John Clarke (satirist)

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For those of a similar name, see John Clarke.
John Clarke
Born John Morrison Clarke
(1948-07-29) 29 July 1948 (age 68)
Palmerston North, Manawatu-Wanganui, New Zealand

John Morrison Clarke (born 29 July 1948) is a New Zealand–Australian comedian, writer, and satirist. He was born in Palmerston North, New Zealand, and has lived in Australia since the late 1970s. He is a regular actor and writer on Australian TV.

Early career[edit]

Clarke first became known during the mid to late 1970s for portraying a laconic farmer called Fred Dagg on stage, film and television. Gumboot and singlet-clad, Dagg had seven sons all named "Trev".[1] Clarke also recorded a series of records and cassettes and published several books as Dagg. Thirty years after its release, the first Fred Dagg album, Fred Dagg's Greatest Hits (1976), remains one of New Zealand's biggest selling records. Some of his earliest appearances as Fred Dagg in the Australian media were on the ABC's The Science Show and Dagg later made regular radio appearances on 2JJ until the station moved to FM and was renamed 2JJJ in 1980. An LP of some 2JJ sketches, The Fred Dagg Tapes, was released in 1979.

In 1984 Clarke was part of the Australian ABCTV series The Gillies Report, starring Max Gillies. Among the highlights of this satire were Clarke's straight-faced reports on the fictional sport of "farnarkeling" and the exploits of Australia's farnarkeling champion, Dave Sorenson.[2]


Clarke also became known for his screenwriting when, in 1982, he was nominated for an AFI award for co-writing the acclaimed Paul Cox film Lonely Hearts. He also co-wrote the mini-series Anzacs and provided the voice of Wal Footrot in the feature-length animated film, Footrot Flats: The Dog's Tale (1986), based on the comic strips by Murray Ball. Towards the end of the 1980s, he featured in a number of other films, and began to be known for his political satire.

Mock interviews[edit]

In 1989, along with collaborator Bryan Dawe, Clarke introduced weekly satirical mock interviews to television, and these short pieces (usually between 2-5 minutes in duration) became a regular and popular segment of the Nine Network current affairs programme A Current Affair.

Each segment addressed a topical issue, with Dawe acting as the interviewer, while Clarke assumed the persona of a politician or prominent figure, who typically tries to avoid directly answering any of Dawe's questions. Unusually for the genre, Clarke has never attempted to directly mimic the voice, manner or appearance of his subject. This feature set the segments apart from the typical approach to this form of satire, such as Clarke's earlier series The Gillies Report (1984–85), where the key feature of the show was series star Max Gillies' remarkable ability to impersonate a wide range of public figures, such as his famous impersonation of then Prime Minister Bob Hawke.

The pair continued to do mock interviews for A Current Affair until 1997, satirising a range of figures including Paul Keating, Alexander Downer, George Bush, and Alan Bond. After a break, the pair reappeared on ABC TV's The 7.30 Report in a similar format. In 2013 the mock interviews became an eponymous program Clarke and Dawe which screens at 6.57pm on ABC TV.

The interviews have been compiled into books and CD releases. "Great Interviews of the 20th Century" won the ARIA Award for Best Australian Comedy Album in 1991.[3] "The Annual Report" won the same award in 1992 and "Secret Men's Business" was nominated in 1997.[4][5]


During the 1980s and early 1990s, Clarke featured in several films, including Never Say Die, alongside New Zealand actor Temuera Morrison, Death in Brunswick, alongside another New Zealand actor, Sam Neill, and Blood Oath (released in some countries as Prisoners of the Sun). Over the next five years, he continued to write and act in a handful of films, on top of his continuing series of mock interviews.

Later career[edit]

Clarke had a commercial success in 1998, when he co-wrote (with Ross Stevenson) and starred (with Dawe and Gina Riley) in The Games, a mockumentary about the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG). The series, in which he played a character with the same name as his own, ran for two seasons, and featured guest appearances from a variety of figures, including singer John Farnham. An early high point was when a number of foreign reporters believed it was genuine and reported plot lines as news stories.[citation needed] In 2001, Billy Connolly starred in a film based on Clarke's screenplay The Man Who Sued God (re-written by Don Watson). In 2002 Clarke appeared in a villainous role in the movie Crackerjack and as a comedy club owner in the award-winning telemovie Roy Hollsdotter Live. After a quiet period, he re-emerged in 2004, adapting Melbourne author Shane Maloney's Murray Whelan series for film. This resulted in two films, Stiff and The Brush-Off, both starring David Wenham and Mick Molloy. Clarke directed Stiff himself and made a cameo appearance in The Brush-Off, which was directed by his old friend Sam Neill.

Clarke is the author of several books, notably two mock compilations of Australian poetry, and The Tournament, a book describing a fictional tennis tournament involving many philosophical and literary figures of the twentieth century.

Clarke was inducted into the Logies Hall of Fame in 2008.[6] The Logie was presented to him by long-time collaborator and friend Bryan Dawe.



  • Fred Dagg's Year (1975)
  • The Thoughts of chairman Fred (1976)
  • The Fred Dagg Careers Advisory Bureau (1978)
  • The Fred Dagg Scripts (1981)
  • Daggshead Revisited (1982)
  • The Complete Book of Australian Verse (1989)
  • A Complete Dagg (1989)
  • Great Interviews of the Twentieth Century (1990)
  • A Royal Commission into the Australian Economy (1991) (with Ross Stevenson)
  • More Great Interviews (1992). St Leonards, N.S.W., Allen and Unwin. ISBN 1-86373-268-3
  • The Even More Complete Book of Australian Verse (1994)
  • A Dagg at My Table (1996)[7]
  • Still the Two (1997)
  • The Games (1999) (with Ross Stevenson)
  • The Games II: Sharing the Blame (2000) (with Ross Stevenson)
  • The Tournament (2002)
  • The Howard Miracle (2003)
  • The 7:56 Report (2006)
  • The Catastrophe Continues: Selected Interviews (2008)


  1. ^ Clarke, John (1976). The Thoughts of Chairman Fred. Wellington: Fourth Estate Books. p. 26. 
  2. ^ Clarke, John (2012). A Dagg at My Table: Selected Writings. Text Publishing. pp. 69–74. ISBN 1921776773. 
  3. ^ Aria Awards 1991. Retrieved 23 July 2009.
  4. ^ Aria Awards 1992. Retrieved 23 July 2009.
  5. ^ Aria Awards 1997. Retrieved 23 July 2009.
  6. ^ TV Week Logies Awards 2008. Retrieved 23 July 2009.
  7. ^ Clarke, John (1998), A Dagg at my table : selected writings, Text Publishing, ISBN 978-1-875847-67-9 

External links[edit]