Garry McDonald

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Garry McDonald
BornGarry George McDonald
(1948-10-30) 30 October 1948 (age 69)
Bondi, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Other names Norman Gunston (character)
Alma mater Cranbrook School, Sydney
National Institute of Dramatic Art
Occupation Actor, comedian
Years active 1967–present
Spouse(s) Diane Craig (m. 1971)

Garry George McDonald AO (born 30 October 1948) is an Australian actor, satirist and comedian. In a career spanning five decades he has had many theatre, television and film roles, and has been listed as a National Living Treasure. He is best known as the seemingly naive celebrity interviewer Norman Gunston, through whom he pioneered the "ambush interviewer" technique since followed by many others. He received a Gold Logie award for the television Norman Gunston Show in which he developed the character. He is also famed for his role of the hapless Arthur Beare in the television sitcom Mother and Son . Appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2003 for service to the community in the mental health field and to the arts as an entertainer, he has also been a board member of the Australian mental health organisation beyondblue.

National Living Treasure is a status created and occasionally updated by the National Trust of Australia's New South Wales branch, awarded to up to 100 living people. Recipients were selected by popular vote for having made outstanding contributions to Australian society in any field of human endeavour.

Norman Gunston was a satirical TV character performed by Australian actor and comedian Garry McDonald. Norman Gunston was primarily well known in his native Australia, and to a lesser extent, the United States during the mid to late 1970s. He was the only Gold Logie winning fictional character on Australian television, with McDonald collecting the award in character.

Mother and Son is an Australian television sitcom that was broadcast on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) from 16 January 1984 until 21 March 1994. The show stars Ruth Cracknell, Garry McDonald, Henri Szeps and Judy Morris. It featured many Australian actors of the time in guest roles. It was created and written by Geoffrey Atherden. Its theme song features the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, playing to "I Want a Girl", a jazz standard which was recorded by Al Jolson in the 1920s.



McDonald was born in Bondi, a beachside Sydney suburb [1] and was educated at Cranbrook School. During his time at Cranbrook, McDonald developed an interest in acting and, despite family objections, went on to study at the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA), where he obtained a Diploma in Acting in 1967. [2] [3]

Bondi is an eastern suburb of Sydney, in the state of New South Wales, Australia, seven kilometres east of the Sydney central business district, in the local government area of Waverley Council.

Sydney City in New South Wales, Australia

Sydney is the state capital of New South Wales and the most populous city in Australia and Oceania. Located on Australia's east coast, the metropolis surrounds Port Jackson and extends about 70 km (43.5 mi) on its periphery towards the Blue Mountains to the west, Hawkesbury to the north, the Royal National Park to the south and Macarthur to the south-west. Sydney is made up of 658 suburbs, 40 local government areas and 15 contiguous regions. Residents of the city are known as "Sydneysiders". As of June 2017, Sydney's estimated metropolitan population was 5,230,330 and is home to approximately 65% of the state's population.

National Institute of Dramatic Art Australian national education and training institute for students in the performing arts

The National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) is an Australian national education and training institute for students in the performing arts. Since 1958, NIDA has educated students in performance and production for theatre, film and television. It offers programs ranging from degrees to public short courses, including holiday programs and corporate training.

Norman Gunston

It was while working on The Aunty Jack Show in 1973, that McDonald first performed the character for which he became best-known, the gauche and inept TV personality, Norman Gunston. Gunston's first appearance was in a series of brief sketches written by Wendy Skelcher which saw him reporting uncomfortably on a "sex-scandal drought" in the New South Wales city of Wollongong; a drought he eventually breaks by appearing naked on camera. [4]

<i>The Aunty Jack Show</i> television series

The Aunty Jack Show was a Logie Award–winning Australian television comedy series that ran from 1972 to 1973. Produced by and broadcast on ABC-TV, the series attained an instant cult status that persists to the present day.

In 1975 McDonald further developed the Gunston character on television in the Norman Gunston Show, for which he won a Gold Logie. His writing team included Morris Gleitzman (now a successful children's author) and veteran TV comedy writer Bill Harding, who had written for the Australian TV satire The Mavis Bramston Show . [4]

Morris Gleitzman Australian writer

Morris Gleitzman is an English-born Australian author of children's and young adult fiction. He has gained recognition for sparking an interest in AIDS in his controversial novel Two Weeks with the Queen (1990).

The Mavis Bramston Show was a weekly Australian television satirical sketch comedy revue series which aired on the Seven Network from 1964 to 1968. Inspired by the British TV satirical revue TV shows of the period, "Mavis Bramston" was the first successful venture in this genre on Australian TV. At its peak it was one of the most popular Australian TV programs of its era and it propelled many of the 'classic' cast to national stardom in Australia, including June Salter, Barry Creyton, Noeline Brown, Gordon Chater, Ron Frazer and Carol Raye, who devised the series.

