With all the negative publicity surrounding Karl Stefanovic’s last couple of years on Today, it’d be easy to forget that he was once the golden boy of TV.
In fact, for a large chunk of his 14 years on Nine’s breakfast show, he was incredibly popular with male and female viewers alike.
Stefanovic’s on-air personality during that time was perfectly summed up by entertainment reporter Richard Wilkins this morning: “He’s an intoxicating mix of world’s best broadcaster and naughty schoolboy.”
His strength lay in his ability to switch from cheeky “schoolboy” back into professional reporter during breaking news — such as the Paris terror attacks of 2015, which saw Stefanovic delivering rolling news coverage from the devastated city for days afterwards.
He was everyone’s daggy dad, and also the steady voice that guided us through the big stories of the day.
Let’s face it, the last couple of years weren’t his best. But for more than a decade before that, Stefanovic could do no wrong.
Here’s a look back at his most memorable moments:
Stefanovic made worldwide news in 2014 when he revealed he’d been wearing the same suit on air for a year as a protest in support of then-co-host Lisa Wilkinson, who had been regularly criticised for her outfits.
No one even noticed.
Reflecting on the constant judgment and double standards his female colleagues faced daily, the host said he had set out to “make a point”.
“I’ve worn the same suit on air for a year — except for a couple of times because of circumstance — to make a point,” Stefanovic said. “Women are judged much more harshly and keenly for what they do, what they say and what they wear.”
Stefanovic told Fairfax he didn’t receive a single complaint or comment regarding the suit over the course of the year. “I’m judged on my interviews, my appalling sense of humour — on how I do my job, basically. Whereas women are quite often judged on what they’re wearing or how their hair is.”
The Burberry suit became known as the “sexism suit” and sold on eBay for $6400, with the proceeds going to White Ribbon.
Stefanovic had a really, really great time at the Logies in 2009.
That good cheer spilled over into his live broadcast the following morning, with Today viewers quick to notice that he was clearly still drunk.
The TV host gushed about how pretty Wilkinson had looked the evening before, rambling on with his praise, and making everyone a little uncomfortable.
It took Stefanovic five whole years to admit he was intoxicated, while admitting he’s always “smashed” at the Logies.
“It wasn’t any different to any other year — we all get smashed at the Logies and go to work the next day; we’d done it for years and years. But this was the first Logies when stuff really started working on the internet,” he said in 2014.
“I remember seeing it on Today Tonight and going, ‘Oh, God.’ I really was drunk, or at least I certainly looked and sounded drunk.”
It was the snack that spawned a viral video.
In 2013, a confident Stefanovic bravely decided to try the world’s hottest pie, created by a bakery in Umina on the Central Coast of NSW.
Ron, the baker, warned him that it contained the world’s three hottest chillies, and Wilkinson suggested he give it a miss — but Stefanovic was determined.
Moments later, this happened:
The sweaty host soon declared he felt “a bit sick”, before vomiting off-camera and having to lie down to recover.
It may have been painful, but the stunt won Stefanovic plenty of fans.
In 2016, Stefanovic majorly stuffed up when he made a torrent of outdated slurs about “trannies” live on air.
In the offensive segment — a cross to Nine reporter Christine Ahern at the Rio Olympics where she’d been mugged by a group of, in her words, “transvestites” — Stefanovic couldn’t conceal his mirth as he repeatedly made jokey references to “trannies”.
Swift backlash followed, and Stefanovic copped to being an “ignorant tool” during a very heartfelt and earnest apology the very next day.
“As we all know, I can be a complete tool, right? Well, yesterday I was worse — I was an ignorant tool,” he began.
— The Today Show (@TheTodayShow)
“I pride myself, in my own weird way, of being across things. Yesterday I wasn’t. Yesterday, I got it very wrong. I used a word which I will now say for the last time ever. By using the word ‘tranny’, I offended an awful lot of beautiful and sensitive people.
“I honestly didn’t know the negative and deeply hurtful impact that word has, not only on members of the LGBTQI community, but on their family and their friends,” he said.
“Therein lies part of the problem, I think: I’ve never bothered to ask. Like so many other words we’ve used in the past, it’s time to throw that one in the bin.”
Stefanovic also directly addressed those viewers who had defended the segment.
“To anyone who found the segment funny, please understand why it was the exact opposite: an ignorant jibe at the expense of a beautiful community already battling against the odds for mainstream acceptance,” he said.
“I get it wrong — I probably always will. But as a result of yesterday, I truly have learned a lesson. People, my brothers and sisters in the community who love and respect me, have told me to educate myself. I have started to.”
In 2015, Stefanovic held true to his promise to get his gear off on live TV after Australia’s then-cricket captain Michael Clarke failed to score a century in the team’s first innings of the fourth Test.
After teasing the strip all morning, the ballsy host finally snuck backstage to de-robe before darting across the stage in front of co-hosts Lisa Wilkinson and Richard Wilkins.
— The Today Show (@TheTodayShow)
Thankfully for everyone watching at home, a giant cricket ball was put in an appropriate place to protect his dignity.
Stefanovic had made the bold declaration on Twitter the night before, vowing to his hundreds of thousands of followers that he would strip on the show if Clarkey “doesn’t get a hundred”.
DALAI LAMA JOKE
When Stefanovic met the Dalai Lama, he thought he had the perfect icebreaker in the form of a cheesy joke.
“So the Dalai Lama walks into a pizza shop … and says, ‘Can you make me one with everything?’” the presenter told the confused holy leader.
Stefanovic refused to let the joke lie flat (and to be fair, it wasn’t terrible) and gave it another crack. Once again, it totally bombed — largely due to the language barrier.
It may have been an epic fail during the interview, but the trainwreck gag made global headlines, with The New York Times’s headline reading: “How Not To Tell The Dalai Lama A Joke.”
In August 2017, amid debate over the same-sex marriage plebiscite, Stefanovic set aside his usual larrikinism for a very serious spiel.
Beginning his rant, Stefanovic said it would come as a surprise to no one that we are “governed by fools” and labelled federal politicians “middle aged suits, oblivious to the cost of childcare or a mortgage” who were “ironically incapable of leadership”.
He blasted both sides of politics, saying Opposition leader Bill Shorten was “determined to wedge (then-Prime Minister Malcolm) Turnbull to ensure marriage reform is delayed until he himself is the one who gets to sign off on it”. And he was just as hard on the prime minister.
“Here’s what I think,” Stefanovic said. “A non-binding, non-compulsory postal vote is complete BS.
“Why do we re-elect officials if not to make decisions that reflect our beliefs?
“Pull your fingers out in Canberra and get on with it. Let’s look at this simply, confidently and compassionately. Why are we stopping people loving each other in a world which should be celebrating love over hate? This is a no-brainer.”
Thanks for the memories, Karl.