Created by an Australian satirical comedy troupe, The Chaser began life as a student newspaper in 1999, before migrating to radio, television and stage while maintaining a vigorous online presence. The original members of the group were Charles Firth, Dominic Knight and Chas Licciardello, who were joined at the University of Sydney by Craig Reucassel, Julian Morrow, Chris Taylor and Andrew Hansen.
After two years producing The Chaser newspaper, the group attracted the attention of media figure Andrew Denton, who acted as executive producer and script editor for their first ABC Television series, The Election Chaser (2001), set in a simulated tally room. This was followed by CNNNN (2002–03), satirising the formats of 24-hour news broadcasters. Subsequent television shows included election specials such as The Chaser Decides (2004, 2007) and Yes We Canberra! (2010), as well as shows incorporating comedy sketches and pranks with political commentary such as The Chaser’s War on Everything (2006–09) and The Hamster Wheel (2011).
The Chaser has often been the subject of media attention. The team members have specialised in stunts involving infiltrating the media (press conferences, doorstops and so on) in order to subvert the whole news-gathering process. A prime example was the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders Summit stunt in September 2007, which saw Julian Morrow and Chas Licciardello stage a mock motorcade for The Chaser’s War on Everything that breached APEC’s elaborate security arrangements.
While the APEC stunt was viewed somewhat indulgently by the press and the public, the ‘Make A Realistic Wish’ skit in June 2009— which satirised the ways in which terminally ill children become the focus of charitable endeavours—was not so well received, with the ABC and The Chaser team making a public apology and the show being pulled off air for two weeks. In 2011, The Chaser was again taken off air when its planned commentary on the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton was cancelled amidst speculation that pressure had been brought to bear by the Royal Family.
The Chaser’s media empire has also seen the publication of a number of Chaser Annuals (2005–10) and a raft of other satirical television shows, including Lawrence Leung’s Choose Your Own Adventure (2009) and The Checkout (2013). The troupe has also presented live stage shows, including The Chaser’s Empty Vessel (2011). Individual members—including Morrow, Firth and Licciardello—have also been involved with other television productions.
REF: S. Turnbull, ‘On with The Chaser’, Metro, no. 154, 2007, pp. 74-79.