not have to earn his place through toil. Sam is there to play: let the pedants detect the mistakes.
If he is not master of all he surveys, it is because he does not choose to be. Newmans chair is alternately a diving board and a bed, but always a throne (of the royal kind). He springs forward from it, leaning towards us to make a point; sprawls back in it, lounging in a manner extraordinary in a public forum. This king wears his crown tilted over one eye; sits easily and securely.
I admire Sam Newman. I admire the self-confidence (those with less will always regard Sams as arrogance), the comfort he appears to have with himself. Sam Newman is so comfortable with himself that even in a pink ballet tutu he was happy to be himself: no need to camp it up. He is himself in a lounge suit, an evening suit, a tracksuit, in boxer shorts, in a tutu - relaxed and at ease before cameras, in a studio or on any number of city streets around Australia. There is no place a Sam Newman cannot be himself: tall, intelligent, good-looking (if a little weathered, but who isnt after forty), athletic (or he was), and of course male. Flauntingly, happily male.
The degree of comfort is appealing to some; detestable to others. When Sam walks the streets with camera and microphone (for "The Footy Show" segment called "Street Talk" - a play one suspects on "street walk", in which the joke is not on Sam), he is sought out. Those he approaches usually smile at him instantly, if warily. What are you going to do to me, Sam?
For some of us Sam Newman is a perambulating radiator, dangerous but warming. How close can you get without being burnt? Women give him kisses and poke him in the chest. Tell him theyre not "one of his dills" and that hes "a rude bugger"; and look up at him (he is very tall) with eyes dancing.
But some (I wonder how many really?) object to the rudeness, the brazen gall of the man who does not know how to hide his gall as a well-brought-up lad should. He has no right to be so comfortable - not when he says such naughty things. No right to appear not to give a damn. Who does he think he is?
A darling of the gods perhaps. Sent to the right school; growing taller than his fellows; like Sean Connery, handsome when young, sexy when older; starring at the sport which above all guarantees esteem in his state of Victoria and much of the rest of the country besides (what on earth do Sydneysiders make of Sam when they see him on Channel Nines "Today" programme expressing genial contempt for rugby?)
An interesting comparison might be made between Newman and other former footballers who are identified as "personalities." Channel Nine offers (still) Lou Richards (of Collingwood and Channel Seven fame) and Mal Brown (formerly of East Perth, Richmond, Claremont and South Fremantle). Seven offers former Essendon stalwart Tim Watson and the extraordinary Rex Hunt (formerly of Richmond).
Richards was once footys funny man. Now he sits on a sofa on Sunday afternoons looking on at the panel of which he is not quite a member. Richards humour is (or was) the larrikin male humour still occasionally to be found in football crowds and hotel bars. It is the humour of Sydneys Hill when it was a hill: contrived and confrontational. There is nothing throw-away about it; lines are recycled and meant to be; presented deliberately as performance art; meant to be face to face; one on one. Newmans performance is for the massed generality of the viewing public: he talks to the camera, not to an imagined "you" behind it. There is a distance between Sam and his viewers and he wisely does not bother himself to cross it: you come to me. And we do. If only to see what he will do next. Dont miss it: Sams on. Get the cup of tea later. He looks in our direction without the slightest effort to "reach" us; knowing that we will pay attention when and if he requires it.
Brown is probably too angry to be funny. Though considerably mellowed since the days of on-field "incidents" (and some of Browns almost defied belief), Brown scores by his angry daring - when he scores. At best he is genial rather than urbane; sharp and observant rather than witty; provocative, but on a short fuse himself.
Sam has a long, long fuse. No small part of Newmans attractiveness to women (and make no mistake about it, Sam Newman has a good deal to do with "The Footy Shows" enormous popularity with women, who watch it in greater numbers than do men), is the impression he conveys of being a man who does not lose his temper. This is a man you can thump in the chest, reprimand, tease - without risking being hit. And this is a man you can flirt with, show your legs to (as did one elderly woman in a notable "Street Talk" segment), without fear that he will "lose control."
