John Clarke Dies: Iconic New Zealand/Australia Satirist Was 68


New Zealand-born comedian, satirist and Australian television fixture, John Clarke, has passed away. Best known for his collaborations with comedy partner Bryan Dawe, Clarke died Sunday from natural causes while walking in Grampians National Park, Victoria, his family told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Clarke was born in 1948 in New Zealand and first rose to fame for creating the character Fred Dagg, a country bloke who wore a black singlet, shorts and gumboots and had seven sons — all named Trevor. He was featured in stage shows, on radio, television and recordings. The first, 1975’s Fred Dagg’s Greatest Hits, remains one of New Zealand’s best-sellers. The New Zealand Herald wrote today that Dagg, “captured the essence of New Zealand in the 1970s, and let us laugh at ourselves.”
In the late 70s, Clarke moved to Australia and began writing for and appearing on television. He co-created the ABC’s comedy The Gilles Report and went on to partner with Dawe for Channel Nine’s A Current Affair which led to a 27-year collaboration of mock interviews and skewering politicians. Their Clarke And Dawe sketches also appeared on ABC TV.

Clarke co-wrote the ABC’s AFI Award-winning mockumentary The Games, about the organization of the 2000 Sydney Olympics. His feature credits include a breakthrough acting role in Bruce Beresford’s The Adventures Of Barry McKenzie which starred Barry Humphries and Peter Cook; 1990 comedy thriller Death In Brunswick with Sam Neill; and war drama Prisoners Of The Sun with Russell Crowe, Bryan Brown and George Takei. Feature writing credits include 2001’s The Man Who Sued God starring Billy Connolly and Judy Davis.

Tributes from fellow Kiwis, colleagues and others have flowed in since the news was first made public.

New Zealand’s national museum, Te Papa, posted a photo of Dagg’s gumboots:

Clarke’s family said in a statement to the ABC, “We are aware of what he has meant to so many for so many years, throughout the world but especially in Australia and New Zealand. We are very grateful for all expressions of sympathy and love which John would have greatly appreciated.”

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