Channel 9 superstar Karl Stefanovic has been sacked after repeatedly turning up to work on the ratings-winner Today show stone-cold sober.
The Today co-host was given his marching orders after the taping of yesterday’s show by the network’s general manager Shamus Plug.
“Karl was given two official warnings during the week yet he persisted with this strange behaviour of his,” Plug said. “He was very unprofessional.”
Station insiders said Stefanovic’s troubles began mid-last week, with another disastrous Melbourne Cup looming for the Logies winner. “Karl has made an absolute fool of himself at Flemington Racecourse for the last five Melbourne Cups, including two when he wasn’t even there,” one told The Bug.
“And that’s why out of the blue he announced days before Cup Tuesday he was going on the wagon. Give the mean soup a break for a while. Well, he’s been a completely changed man since, I’m sad to say.”
Plug was more direct. “Karl completely lost his mojo. He lost that larrikin spark so beloved by his fans. He lost that aggro stance he used to take with pollies on both sides of the political aisle.
“Even Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese noticed something was amiss during their last regular segment together. Christopher Pyne clearly couldn’t believe it when Karl appeared totally uninterested in the Defence Minister’s usual planned or unplanned double entendres and cheeky asides and barbs.
“Christ, that segment is usually full of racy banter, almost like a mini episode of Are You Being Served but Karl throttled all the life out of it. Karl even posed his questions to ‘Mister Albanese’. What happened to good old ‘Albo’ for fuck’s sake.
“Then on Thursday’s show for example. We had Morrison live via satellite in our Canberra studio and normally we never prep Karl he’s such a professional.
“Actually, come to think of it, we never prep any of our interviewers. Anyway, we’ve always just left Karl rip with the sharp putdowns that make politicians squirm and are perfect for riveting morning television that always made Sunrise always look so bland.
“Karl just sat there staring at Morrison on the Sydney studio floor monitor. He just let him rabbit-on. Called him ScoMo when he did occasionally interrupt the PM’s flow.
“And then halfway through the interview, Karl teared up and told the PM he was in ‘that big room of mirrors taking a good hard look at himself and his life’s direction’. What viewer wants to hear that shit, for fuck’s sake?
“Karl then left his stool and dropped to his knees, placed his right hand on the monitor and asked Morrison to explain the Pentecostal faith to him and whether he might fit in if he joined them, although he was already very financially successful and had bucketloads of money.
“It was real cringeworthy stuff,” Plug said. “After that show, I gave him his second warning. “When he came in on time and sober again on Friday morning, I’m afraid that was the last straw.
” I gave him his marching orders and it’s probably the toughest thing I’ve had to do since last week when I told those three young interns they could come on staff permanently but they still wouldn’t be paid.”
Former co-host Lisa Wilkinson explained the complete turnaround in Stefanovic’s behaviour over recent times.
“We caught up for a meal on Thursday night and he was, well …. look, please don’t get me wrong here… he’s still a really nice bloke and I love him dearly but he just kinda sat there and listened to everyone else,” she said.
“Oh, who am I trying to kid. He was as boring as batshit. I couldn’t believe that this guy sitting opposite me was the same guy when we dined together at Doyles in Watson’s Bay two weeks ago.
“Karl was his usual outrageous life-of-the-party self back then. He had the whole room in stitches. Between routines that the best stand-ups in the world would envy, he was doing magic tricks, bending the silverware and making glasses of triple Johnny Walker Green label on ice disappear. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much.
“And then while we were waiting for our overpriced desserts, right out of the blue Karl dropped his daks and dropped a grogan into one of my wine glasses.
“The whole room was laughing and applauding and the owners sent over a second crate of Kristal.
“That’s the Karl Stefanovic I’ll prefer to remember.”