Dr Poo was broadcast on Double (and later Triple) J, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's national youth station. One of a variety of sketch serials, Poo was performed by four young, up-and-coming (and very hairy) comedians: Geoff Kelso, Lance Curtis, Steve Johnston and Ken Matthews.
The programme was ostensibly a Doctor Who spoof. A pompous and selfish "time and toilet lord", Doctor Poo, from the planet Galah-Free, travelled through time and space in a portaloo (called the TURDIS) with his "beautiful, but stupid" assistant, Dana Sock (a parody of many useless female companions on Doctor Who) and Dennis the Denim Cat (a parody of the robot dog K-9), a homicidal moggie.
The show had parodies of the Daleks (the Drecks and their creator Lavdros), the Master (Doctor Wee) and even introduced us to Doctor Poo's terrifying wife, Constance. Proceedings were narrated by Kevin the Announcer, who would continually talk to the characters and make disparaging comments about the show.
But the similarities to Doctor Who were cursory; the show ran away with its own wit and revelled in its ridiculous storylines. It had the humour of The Goons, the outrageous voices of Kenny Everett and the absurd sound effects of The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - with a special Australian twist that was all its own.
Everyone remembers Dr Poo being part of DJ Doug Mulray's 6am breakfast show, with episodes airing before the 8.30am news (though another DJ, Adam Bowen, remembered in 2005 that "Dr Poo was on constantly, you'd hear it all the time. It was kind of on high rotation"; certainly, when the show became popular, episodes were repeated around 4.30pm). A Dr Poo fan club was established almost immediately - the show positively encouraged you to join-in or make contact - and one Wikipedia entry suggests that the fan club numbered 10,000 by late 1980 - though this might just be hearsay! Listeners could win Dr Poo badges (after "the episode with the duck"), and, later, a Dr Poo plastic toilet toy (which had to be collected from the Sydney studios).
The star of the show was Lance Curtis, who voiced Dr Poo himself. "Lance was possibly the most talented out of all of us at the time," composer Criston Barker told us in 2008. "He had this natural appeal that just made everyone who came in contact with him adore him immediately. He was shy and very unassuming in nature but so unbelievably powerful in wit and humour." Lance was a familiar voice to 2JJJ listeners, having created memorable characters in many other classic sketch series (from politicians to work experience students, sinister Americans to charming old ladies); "Lance Charles Curtis had quite a range," wrote one fan recently. "He was quite a loss."
Geoff Kelso, "the organiser and self appointed leader of the team" according to Criston, voiced Kevin the narrator with aplomb and simultaneously performed many of the shows' ludicrous villains. Formerly a stand-up comedian, his career since Dr Poo has been split between political satire and a succession of character roles in film, television and theatre. He is still acting today – he toured Australia in 2007 as Spike Milligan.
The other two members of the team, Steve Johnston and Ken Matthews, acted as the principal writers, even though they all wrote as a team, with Matthews completing the trio of lead characters by voicing Dana Sock (in falsetto). They, too, have continued their writing and we hope to be in touch with them soon.
Dr Poo spanned the crossover between the radio station being branded Double J (on AM) and its transformation into Triple J (on FM), but the new management were not as keen on the comedy as their predecessors had been and the troupe found themselves out of a job soon after the change. When they canned the show around late January 1981 there were still unaired episodes in the vaults. Poo fan Phil Coy remembers listening to 2JJJ one Sunday afternoon later in 1981, or most probably 1982, and hearing a previously unheard episode. He rang JJJ and spoke to the DJ (George Wayne) who told him that he had rescued the unaired episodes and had been airing one episode every Sunday afternoon for a couple of months. One storyline, the Dubbo French Revolution, was replayed during the lunch breaks of a cricket test on 702 ABC in the mid 80s, possibly in compilation form.
As the show drew to a close, composer Criston Barker suggested a fitting finale would be a musical LP. "Eveyone immediately jumped in on the idea. I approached a label manager I knew at the time and convinced him that due to their huge following thousands of albums would be sold. Of course he didn't believe me but he thought it was a worthy enough project so he jumped on board as well." For reasons unremembered, the gang's farewell recordings remained unreleased when, in June 1985, Lance Curtis fell from a balcony to an early death. The LP was ultimately released as a tribute to the late actor.
Click here for an excellent 1981 interview with Geoff Kelso and Lance Curtis.