July 24, 2017

John Clarke, beloved Down Under for his satire, dies at 68

13 April 2017, 01:51 | Clarence Schmidt

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John Clarke with Bryan Dawe

Clarke, who was born in New Zealand, sadly died of natural causes on Sunday after collapsing while hiking near Mount Abrupt in the Victorian national park.

His impersonation of former Victorian Planning Minister and architect John Madden about development in Melbourne is extremely amusing, as is his impersonation of former Victorian Premier John Brumby about the Kilcunda desalination project. His latest, and maybe last, performance was as Scott Morrison in a Clarke and Dawe sketch, undercutting the feeling Morrison wants us all to have, that he and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull are great mates, rather than the newly minted mortal enemies we're fairly sure they are.

"With the keenest eye and wit he understood the very essence of Australia", the Prime Minister wrote on Facebook.

Then John appeared on television and Fred Dagg was born. The piece of satire became infamous, thrusting the conversation of national pride and Aboriginal rights into the spotlight, and pissing off Prime Minister John Howard himself.

"I was lucky enough to be a member of the audience in the immortal EXTRAV years of the late sixties at Victoria - Helene Wong, Dave Smith, Roger Hall, and yes John Clarke". It spoke truth to power.

He had "an incalculable gift" for comedy, said Max Gillies, for whom Clarke wrote The Gillies Report in 1984.

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Clarke also leaves grandchildren Claudia and Charles and son-in-law Stewart Thorn.

It was in in 1989 Clarke collaborated with Bryan Dawe creating weekly satirical mock interviews for television, radio and on-line which were hugely successful.

Most notable among those has been fellow giant of Australian comedy Barry Humphries, who is outraged at Clarke's sudden passing. "We are very grateful for all expressions of sympathy and love which John would have greatly appreciated", the family statement said.

"John died doing one of the things he loved the most in the world, taking photos of birds in lovely bushland with his wife and friends".

Tributes for John Clarke kept rolling in with Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten describing the satirist as the "sharpest, driest wit on Aussie TV", and Greens leader Richard Di Natale calling Clarke a "leading light of satire". The conversation got away from itself and we ended up talking about how writing a good comedy script was somewhere between poetry and physics.

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