John Frith’s generosity

Jeffrey Frith: He was very generous. A very generous man. Generous with his time. People would come up to him in the street, because he was on television also, daily, at night, so he was on a mid-night show as a permanent guest, with Frank Thring and Jonathan Daly. People would come up to him in the street and say ‘Oh John, I really loved that cartoon you did the other day, you really got, you know, that really told the story so beautifully.’ And he would stop, and talk. He wasn’t afraid to go and address the…as the after-dinner speaker for the Australian Chartered Accountants Association. He said ‘Jeffrey, they’re not really known for their humour, so I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do!’ He could think on his feet, very quickly. He knew how to engage an audience. He said ‘If you haven’t got the audience in ten seconds, you’re going to be working uphill all night. But if you can get them in that first ten seconds, then you’re home and hosed. Doesn’t matter what you do.’ So he would pick somebody, ‘you wanna come up?’ and do a lightning sketch. Or maybe the president, who’s just introduced him. And so he had a way of connecting with people, a generosity of spirit. It didn’t matter whether it was a girl’s fete or a fete at my old school… I remember he got the Hawthorn Pipe Band to come to Camberwell Grammar for the fete. He could call in favours. And one of the organisers of the fete said to Dad ‘No-one seems to be game to have a go at this flying fox. You know it goes from up here near the school buildings and lands on the lawns near the Keith Anderson Oval. Dad said ‘That’s okay. Get the guy with the big bass drum to drum up some business, and I’ll do it!’ So the only thing is, he didn’t do it properly; he hung upside-down and went headfirst. And the trouble was he was a bit heavier than some of the other people, although he was a slight man; I think they jigged it up after he had gone, because he nearly crashed his head onto the stone wall that leads on to Keith Anderson Oval. So he was very generous in that way. With his time with us kids. He would take us down the park and we would do golf swings, just that generosity of spirit.’