The Twelfth Man
The Twelfth Man (also known as The 12th Man) is the name for a series of comedy productions by Australian satirist Billy Birmingham. Birmingham, a skilled impersonator, is generally known for parodying Australian sports commentators' voices. As befits the name (a reference to the non-playing reserve in an eleven-player cricket side), Birmingham particularly focuses on cricket commentators such as Richie Benaud, Bill Lawry and Tony Greig. This is also because many of Australia's cricket commentators have distinctive and easily identifiable voices and accents.
The album parodies are designed as a comical look "behind the scenes" of the Nine Network's cricket commentary. Birmingham traditionally plays all the roles (with the exception of Ken Sutcliffe, who played himself; and some minor female characters, such as Richie Benaud's secretary). Benaud himself sent a critique of each CD to Birmingham and was known to have a mixed opinion of the recordings, due predominantly to Birmingham's use of profanity. All albums were produced and engineered by David Frogatt.
The Twelfth Man is the only Australian recording artist in history to have seven consecutive number one albums.  In an article in the Sydney Morning Herald on 22 November 2009, Birmingham announced that Boned! would be his last studio album as The Twelfth Man.
In addition to Richie Benaud himself, Tony Greig and Bill Lawry, 12th Man features various other Australian commentators from throughout Channel Nine's line-up. They include Max Walker, Mark "Tubby" Taylor, Ian "Chappelli" Chappell, Ian's brother Greg Chappell, Michael "Slats" Slater, Englishman Mark Nicholas, West Indian Michael Holding and Ian Maurice.
Several non-cricket commentators are also parodied by Birmingham. They include rugby league commentators Ray "Rabbits" Warren and Paul "Fatty" Vautin, Peter "Sterlo" Sterling, Steve Roach, Darrell Eastlake, Lou Richards, Jack "Supercoach" Gibson, Ian "Bear" Maurice, Mike "Gibbo" Gibson and horse racing commentator Ken Callander.
Other figures from Australian culture are also parodied. They include media magnate and Channel Nine owner Kerry Packer, former Prime Minister John Howard, journalist Mike Munro, music journalist Andrew G and talkback radio personality Alan Jones.
Productions tend to focus on two themes: the voices and personalities of the commentators themselves, and parodies of athletes' names. This includes both humorous modifications of real-life players, as well as purely fictional names. Virtually all sports and teams are subject to this, except for the Australian cricket team.
Names of Indian cricket team and Pakistani cricket team are the most commonly parodied. For example, Sunil Gavaskar is referred to as Sunil Haveascar, a humorous reference to his fictional teammate "Cuthis Arminhalf" (a reference to Mohinder Amarnath). New Zealand cricket team players' names are sometimes parodied, as are those of the England cricket team. The Australian cricket team is never parodied on the basis of their names, but humorous references still extend to other aspects of the team, in particular Bruce Reid who is called "Breece Rude" by Bill Lawry and who, at one stage, slips over and snaps in half before taping himself back together to resume playing (Reid was known throughout his career for being tall and thin and susceptible to injury).
Humor even extends to the names of umpires and team coaches.
The Twelfth Man is most well known for Birmingham's impression of the main characters voices, as well as their unique personalities and styles on air. These parodies include:
During the 2005-06 Australian cricket season, the free online cricket game Stick Cricket featured commentary from The 12th Man. This was returned for the 2006-07 series and included an interview with The 12th Man by Stick Cricket's fans. It features some new lines such as "And welcome back to the SCG or the MCG or the Gabba or the WACA or wherever the hell we are" and classic lines like "Got him, yes! Piss off, you're out!"
The 12th Man has a large following all around the world. Outside Australia, the UK probably has the most fans with South Africa a very close second. Albums have been learnt by heart by many and Billy Birmingham is often greeted with impressions of his work. There are large groups petitioning for a new album but Birmingham is reluctant as his main star Richie Benaud has announced his retirement (eclipsed by Benaud's death on 10 April 2015), and with newer commentators taking more major roles.
|1987||Wired World of Sports||1|
|1990||12th Man Again!
||1||AUS: Platinum |
|1992||Still the 12th Man
||1||21||AUS: 3x Platinum |
|1994||Wired World of Sports II
||1||6||AUS: 3x Platinum |
|1997||Bill Lawry... This Is Your Life
||1||27||AUS: 3x Platinum |
|2001||The Final Dig?
||1||2||AUS: 3x Platinum |
||1||5||AUS: 4x Platinum |
|2013||Willy Nilly: The 12th Man's Biggest Hits
||3||AUS: Platinum |
|2015||The Very Best of Richie
||4||AUS: Platinum |
|2009||The Box Set
|1984||"It's Just Not Cricket"||1||non-album single|
(featuring M.C.G. Hammer)
|1||Still the 12th Man||AUS: Gold |
|2000||"Bruce 2000"||5||non-album single||AUS: Gold |
|2007||"Marvellous '06 (Horns Up! Mix)"||-||Boned!|
The ARIA Music Awards is an annual event since 1987 celebrating Australian music and recognising outstanding artistic and technical achievements in the recording field. The Twelfth Man has won four awards.
|1988||ARIA Award for Best Comedy Release||Wired World of Sports||Won|
|1991||ARIA Award for Best Comedy Release||The 12th Man Again||Nominated|
|1993||ARIA Award for Best Comedy Release||Still the 12th Man||Nominated|
|1995||ARIA Award for Best Comedy Release||Wired World of Sports II||Won|
|ARIA Award for Highest Selling Album||Wired World of Sports II||Won|
|1998||ARIA Award for Best Comedy Release||Bill Lawry... This Is Your Life||Nominated|
|ARIA Award for Highest Selling Album||Bill Lawry... This Is Your Life||Nominated|
|2001||ARIA Award for Best Comedy Release||"Bruce 2000"||Nominated|
|2002||ARIA Award for Best Comedy Release||The Final Dig?||Won|
|ARIA Award for Highest Selling Album||The Final Dig?||Nominated|
|2007||ARIA Award for Best Comedy Release||Boned!||Nominated|
|ARIA Award for Highest Selling Album||Boned!||Nominated|