John Blackman, ‘Hey Hey It’s Saturday’ star, has died

He was 76.
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Throughout his long, star-studded career, Melbourne entertainer John Blackman loved making people laugh. Not even his battles with cancer would prevent him from doing so.

Despite the serious health setbacks in his final years, the broadcaster and Hey Hey It’s Saturday star went out of his way to remain upbeat and positive, to ensure those who worried about him would keep smiling.

John Blackman wearing glasses filming hey hey
John was on Hey Hey for 28 years. (Image: Nine)

But last week, increasingly frail from repeated surgery, the 76-year-old could fight on no more. On Tuesday, June 4, soon after telling his wife Cecile he wasn’t feeling well, he suffered a fatal heart attack.

“His death was peaceful, he died at home in Cecile’s arms,” heartbroken friend Wilbur Wilde told Woman’s Day. “I’m still in shock. For many years he’s been one of my besties, the man I golfed with and laughed with.”

John and his wife Cecile post for a photo in their living room, smiling and embracing each other
John leaves behind his wife Cecile and daughter Tiffany. (Image: Newspix)

Around Australia, friends, fans and colleagues are mourning one of showbiz’s most popular identities. John was, perhaps, best-loved on Hey Hey for voicing the “head on a stick” character Dickie Knee.

“Without John there was no Hey Hey – that’s how important he was,” Wilbur reflected.


Glittering career aside, Wilbur says, “He was a marvellous husband and dad, a wonderful son and a terrific son-in-law.”

Jo Beth Taylor, who also starred on Hey Hey, described her “devastating shock” at learning of John’s death.

“John, thank you for your friendship, support and for always making me laugh,” she posted. “You were the glue that held Hey Hey together and my heart goes out to your beautiful wife Cecile and your cherished daughter Tiff.”

Tottie Goldsmith beams up at John Blackman, both wearing black, standing in front of a podium
Tottie Goldsmith and many many others remember the legendary John Blackman after his passing. (Image: Instagram)

“It’s hard to imagine the world without John Blackman in it. Thank you for your joy, positivity, naughtiness, warmth and incredible wit,” posted his friend Tottie Goldsmith. “My heart is with Cecile and Tiffany and all of his closest people.”

John’s former co-star Marty Fields described his sadness at the loss of the “master voiceover announcer, live act and incredible radio pioneer,” while Derryn Hinch mourned the loss of “the fastest ad lib man, ever”.

Daryl Somers shared, “He used to say his mission on Hey Hey was to break me up and at times I’d be crying with uncontrollable laughter. Today I’m just crying.”


John Blackman smiles after surgery to remove cancer from his jaw. His face is swollen and he wears nose plugs
Even after a gruelling surgery, John still had his sparkle. (Image: Supplied)

John’s life changed dramatically in 2018. After visiting his GP about a small mark on his face, he was diagnosed with cancer. He had a 12-hour operation, in which his lower jaw and teeth were removed. It was to be the first of several major operations after more tumours emerged.

Though the surgery changed the way he looked, John refused to hide away and resolved to make the most of every moment.

Even in his final weeks, while increasingly frail, John still got out and about with loved ones, and was his usual sparkling self.

“John recently went to the Melbourne opening of an exhibition of works by former Hey Hey cartoonist, Andrew Fyfe,” recalls Wilbur.

John Blackman on set for Hey Hey next to a funny ostrich puppet and man with dark hair and teal shirt
TV’s funny man was known for his razor-sharp wit. (Image: Newspix)

“He later chatted to me about it and we were giggling about this and that. He was complaining about the cost of the drinks!” he says with a smile.

“Andrew and I were laughing about that today. So even though of course we’re grieving, we’re also remembering the many, many laughs.”

Asked if the Hey Hey gang would be getting together to celebrate John, he jokes, “We’re thinking of chartering a helicopter and scattering his ashes over the bunkers in all the golf courses in Victoria.”

John Blackman goofs around on set of Hey Hey
Always laughs and fun with John. (Image: Supplied)


Nine’s entertainment editor Richard Wilkins said, “I had the pleasure of working on Hey Hey many times over the years, and John was an integral part of the family.”

Channel Nine and 3AW described John as “a cherished voice in Australian media”.

Fellow radio host Derryn Hinch has paid tribute to John, saying he was shocked and saddened by his death.

“He handled his illnesses so bravely. We had some huge rows but he was the fastest ad lib man ever. Vale,” Hinch tweeted.

‘He was a marvellous husband and dad.’ (Image: Newspix)

John’s former Hey Hey co-star Livinia Nixon shared her heartbreak and offered kind words, saying John was “the best at his job“.

“I’m just heartbroken for his wife and Tiffany, his daughter, and everyone that he looked after because even though he had so much on his plate in the last few years, healthwise, he was the backbone of that family,” Livinia said.


On his quick wit on Hey Hey, she said: “When he pounced he always pounced quickly and it was always very effective and always hilarious, he was the best at his job.”

2DAY FM’s Hughesy, Ed & Erin also paid tribute to the legend. They brought up the time Hughesy worked with John on Hey Hey.

Hughesy recalled: “It was the most nervous I’ve ever been to do live stand up comedy. It was a massive break and they were all gracious to me.”

There weren’t a lot of comedy shows then.

Cold Chisel’s Jimmy Barnes remembered John in a heartfelt tribute. On Instagram, under an image of the radio icon, he captioned: “It was always a pleasure to work with John and his alter ego Dickie Knee over the years. His wit was razor sharp and he was always happy to have a laugh at ours or his own expense. RIP John.”

The beloved Hey Hey icon was also remembered by his former colleague Larry Emdur, who filled in for regular host Daryl Somers. Calling John “the backbone” of the show, he reflects on his first time hosting, saying: “I remember the first time because it was the biggest show on TV, and for a young host, it was the scariest place to be,” Emdur said.

“I was so discombobulated, and John just walked straight across the studio floor and said, ‘Don’t worry, mate, I got you’.”


John got his start in radio in 1969. Two years later, he moved into television as the voiceover announcer for Hey, Hey. It’s Saturday, Australia’s longest-running variety show. That’s when his fame took off.

The Saturday night show ran from 1971 to 1999. Rarely on screen, John was still a major part of the show. He’d add in off-script banter to each episode. Sometimes, he even chatted directly with host Daryl Somers live on-air.

John also wrote several books and appeared on TV shows like Blankety Blanks and The Paul Hogan Show. The Australian TV legend will also be remembered for his stints as a radio host on stations, including 3AW and Triple M.

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