Australian TV star told to cool it after "on air midlife crisis" and police warning

Last Modified: May 11, 2023

The celebrity TV world in Australia tends to follow the national stereotypes that the land down under has been trying to quash since Mick Dundee became the nation’s unofficial cultural attaché in the 1980s. It’s brusque, it’s brash it’s politically incorrect and it’s usually an absolute riot. 

A man who has built his career by being in the news as well as reporting on it is Nine Network anchor and presenter Karl Stefanovic. After serving a brief apprenticeship on local networks, Karl moved to Nine Network in 2001 at the age of 27, initially reporting on news and soon becoming the obvious choice for shows like Today and panel shows The Verdict.

A heartthrob and poker high roller

With his Tom Cruise-like features, it is fair to say that Karl has a face for TV. He has proved as popular with the guys as the girls, cultivating something of a laddish image as a “real bloke’s bloke” – for example, he is rumored to be a regular attendee at some of the best online poker sites in Australia and in addition to playing poker online is a regular visitor to Sydney’s top casinos. 

He has also sailed close to the wind with his choice of humor, some recent comments about transsexuals landing him in hot water with his network bosses. Yet Stefanovik is very much of the old school that there is no such thing as bad publicity – or as Oscar Wilde put it, the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. 

Mid-life crisis on air?

Something else that Oscar Wilde understood only too well in his brief life was the importance of staying relevant. We have already noted the shades of Mick Dundee in Australian daytime TV, and while Stefanovic is cut from that cloth, he’s been a fixture at Nine Network for more than 20 years, and if James Bond can be branded a misogynistic dinosaur and a relic from a past age, then nobody is safe. That especially applies to a presenter famous for his good looks, fondness for gambling, and tendency to make jokes that elicit more embarrassed chuckles than genuine laughs. 

The recent charge from his 37-year-old co-host Sarah Abo that he was going through a mid-life crisis on live TV will only add fuel to that particular fire. Sarah was introducing a segment on “keeping fit in your golden years” aimed at over-50s. Paul will join that particular club next year, and broke down into mock tears, saying 50 isn’t “golden” – your golden years are when you get to 80! He got little sympathy from Sarah, who told him to “take his midlife crisis off air.” 

It all sounds innocuous, fun, and that’s how it came across on TV. But it takes on new meaning when you factor in the broader context. As well as his arguably outdated presenting style, Paul has been featuring in the news almost as much as he has been reporting on it lately – something that TV networks only tolerate to a limited degree as the likes of BBC former presenter Angus Deayton can testify.

Public bust-ups and a police warning

Earlier this year, Stefanovik was involved in a very public bust-up with former Australia cricket captain Michael Clarke. The pair have a friendship that goes back years. Last year, Clarke started dating Stefanovik’s sister-in-law, Jade Yarbrough, and a video went viral of a dispute between the couple. When Stefanovik intervened on his sister-in-law’s behalf, the video shows Clarke throwing a punch at him. 

On that occasion, it seemed that Stefanovik was in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, it was followed by a more sinister incident last month, when Stefanovik was issued with caution by police for common assault at a charity fundraiser in Brisbane last year. Police issued limited information, only that a waiter alleged Stefanovik had touched him and that having fully investigated, no further action beyond the caution was appropriate. 

Of course, Stefanovik’s supporters and detractors have all been weighing in with their own opinions but the truth is nobody knows what happened and unless either Stefanovik or the waiter decides to fan the flames with a statement, the speculation will run its course. 

Right now, however, Karl Stefanovic will be glad to get back behind the desk reporting on the news instead of featuring in it – at least until the next controversy raises its head.  

Tags : Mick Dundee Karl Stefanovic Michael Clarke Nine Network anchor TV presenter