Garry McDonald

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.

Garry McDonald
Garry George McDonald

(1948-10-30) 30 October 1948
Other namesNorman Gunston (character)
Alma materCranbrook School, Sydney
National Institute of Dramatic Art
  • Actor
  • comedian
  • satirist
Years active1967–present
Spouse(s)Diane Craig (m. 1971)


McDonald was born in Bondi, a beachside Sydney suburb.[1] He 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]

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]

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]

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]

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 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, 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




Year Award Category Result Work
1997 National Living Treasure[32] Awarded
1991 Sydney Film Critics Best Actor Won Struck By Lightning
1997 Logie Award Hall of Fame Won
1994 Logie Award Most Outstanding Actor Won Mother and Son
1976 Logie Award New Talent Won 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 2006, 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".


  1. "Ambassador profile: Garry McDonald". ABC. 2018. Retrieved 23 August 2018.
  2. "Talking Heads Transcript". Talking Heads. ABC. 11 May 2009. Retrieved 17 June 2012.
  3. Tabakoff, Jenny (27 January 1997). "Garry McDonald' Role Reversal/". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 17 June 2012.
  4. "Garry McDonald". Media Man. Media Man. 2018. Retrieved 23 August 2018.
  5. Day, Christopher. (1975, 18–24 October). And now ... He-e-e-ere's Norman! "The Most Compellingly Awful Program in the History of Television". TV Guide, pp 15–18.
  6. Max Cullen, 11 February 2001. "Profile: Garry McDonald". Arts stories. ninemsn. Archived from the original on 27 December 2013. Retrieved 20 May 2012.
  7. "Philip Noonan played by Garry McDonald". Tenplay. Network Ten. 2014. Archived from the original on 2 February 2014. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  8. "News Store". 30 June 2001. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  9. "News Store". 29 April 1987. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  10. "News Store". 20 August 2002. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  11. "News Store". 26 January 2003. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  12. Williams, Sue (20 May 2001). "Happy as Gary". The Sun-Herald. Retrieved 17 June 2012.
  13. "News Store". 27 March 1993. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  14. "News Store". 20 March 2004. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  15. "Garry McDonald AO". Australian Honours Database. Retrieved 14 November 2007.
  16. "Our living treasures". The Age. Fairfax Media. 18 November 2003. Retrieved 23 August 2018.
  17. "Garry McDonald: Norman Gunston comic tells of anxiety that ended his popular show".
  18. Mangan, John (11 April 2010). "Survival of the satirist". The Sunday Age. Retrieved 17 June 2012.
  19. "News Store". 13 October 1990. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  20. "News Store". Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  21. Murray, Scott, ed. (1994). Australian Cinema. St.Leonards, NSW.: Allen & Unwin/AFC. p. 117. ISBN 1-86373-311-6.
  22. Hassall, Greg. "Q&A with ... Garry McDonald". Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  23. "Two Twisted – TV Reviews – TV & Radio – Entertainment". 14 August 2006. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  24. "Bride and gloom – TV & Radio – Entertainment". Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  25. Sadler, Kevin (23 February 1992). "The other side of Garry McDonald". The Sun-Herald. Retrieved 17 June 2012.
  26. Morgan, Joyce (31 December 2010). "Don's Party Revisited". The Age. Retrieved 17 June 2012.
  27. "Garry McDonald". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 17 June 2012.
  28. Burchall, Greg (26 June 2006). "Playing up the brawl in the family". The Age. Retrieved 17 June 2012.
  29. Elder, John (11 November 2001). "Garry McDonald". The Sunday Age. Retrieved 17 June 2012.
  30. Wynhausen, Elisabeth (15 October 1994). "The actor, the comic". The Sun-Herald. Retrieved 17 June 2012.
  31. "Current List of Treasures". National Trust of Australia. Archived from the original on 22 March 2012. Retrieved 17 June 2012.
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