Gunston's trademark outfit consisted of an iridescent-blue tuxedo jacket, black stovepipe trousers, and sneakers with white socks. Gunston had a comb over type hairstyle and used makeup to make his face deathbed white and had bits of tissue drying on shaving nicks. [5]

The series, which satirised many aspects of Australian culture and show business, was a mixture of live and pre-recorded interviews, awkward musical segments – excruciatingly sung by Gunston himself in the broadest 'strine' accent – and continuing comedy sketches such as "Norman's Dreamtime" (in which Norman read stories to a group of children, such as "Why Underpants Ride Up"). [4]

Strine is a term coined in 1964 and subsequently used to describe a broad accent of Australian English. The term is a syncope, derived from a shortened phonetic rendition of the pronunciation of the word "Australian" in an exaggerated Broad Australian accent, drawing upon the tendency of this accent to run words together in a form of liaison.

Dreamtime sacred era in Australian Aboriginal mythology

Dreamtime is a term devised by early anthropologists to refer to a religio-cultural worldview attributed to Australian Aboriginal beliefs. It was originally used by Francis Gillen, quickly adopted by his colleague Baldwin Spencer and thereafter popularised by A. P. Elkin, who, however, later revised his views. The Dreaming is used to represent Aboriginal concepts of "time out of time" or "everywhen", during which the land was inhabited by ancestral figures, often of heroic proportions or with supernatural abilities. These figures were often distinct from "gods" as they did not control the material world and were not worshipped, but only revered. The concept of the dreamtime has subsequently become widely adopted beyond its original Australian context and is now part of global popular culture.

Using Gunston's gormless personality as a cover to break down the defences of his "victims", McDonald pioneered the satirically provocative "ambush interview" technique which was used to great effect in interviews with Paul McCartney, Muhammad Ali, Keith Moon, Leif Garrett and actress Sally Struthers. When Gunston interviewed Elton John, who was in Australia to promote Tommy , Gunston began by asking "Are you going to premiere in Wollongong?" "No, but I've played tennis with her", John responded. "You're thinking of Evonne Wollongong", Gunston said, "I'm talking about the city." [5]

As Norman Gunston, McDonald also had a successful recording career, releasing a string of satirical novelty pop records that anticipated the pop parodies of "Weird Al" Yankovic. Norman's Top 40 chart hits included his interpretation of the Tom Jones classic "Delilah", the punk rock send-up "I Might Be A Punk But I Love You, Baby" and "We're All Marching In The KISS Army", a parody of the KISS single "I Was Made For Loving You". [4]

Mother and Son

McDonald played Arthur Beare in the successful television series Mother and Son , starring alongside Ruth Cracknell [6] over six seasons from 1984 until 1994. He won several Logie Awards for his role in the show (see below).


McDonald joined the cast of the Network Ten drama series Offspring in 2012 (series three), and is now a series regular. He plays Doctor Philip Noonan. [7]

Other work

He has had lead roles and guest roles in several theatrical stage roles, and well as television appearances.


Early in his career he met his wife, the actress Diane Craig, during a production of Let's Get A Divorce. They have two grown children, David and Kate, and live in Berry on the New South Wales south coast. [8] [9]

Suffering from both depression and anxiety, McDonald talks openly about his condition and has become an advocate. He is an ambassador and former Board director of beyondblue, an Australian national depression initiative and serves as patron of the NSW branch of the Anxiety Disorders Foundation of Australia. [10] [11] McDonald is quoted in the press discussing a link between his own anxiety and that of his grandfather and mother. [12]

McDonald's condition first came to the public's attention when he reached crisis point after an abortive attempt to revive the Gunston character in 1993. Then again in 1997, McDonald suffered a severe episode during the launch of a new series, Rip Snorters. [13] McDonald's condition also caused him to withdraw from a production of Howard Katz in 2003. [14]


In 2003, McDonald was appointed an officer of the Order of Australia for service to the community by raising awareness of mental health issues and the effects of anxiety disorders and depression on sufferers and carers, and to the arts as an entertainer. [15]

His popularity among Australians is reflected his being listed, after public nomination and vote, as a National Living Treasure – someone who has made an outstanding contribution to Australian society in any field of human endeavour. [16]

In 2015, he was a featured subject on the ABC documentary series Australian Story . [17]


Feature films




1997 National Living Treasure [32] Awarded
1991 Sydney Film Critics Best ActorWonStruck By Lightning
1997 Logie Award Hall of FameWon
1994 Logie Award Most Outstanding ActorWon Mother and Son
1976 Logie Award New TalentWon The Norman Gunston Show
Gold Logie

Art portraits

Two portraits of McDonald have won awards at the Archibald Prize. In 1999 a portrait by artist Deny Christian won the Packing Room award and, in 2007, Paul Jackson's "All the world's a stage" won the Peoples Choice award. [18] In 2016, yet another painting of McDonald was a finalist in The Archibald Prize by Kirsty Neilson entitled "There's No Humour in Darkness".

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