Tim Watson is Newmans obvious competitor in the attractive man stakes, and Channel Seven earnestly endeavours to present him as a man who can be funny without being outrageous. But Tim, like the Channel training him, is a little too earnest to be funny. He is handsome and immensely engaging and of course he may mellow into Newmans ease, but he wants us to like him and it shows. So one tends to sit in judgement on Tim rather as one would on an eager and promising schoolboy. Sam is judged as a wilful and dangerous man.
Rex Hunt is Newmans radio colleague and probably the closest thing Melbourne has had to a peculiarly Melburnian comic personality since Graham Kennedy. That is, if you are not a Melburnian (born and bred), you tend to miss the point. I am not a Melburnian born and bred. I came to Melbourne from Perth about six years ago and I still do not understand the secret of Hunts success. He blusters, roars, howls, froths at the mouth: a personification of Melburnian footballing insanity. Geelong superstar Gary Ablett is "the pontiff" and "Im Rex Hunt and youre not" is his prophet. It is all most odd.
Newman does not blossom in Hunts company. Perhaps we need to see Sam to fully appreciate him. Perhaps Newmans wry worldliness is not seen (or heard) to best advantage beside someone who seems to be deranged. Amidst the chaos and delirium of a programme featuring Hunt, Sam sounds sane rather than outrageous. He is a good foil to Hunt, but he serves Hunt more than Hunt serves him.
Can a woman act like Sam? And get away with it? The closest television has come to investigating the question was engaging commercial radios Brigitte Duclos for "Four Quarters", Channel Sevens attempt to imitate and surpass "The Footy Show." Brigitte did not stand a chance. Sharp and witty, she found herself surrounded by schoolboys and schoolboy humour. Primary schoolboy humour. If "The Footy Show" might be accused of being adolescent, "Four Quarters" is puerile. A Brigitte/Sam pairing would have been fascinating, but perhaps disturbing. What if Sam were bested? Would he turn ugly?
Would he feel obliged to flirt? And to succeed? It is possible to imagine Newman conversing comfortably and casually with a woman away from the cameras (the women in his life might disagree about his practice in this regard). It is difficult howe'ver to imagine him doing so when he is being watched. When he is watched, Sam performs: showy with a football, showy with women, showy with his fellow panellists.
Is he a show-pony? Sam has had to wear that accusation too, but Sam is no pony, howe'ver showy he might be. A show-stallion perhaps.
Is it possible for a woman to be so at ease before a public? Could a woman use the same sort of lines and be watched each week with delighted anticipation? We are unlikely to find out, at least in the foreseeable future, for it is difficult to imagine television executives willing to make the gamble. The Duclos experience does not inspire one with confidence. Away from the cameras, away from the public, there are women as funny as Sam - and funny in quite a similar way. They are wry and they are ribald. But it is far more dangerous for women to flirt with offensiveness than it is for men, and women know it. A woman who is offended by a man might simply be a prude. A man who is offended by a woman is right.
The female Sam Newmans (and I know several) perform before a very select public. They delight their female friends and appal their relations as a rule. They are offensive about men (often hilariously so), but they are almost always too shrewd to be offensive to men. With very rare exceptions, they fall discreetly silent when men join the audience. Even the growing numbers of female comics as a rule ridicule themselves (as Jewish comedians were wise enough to do before anti-semitic publics) or what they depict as a general female condition, rather than men.
It is men, particularly white men, who are free to be offensive and free to be offended, in the public arena which they still largely control. Try to imagine Aboriginal footballers Chris Lewis or Michael Long (both intelligent and daring men, both willing to lay official complaints against white footballers who have subjected them to racist abuse) with the same license to speak as a Sam. Try to imagine a television channel paying them, or any even moderately bumptious women, to say what they reckon and to devil with the offended. Sam Newmans daring is licensed and defended - and fair enough. But it is a privileged daring.
Sam Newman twice offended me. I didnt like the remarks about women tennis players (a play on Nike and Dike). Mean-spirited, I thought. Old (we've all heard the lesbian jokes about women playing tennis ever since Billie-Jean King shocked them all way back when), inaccurate and intended to insult sportswomen (who are, as a rule, generous towards mens sports and sporting programmes). And I didnt like the response to the ill-advised girl who wrote to Sam complaining that she was no longer allowed to play football. There were funnier things to say but not at her expense. Couldnt he have taken aim at the males, frightened of allowing girls to continue playing football past puberty? Something funny about men cowering away from developing mammaries, perhaps?
