Vale: John Clarke

Updated: Tributes flow for legendary comic and satirist, who has died aged 68.

Legendary comic and satirist John Clarke, best known for Clarke & Dawe sketches, has died, aged 68.

Fairfax reports he died on Sunday while hiking in the Grampians National Park from natural causes. ​

He was working until the very end, only last week working on The Ex-PM in Melbourne.

Since arriving here in 1977, the New Zealand-born comic has wooed the Australian public. He began with his trademark political satire “interviews” alongside comedian Bryan Dawe on ABC radio, then moved to A Current Affair, where they were a part of the program for many years.

He teamed with Bryan Dawe after developing the idea from a regular newspaper column for The Times on Sunday.

“I wrote the first few for the paper and a couple of people said to me ‘You should perform that,’” he once told TV Tonight.

“Most of these things respond well to good writing, so I was trying to get that right. Once I decided I had a little bit of a handle right I decided to do some on radio and the ABC asked me to do something. I’d done a whole lot of Fred Dagg monologues and I didn’t want to do monologues.

“A producer in Melbourne who had approached me about it said ‘Yes, you can do that, it sounds like a funny idea.’”

Former ACA host Jana Wendt once said, “It was a charmed idea. Clarke made no concessions to costumes or any attempt at impersonation. His targets were mostly hypocrisy and stupidity. If you were a news junkie his ‘subjects’ were immediately recognisable. If you weren’t, it didn’t matter because hypocrisy and stupidity are recognisable anyway, as there is so much of them about. Sometimes he just had fun and revelled in the craziness of the idea.”

His various collaborations over the years included Graham Kennedy, Max Gillies, Geoffrey Rush, Andrew Denton, Sam Neill, Gina Riley and Shaun Micallef.

His other TV credits include Kath and Kim, The Gillies Report, D-Generation, Welcher and Welcher, Backberner, Bro T0wn, Roy Hollsdotter Live.

His prolific writing career includes ANZACs, This Sporting Life, Stiff and The Games plus books including A Dagg at my Table, The Howard Miracle and The 7.56 Report. His early character Fred Dagg is still revered by comedians across the country.

There were film credits including Death in Brunswick, Crackerjack, The Adventures of Barry McKenzie, Les Patterson Saves the World, Footrot Flats: The Dogs Tale and A Month of Sundays.

He also fronted his own documentary series Sporting Nation for ABC.

“I’m not really an interviewer. I don’t know how to interview people, but I like having a chat with them and getting them to tell a story. And the stories are just fantastic.”

Clarke was inducted into the Logie Hall of Fame in 2008.


Wil Anderson: Oh no. John was the greatest. Still the funniest satirist on TV until the end that came way too soon. Shattered.

Dan Ilic: @MrJohnClarke was a hero! One of the very few people whom I’ve ever been star-struck by

Mark Scott: Devastating news – what a wonderful genius he was. Renowned satirist John Clarke dead at 68

Bill Shorten: So sad to hear of the passing of the brilliant John Clarke. The sharpest, driest wit on Aussie TV. 6:56 on Thursdays will never be the same.

Craig Reucassel: Very sorry to hear of the passing of John Clarke. Not only one of the best satirists going around, but also a lovely guy.

Dave Hughes: Vale John Clarke. Brilliantly funny man.

Malcolm Turnbull: His laconic wit was rarely wide of the mark. I should know. With lethal accuracy he made politicians and prime ministers his prey…..We’ll wait a long time to find another John Clarke. In fact, we never will.

Leigh Sales: John Clarke: respected by his peers, adored by his fans, loved by his colleagues with a reputation as a one of the nicest blokes. RIP.

Magda Szubanski: Beyond sad. Our beloved mentor: a beacon of intelligence & decency. Deepest condolences to his family. Vale beautiful wise soul.

Cal Wilson: Utterly gutted. John Clarke has died. One of my idols.

Shane Jacobson: Australia has just lost its dry comic genius, John Clarke, I stand amongst all fans applauding a great man and an outstanding career.

Patrick Brammall: I can’t think of anything to say for John Clarke. He said it all. Vale you brilliant man.

Rhys Darby: I’ve just heard John Clarke has died. For those that don’t know, he was a Kiwi comedy legend. A massive inspiration.

Working Dog: Shocked to hear of John’s passing. We were privileged to have his generous support in our early days. A true original.

Wendy Harmer: Think of all the wonderful comic performers John fostered over many years – all the laughs they gave us,his contribution is peerless.Vale

Marc Fennell: Terrible terrible news.

Colette Mann: Tributes flow for comic great …such a wonderfully warm man who was so generous with his time … So sad !

Julia Zemiro: A very sad day. We’ve lost a beautiful mind. Vale John Clarke.

Tony Martin: John Clarke, always the best thing in whatever he was in.

NZ PM Bill English: Sad to hear of the death of John Clarke, aka Fred Dagg. His humour captured the experience of life in NZ and Australia.

Julia Gillard: Shocked and saddened that John Clarke, a wise and funny man, has left us. Australia will miss him. JG

Rove McManus: Farewell to the unique and hilarious talent of legend John Clarke. One of the founding fathers of Australian comedy. A huge loss to us all.

Denise Scott: Always admired the assured way John Clarke marched to the beat of his own comic drum appearing to never put a foot wrong.A shining light.

Melb. International Comedy Festival: A great satirist and one of the funniest people to grace Australian stage & screen, a much-loved inspiration to us all. Vale John Clarke.


This post updates.

18 Responses

  1. ABC Classic FM are programming a couple of tributes to John Clarke- tomorrow morning, from 9, programming his favourite composer, Schubert, and then on Thursday from 9am again the program he presented a month or so ago featuring his favourite classical music.

  2. So sad and yet I’m thinking in John Clarke humour even with tears in my eyes.

    I keep seeing in my mind:

    John Clarke
    The Front End Fell Off.

    I think he’d like that.

    Vale John Clarke

  3. The Games is what he is known best for internationally, it travelled well. And of course he is best known by New Zealanders as the politically-minded farmer character of Fred Dagg.

    So unexpected. Way too soon. He had so much more to give.

  4. Very sad news about the passing of John Clarke, he was very funny in the 1990s film Death in Brunswick(I wonder if any of the FTA networks have the rights for this, maybe the abc???).

    1. Yes, wonder if it would have made any difference if he were closer to medical help.
      Clever, clever man and brilliant satirist.
      John had so much more to offer – gone way too soon..

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