Vale John Clarke

10 April, 2017 by Jackie Keast

John Clarke. 


Renowned satirist, writer and actor John Clarke, died Sunday, aged 68. 

New Zealand-born Clarke and comedy partner Bryan Dawe sent up Aussie politics in mock interviews on the ABC’s 7.30 Report and before that on Nine’s A Current Affair.

Clarke created and starred in mockumentary series The Games. His screenwriting credits include Lonely Hearts with Paul Cox, the original screenplay Billy Connolly's The Man Who Sued God, and mini-series ANZACS.

As an actor he appeared in features such as Death of Brunswick opposite Sam Neill, and more recently in Matthew Saville’s A Month of Sundays and the ABC’s The Ex-PM. 

He died of natural causes while on a hike in the Grampians National Park, Victoria. He is survived by his wife Helen, daughters Lorin and Lucia and grandchildren Claudia and Charles.

A statement from his family said: “John died doing one of the things he loved the most in the world, taking photos of birds in beautiful bushland with his wife and friends. He is forever in our hearts.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Clarke was “more than a satirist”. 

“His laconic wit was rarely wide of the mark. I should know. With lethal accuracy he made politicians and prime ministers his prey. With Bryan Dawe, his weekly takedown of the absurdity of political life became required viewing. In this guise, his strength was the underperformance: that canny knack of saying just enough to hit the target, and no more,” said Turnbull in a statement on Facebook. 

Opposition leader Bill Shorten said Clarke was “the sharpest, driest wit on Aussie TV. 6:56 on Thursdays will never be the same.”

ABC MD Michelle Guthrie said that Australians had relied on Clarke for tearing down the “hypocrisy and at times absurdity” of the national debate. 

“We have lost a giant presence on our screens. Our hearts go to John’s family, his wife Helen and two daughters, Lorin and Lucia,” she said. 

ABC head of comedy Rick Kalowski said Clarke was “our greatest ever political satirist”, and had inspired to him to want to work in comedy.

“John was shooting for ABC TV on The Ex-PM Season 2 until only this past Friday, and it's almost impossible to believe he is suddenly gone. The chance to get to know and spend time with John was an honour, and ABC TV Comedy joins so many others in offering John's family our sincerest sympathies."  

Comedian Charlie Picking said that Clarke’s influence on him went without saying. 

“If you are going to have the nerve to make jokes about the news in Australia, you do so knowing that you will never clear the bar set by John Clarke. And his work with Bryan Dawe over decades has been as good as anything put to air anywhere in the world."

“Last year Tom Gleeson and I recorded a tribute to Clarke and Dawe simply as a thank you for being our favourite thing on TV. I rang him to ask permission. The conversation got away from itself and we ended up talking about how writing a good comedy script was somewhere between poetry and physics. Whatever that middle ground is, John Clarke deserved the Nobel Prize.”