I will not repeat the response he did make. Homer sometimes sleeps and Sam sometimes stuffs up. Did he think so? He did not appear to relish his reply, moving on from it quickly. Being offensive is part of his job - perhaps his professionalism told him that he had not made the most of the comic possibilities in the letter. In fact the humour in this instance was borrowed humour - playing on his notoriety with regard to younger women - a running gag for OTHERS on the show. It is a gag which Newman appears to tolerate rather than encourage. (It is juvenile to encourage sexual comment about yourself, and Sam, we are given to understand, is not the juvenile in sexual matters).
What of Sams humour? Of what, exactly, does it consist? What does Sam actually say? He uses, or more commonly threatens to use words considered rude, and he frequently makes sexual allusions considered unsuitable, generally, for the oh-so-cautious world of live television and chat shows. Here the response of others on the panel is important in achieving the desired effect. We need that nice Eddie McGuire and the naughty, but essentially boyish and innocent Hawkins to confirm that Sam has been bad. Hawkins will collapse in delighted and disbelieving laughter; McGuire will look slightly rueful, rolling his eyes like a schoolmaster who knows the standards even if he is too good a sport to uphold them when we are all having such a good time.
Newman also uses, with unusual skill, the comic effects of exasperation: "Why would you say that? ,"Honestly", "Really." If he does not call a spade a f**king shovel, he is at least prepared to respond to the irritating with open irritation: a privilege afforded to fewer and fewer of us. In the state of Victoria teachers are not permitted to give vent to public exasperation with education policies (though they do) and footballers are supposed to control their exasperation with umpiring decisions to the satisfaction of umpires (though they frequently do not).
Sam does not "control" himself. Sam calls idiots idiots. It does not really matter (to most of the audience) whether or not they are idiots, whether or not Sam has quoted them or represented them fairly. It matters that someone says what he bloody well reckons. Those without Sams license (women, for instance) can enjoy his vicariously.
Insult Sam in a letter and hell dish it back to you, mate or madam. Come the high moral tone with him, and hell defy you. Sam will not be good. Discover that he is irritating Hawthorn star Jason Dunstall - really irritating him - and hell carry on with it next week too. And he gets away with it. When Dunstall was sufficiently annoyed by Newmans questioning of his account of Brisbane heat and its effects to tip a glass of water over his head, Newman appeared the next week in suncream and beachwear. Drop it Sam? Not a bit of it. And no-one stops him. What freedom!
The question of whether or not the Dunstall business was staged is of minor interest. Dunstall certainly looked annoyed. Newman did not look amazed when water was dumped on his head. But then he wouldnt. Not Sam.
Newmans public displays of exasperation are all the more attractive (or infuriating) because they emerge from a man whose demeanour is essentially urbane, even phlegmatic. Does anything worry him? Could he really care less?
Newman is a Rhett Butler in a good mood: the wilful buccaneer and charming rogue before Scarlett got under his skin. Here is the man who, frankly, does not give a damn, without appearing to have endured much pain to force him to that position. He is not always sure of which team is playing which, or of where a game is being played: unconcernedly unsure - whatever. May forget sequences, ask for prompts - so what? Able to display any lacks in knowledge, because he is so sure that he knows all he needs to know to live successfully.
Is he funny? He makes me smile and laugh, and I anticipate his performances with pleasure; but then women have long been notorious for liking naughty men. Is he a bastard? Not when there are real bastards out there - vicious mean-spirited men who would never don a tutu, and tight-lipped bitter women who are their soul-sisters.
Long live Sam and his license. Let us not silence Sam (as if we could), but rather extend his right to daring offensiveness to others: invite Michael Long to poke fun at the whites (and sit him with Chris Lewis as a side-kick), and invite women (Brigitte Duclos perhaps) to poke fun at the men - perhaps even at Sam.
Sam and Foss!
Sam: Bob Davis, Sams football coach said he was prone to do impersonations of anybody and he was very interested in shows that were on the television, in fact thats where he got his nickname from "Sam" from the Jackie Gleeson show.
Foss: Foss is short for Fossil, a term of endearment given to older blokes.
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