It was back in 1976. Graeme Bond, Rory O'Donoghue and their executive producer Maurice Murphy, riding high from the success of the Aunty Jack Show, made a comedy series for the ABC that featured sketches that intentionally pushed the limits of mid-1970s taste. They called it "The Off Show".
There were complaints. The ABC nabobs pulled the series off the air, made cuts and resumed the series a week or two later. So many cuts, in fact, that Murphy and the boys insisted that the series be renamed "The Of Show". Unsurprisingly, "The Of Show" wasn't terribly funny. I don't recall Bond and O'Donoghue teaming up to do comedy on the ABC again after that.
Thirty-three years later, and little has changed. The Chaser crew specialise in bad taste satire. We've known that for years. The problem seems to arise, however, when they actually do sketches that are in bad taste.
There has been an astonishing firestorm raised since The Chaser's War on Everything sent up "feel-good" charities in their June 3 program, by depicting terminally ill children (played by actors) in a spoof charity ad.
Bad taste? Sure. Should it have gone to air? Absolutely.
I have just two issues of concern with the program. One is a fundamental issue with the screening time for the series. It should never have moved from the late-night Friday timeslot of its first series in 2007. Shifting it to 9pm Wednesday was a shameless grab for ratings by the ABC (and they axed "The Glass House" to make way for it), and raises false expectations of a tame, mainstream Comedy Company-type show.
Issue number two, and perhaps a more salient point, was the inadequacy of the warning at the start of the program. When I watched the (admittedly terminally-ill-kidless) repeat on ABC2 on the Thursday night the M-rating warning merely stated that the episode "contained violence". Not detailed enough by a long shot.
Before Sunday's Landline, the ABC warned that the program contained "animal scenes that some viewers could find distressing" - to whit, a story about mulesing.
Before each episode of Message Stick, and indeed just about any show featuring aboriginal people, comes a warning that "Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers may be distressed by the images or voices of deceased people".
Every episode of The Chaser should be preceded by a warning along the lines of: "This programs contain scenes of a satirical nature which may offend some viewers". Sure, it wouldn't stop your average self-righteous Fred or Miranda from watching and complaining, but at least it would help cover the ABC's arses a bit.
Whether I agree with the nature of The Chaser's "Make A Relevant Wish Foundation" sketch is not the point. As cabaret artist Voltaire once said, "I defend to the death your right to say it."
Voltaire died in 1778.